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The Phenomena of LegalZoom.com: Love Them or Hate Them, Legal Self-Help Is Here to Stay

Lawyers love to hate services like LegalZoom.com.  While there have been some court cases alleging consumer fraud against LegalZoom's group host, this immensely popular legal forum self-help service has been a huge hit with consumers.  There is little doubt that companies such as LegalZoom, which cater to people who want to pay less for corporate documents, trademark registrations, simple wills and a host of other forms, continue to look for alternatives beyond attorneys and their law firms. If you wish to learn more about Legal Zoom or sign up for one of there many self-help services, you can click here.

The problem which some lawyers have with LegalZoom is in their advertising, which suggests a connection between the company and the celebrity lawyers involved in the creation of Legal Zoom.  Some lawyers have suggested that it is an ethical violation to even suggest the affiliation, despite the  disclaimer on LegalZoom that they are not offering legal services. 

In fact, LegalZoom.com DOES NOT provide legal representation or advice from attorneys.  This means that you, as the consumer, provide the information.  If you provide bad information or make an incorrect choice on a will, LLC or trademark, it is YOUR fault.  If you fill out your trademark registration form incorrectly, you've achieved nothing more than file for an invalid trademark despite what your trademark registration document might suggest.

  • Will LegalZoom put a competitive dent in the business of law? 
  • Are the advertising techniques used by LegalZoom ethical and legal?
  • As the economy continues to spiral downward, will this mean more business for self-help companies and less business for attorneys and law firms?
  • Does the fact that many of the forms offered through LegalZoom are already available online bother you?

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Comments

Carolyn Elefant

I think that the bars have finally awakened and smelled the coffee on this topic. Originally, the bars tried to outlaw services like Legal Zoom. What they should have been doing instead is (1) educating consumers, as you are, to the drawbacks and (2) enabling lawyers to provide unbundled legal services - such as drafting corp docs but letting clients file them - without fear of malpractice. There's no reason why lawyers can't use forms and review them or guide users, charging a bit more than Legal Zoom but still less than premium service.

Donna Chmura

I have written a couple of blogs about this subject. I think if the client is savvy enough to know what entity to form, and has the discipline to follow through with all the start-up tasks (filing the Articles is the first of many steps), Legal Zoom and its bretheren can be a great resource.

But for unnknowledgeable clients or more complex business models -- including needs for additional capital or partners, immigrant owners, multi-site businesses, highly regulated industries -- there is no substitute for obtaining reliable professional advice.

Legal Zoom can describe what's on the menu, but it can't recommend what you should order.

Another big mistake I see is selecting available corporate names that violate third-party trademarks.

Kevin L. Von Tungeln

I love LegalZoom.

First, my ideal estate planning clients do not use LegalZoom for their estate planning.

Second, people who do their own estate planning, even with the help of some entity like LegalZoom, don't always get their estate planning and funding right. They typically never realize their own estate plan is defective, incomplete or unfunded.

Third, once someone dies with a defective or unfunded estate plan in place, the survivors soon realize they need expert help to clear up the problems a defective or unfunded estate plan creates.

Fourth, at that point, the survivors become my ideal administration clients, and because I am fixing someone else's mistakes, my fees are much higher than if I had done the correct estate planning in the first place. Yes, I love LegalZoom, I will just not let my friends and family use it, regardless of how much money I make from LegalZoom.

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