The Guardian is my favorite UK newspaper. The article, the title of which appears above, is in the Guardian’s Law Section. Click here for the article, which is about the continuing marriage between law and technology and DIY preparation of documents without using a lawyer. Wouldn’t it make sense for law firms to have client only websites making possible for clients to provide information that could automatically be loaded into documents, such as wills, POA’s, etc so that, in effect, the first draft is created electronically through the use of templates, document assembly software and information provided by clients at their convenience?
In an earlier post, I noted that I was unable to find the LawyerUp User Agreement and that without reading it one would not be able to tell how much the service cost. Not long after putting that post up, I received an email from Chris Miles, LawyerUp’s founder, saying that he’d come across my blog comment that it was difficult for me to find the LawyerUp User Agreement. Mr. Miles expressed his thanks to me for bringing his attention to my difficulty and invited me to revisit the site where he hoped I would find a direct link to the User Agreement. I revisited the LawyerUp site and I did find a direct link to the User Agreement. I don’t know whether or not the link was there previously and I just missed it, but the important thing is that it’s there now. You can find the User Agreement here.
My thanks to Mr. Miles for contactng me.
Click here to see the LawyerUp advertisement (website), which raises some questions:
What is the actual cost of the lawyer’s service? The LawyerUp website states:
“Personal Plan subscribers will be charged, as described further in the User Agreement, for any dispatched lawyer’s fee for an initial consultation. Personal Plan subscribers may not request a Third-party Dispatch (as described in the User Agreement).
I was unable to find the User Agreement online. Without it, how can one tell what one is buying when one signs up for the LawyerUp service, how much it will cost and when and how the initial payment must be made?
Notice the emphasis on law (We put the law on your side) and expertise (LegalZoom was developed by expert attorneys with experience at the most prestigious law firms in the country). Never mind that neither the “expert attorneys” nor their (presumably former) prestigious firms are named (perhaps on the same theory that explains why prices are not listed on menus at expensive restaurants- if you have to ask, perhaps you’d be happier at some other restaurant). In any event, it doesn’t matter who the unnamed expert lawyers and prestigious firms are because, as LegalZoom makes absolutely clear in a place that it apparently hopes you will not notice until you have placed your order, LegalZoom DOES NOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE. LegalZoom takes great care to spell out, no doubt making use of the considerable skills of its expert, anonymous lawyers who once were employed by firms that Mr. Shapiro, who once, pardon the expression, helped to get O.J. off, is comfortable describing as prestigious. Hollywood’s definition of prestigious maybe somewhat flexible, but it doesn’t matter because whatever LegalZoom is selling you, you must, whatever you do, NOT mistake it for legal advice. This leaves one wondering how exactly LegalZoom is able to “put the law on your side.” How exactly does LegalZoom get “the law” from wherever it is when you first click on the LegalZoom site over to your side without giving ANY LEGAL ADVICE? Unfortunately, LegalZoom is not permitted to answer that question because to do so might be misconstrued as the giving of legal advice which, as you now know, is the ONE THING THAT LEGALZOOM DOES NOT DO. One would be forgiven for wondering whether having Mr. Shapiro be the front man is intended to create the impression that no matter what potential customers of LegalZoom may need, and however “too good to be true” its promises seem that somehow in the end things will work out alright. Afterall, if Shapiro’s legal team – again forgive the way this sounds – got O.J. off, then surely it can help little old you in whatever State you happen to reside form a corporation, file a trademark, create an estate plan or meet any other legal need which by definition must pale in comparison to getting O.J. off. Mr. Shapiro can – and is apparently willing to do – anything for a buck. However, notwithstanding Mr. Shapiro’s impressive track record, potential customers of LegalZoom ought not to assume they will have the same happy (if temporary) ending that Mr. Shapiro’s team managed to secure for O.J. if for no other reason than Mr. Shapiro is not your lawyer, nor are any of LegalZoom’s expert lawyers. Neither he nor they want anything to do with you as their client. They won’t take your calls. You may not sue them. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that for them you do not exist. You may, if you wish, think of LegalZoom as an Internet vending machine with a back office staffed by …. one can’t be sure …. except to say not by lawyers, and, in any event if the back office were staffed by lawyers licensed to practice goodness knows where then you must forget that they are lawyers and pretend that you are dealing with someone who may or may not have earned the title of secretary but who, more likely, may be more accurately described as a word processor, who, even if he or she is way over-qualified, perhaps a law student attending the evening session, but who is not qualified to give legal advice and who even if he or she were qualified, could not give you legal advice. It is not to much of a stretch to imagine that LegalZoon has employment contracts that specify that giving of legal advice or the making of any sounds or giving of any gestures that might be mistaken for legal advice is a firing offense. Take this situation and multiply times the number of states, each of which has its own laws and add in a factor for the applicable federal law for the things LegalZoom helps you do all by yourself (trademark filings for example) and you begin to understand how terribly important and understandable LegalZoom’s disclaimer is.
LegalZoom’s Fine Print:
Speaking of the LegalZoom disclaimer, there’s a “Where’s Waldo” quality to it. See if you can find it in the text below. In case you have neither the eyesight or the patience you can (as of Valentine’s Day 2009) find LegalZoom’s Disclaimer here.