Online legal services sprouted up across the Internet over the past few years. What are online legal services? What pitfalls come with using online legal services? How do they compare to traditional legal services and law firms? Read on to enter the world of online legal services so that you can become an informed consumer.
What Are Online Legal Services?
Online legal services do what you might imagine: they allow people to access legal services online. These services vary in what they offer. Some offer help filling out forms, while others provide templates of common types of agreements. Still others provide tools for engaging traditional law firms. Typical online legal services include LegalZoom, Nolo, RocketLawyer and others.
These services typically provide legal information. In other words, they can provide documents and help to fill out forms, but they cannot advise you on your specific matter. The key: online legal services do not provide legal advice. This point matters and we will delve into why later on in this post.
While online legal services might be the right choice for the more casual consumer, they often cause problems for serious businesses.
What Drawbacks Do Online Legal Services Have?
If you read the terms of service of most online legal services, you will notice something crucial buried in the fine print. Generally, the terms include a statement something like:
So-And-So Online Legal Services do not provide legal advice. We cannot advise you on the specifics of your situation and can only provide you with legal information. We recommend working with an attorney on your legal matter.
What does this mean? This means that while these services are happy to have you pay them to do something simple like fill out a form, they cannot tell you if that is even the right form to fill out. They cannot answer your questions nor can they advise you on proper legal strategy. They leave you on your own to figure out the hard questions.
Moreover, services that provide documents can’t tell you whether a given document is up-to-date or right for your situation. They can’t tell you if state law would completely invalidate the agreement. You are on your own when it comes to questions about legal templates.
While we understand that hiring an attorney can be intimidating or seem expensive, we have also seen the problems that certain online legal services create. Whether that is filing a trademark incorrectly or picking the wrong business entity, these mistakes can often be costly to fix. Sometimes they prove legally fatal.
We don’t want that for you. If you insist on using these services, it might help to speak with an attorney before going ahead. That’s why we made it simple and not expensive for any small business owner to hire an attorney with the Creators’ Legal Program, which is a subscription-based legal service that we pioneered.
Online Legal Services Often Have Dismal Reviews
Every week, our firm gets emails from people who initially turned to online legal services to do some legal task. They come to us frustrated and let down. It turns out most people feel that way.
If you read the reviews of many online legal services – including those that are household names – you will see that they have dismal reviews. Often around 2-stars. If you wouldn’t eat at a restaurant with a 2 star review out of 5, why would you trust your legal needs to such a service? It makes no sense.
The most common complaints seem to involve:
- Lack of support.
- Lack of followup or advice on how to fix problems.
- Hidden charges.
- Useless up-sells.
Not surprising, since the business model revolves around getting the customer to pay money – even for something that they don’t need.