ON LINE LEGAL SERVICES—BUYER BEWARE
Abraham Lincoln said that “a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
It is amazing that so many people want to go on the internet for self-help “legal services.” Of course, we are bombarded by all of those advertisements on TV touting how “they have your back” and you can call a lawyer and ask them a question, thus giving the impression that it’s all so simple.
But, have you ever actually read the fine print of the lengthy Disclaimers on any of those online websites? They go on for pages telling you all of the things they are not doing.
For example, the “Terms of Service” on LegalZoom.com includes statements such as: “LegalZoom.com provides an online legal portal to give visitors a general understanding of the law and to provide an automated software solution to individuals who choose to prepare their own legal documents…. At no time do we review your answers for legal sufficiency, draw legal conclusions, provide legal advice, opinions or recommendations about your legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms, or strategies, or apply the law to the facts of your particular situation…”
So, other than words on a form, what are you buying? And, more importantly, what assurances do you have that what you have created will actually work?
Years of experience and knowledge of the law—forming a true attorney-client relationship with someone who will address your specific needs and provide advice and counseling as well as your documents–cannot be replaced with online legal services.
Over the years, our law firm has had to clean up many legal messes created by the use of on-line legal forms filled out by people who, unfortunately, didn’t know what they didn’t know, and thought they were saving money. Cleaning up the messes usually costs more than getting the legal work done correctly by a qualified attorney.
In one case, a man’s daughter came in to see us and handed us a Will that her father prepared for himself on line. It turns out that he selected the form for a “Pour-Over Will” that is only used if you also have a Revocable Trust. We asked her to show us the Trust (into which the Will said it poured all of the assets into) and learned that her father didn’t buy the Trust form. No one told him he needed to. He was flying solo.
So, essentially, he died with a Will that did nothing, and the wishes he expressed orally to his daughter, were not fulfilled.
If you ask me, the advertisements should ask—Do you have your own back?