A recent suit by The Dekalb County Bar association against online legal portal LegalZoom is drawing attention to Internet sources of legal advice and instruction. LegalZoom provides standard legal documents from last wills and testaments to divorce papers for paying customers, and in some cases, offers legal advice, such as providing legal help from a business attorney after starting an LLC online. According to the American Bar Association, the Alabama bar is also filing suit against the company for offering legal services without a proper license.
LegalZoom is not the only source for legal advice on the web. Google has also decided to enter the field of online legal services. The web juggernaut made this decision after assessing its most popular searches and finding that some of the most sought after terms in Google search engines are legal documents. According to Forbes, Google defended its involvement with RocketLawyer, a source for online standardized legal documents. “Google … is interested in anything that ‘changes the world in a big way,’” says RocketLawyer founder Charley Moore.
The attorneys of Red Mountain Law had their own responses to the case, as well as their own opinions about LegalZoom and other such online services:
“I would encourage people to use LegalZoom. I will get to charge more on the litigation that it leads to down the road.” ~ Mike Goodrich
“Three thoughts come to mind: You get what you pay for, you can pay me now or pay me (more) later, and nonrecourse legal services.” ~ Paul Liles
“In my experience of being hired by clients that used LegalZoom in the past, I have found that there is a large disconnect between the service they provide and the client. The documents are not tailored to the client’s unique situation because the client did not benefit from sitting down across the table from an attorney on the front end. A consultation with an attorney is invaluable in order to discern the client’s unique goals and needs and customize the documents to fit that particular client.” ~ Elizabeth Ritter
It remains to be seen whether more states and bar associations will file suits against Internet legal portals, and if so, whether or not sites like LegalZoom and RocketLawyer can survive. However, with 70,000 daily users of RocketLawyer and 1,000,000 customers of LegalZoom, as reported by Forbes.com, these new entities may prove a formidable foe for the traditional legal community.