Is LegalZoom engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in Connecticut?

Practice Book Section 2-44a defines the practice of law.  Is LegalZoom practicing law? Comparing what LegalZoom does to the definition of the practice of law produces an unsurprising result: arguments pro and con.  More to come.  

For PB Sec. 2-44a click on the link below and scroll to 2-44a.

Connecticut Practice Book 2009 – Part 1  (PDF)  HTML Links

LegalZoom to its customers: pay our legal fees

Excerpt from LegalZoom’s Terms and Conditions:

8. Indemnification. You agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless LegalZoom, its officers, directors, shareholders, employees and agents from and against any and all claims, liabilities, damages, losses or expenses, including reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, arising out of or in any way connected with your access to or use of the Site and the Materials.

Editor’s Note:  

1.  “You” as used above means anyone who uses LegalZoom’s services.

2.  The customer’s obligation to defend, indemnify and hold LegalZoom harmless is unlimited.  Compare the customer’s unlimited obligation to LegalZoom’s very limited liability to its customers as set forth (as of February 28, 2009) in  Paragraph 7 of LegalZoom’s fine print, i.e. Terms and Conditions:

What LegalZoom and the media have in common: anonymous sources

Anonymous sources play an important but controversial role in a free press.  Guaranteeing anonymity to a source makes it possible for the press to get and to publish information that would otherwise be hidden from public view, information that citizens as citizens or consumers ought to have.  Anonymity, however, disconnects the source from responsibility for the information he provides and therein lies a fundamental risk that the information is false or unreliable or intended to manipulate rather than educate the public.

LegalZoom, in seeking to “…Put The Law On Your Side,” provides a great deal of information about law with the evident intent that its customers rely on that information, especially its legal forms for estate planning, divorce, business formation and patent office filings.  Who gives LegalZoom its “knowledge” of the law which it in turn offers to its customers?  Where do LegalZoom’s forms come from?  Who drafts the forms that LegalZoom uses to prepare the legal documents it sells and delivers to its customers?  

Just as the media uses vague language to describe anonymous sources – a high level administration official – LegalZoom uses similar language to induce reliance on the legal information, including legal documents, that it sells.  For example,

1.  LegalZoom was developed by expert attorneys with experience at the most prestigious law firms in the country.

2.  Experience You Can Trust

Developed by expert attorneys with experience at the most prestigious law firms in the country, LegalZoom has helped over 400,000 satisfied customers take care of common legal matters. Our extensive knowledge of federal, state and county laws allows us to prepare your legal documents quickly and efficiently. Plus, our documents contain advanced provisions not found in simple “do-it-yourself” kits or manuals.

3.     Now you have instant access to the most common forms you need. Top attorneys create, review and update all of our forms. In addition, each form includes detailed instruction on how and when to use it.

4.     Save time and money with high-quality legal forms crafted by top attorneys

5.     To make LegalZoom the best legal document service on the web, we assembled a team of legal experts, including retired  judges and law school professors. All of our forms were developed by experienced attorneys, so you can be sure that our documents are dependable.

 Lots of positive, descriptive words:  legal experts, top attorneys, retired judges and law school professors, expert attorneys with experience at the most prestigious law firms in the country, our extensive knowledge federal, state and county laws …….

But no names. No one willing to have their names and their professional reputations as practicing lawyers or retired judges or law professors attached to the legal documents LegalZoom assures its potential customers are dependable.

Glenn Beck endorses LegalZoom and offers “Hate University” t-shirts for sale

One way to find a good lawyer or doctor or other professional is to ask people one trusts for recommendations.  Celebrity recommendations are not quite the same thing.  See, for example, LegalZoom’s celebrity endorsers, which, as  of Tues. Feb. 24th, 2009, can be found here.  Glenn Beck is one of them.

In addition to endorsing LegalZoom, Mr. Beck offers a variety of products of his own for sale online, including t-shirts, one of which is for “Hate University.”  (see below).

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Glenn Beck, The Glenn Beck Program

Glenn Beck is the host of his own news and commentary program on Fox News, as well as the nationally syndicated radio talk show, “The Glenn Beck Program.” Mr. Beck’s radio program is heard on over 230 stations and is the third highest-rated national radio talk show among adults ages 25 to 54. He has been a LegalZoom endorser since January 2006.

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Through his online store Mr. Beck offers a variety of items for sale which have at least one thing in common with LegalZoom, namely, his endorsement.  Here is Mr. Beck’s ad for one of Mr. Beck’s t-shirts.

Hate U Original Logo TeeHate U Original Logo Tee

You can’t actually attend Hate University (we’d never accept someone like you) but you can still buy our stuff. Our “Hate U” classic logo tee let’s the world know that you love to hate—and you’re not ashamed to admit it! And don’t worry; animals were harmed (quite a bit!) in the making of this shirt.

ONLY $19.95
Color: Heather Gray
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL($2 additional for XXL)
Material:100% ring-spun cotton
Usually ships within 7-10 business days