Many online legal document companies have blossomed as people have sought to get everything from a will to a lease to a divorce to avoid visit a lawyer. A recent report warns against using these types of services as experts have revealed that doing so could cost you more money does the road, be ineffective in accomplishing your legal tasks, and even cause you problems in court.
A spokesperson for the online business review SitJabber, which reviews online businesses said, "These sites (RocketLawyer and LegalZoom) are...cheaper." However he, and other experts are quick to remind consumers to use caution when considering these sites.
"Rarely can a canned document or form be sufficient and advisable," said Peter Lo. Brooks, a New York attorney. "Of course, lawyers start out using forms, but, in my experience there is almost always something special about the situation that requires the sophistication of an experienced lawyer."
The report by MarketWatch asked legal experts to evaluate the offerings. The findings highlighted four potential pitfalls of incautious use of downloadable legal documents. They are as follows.
Online legal documents can be out of date, inaccurate or downright wrong which makes them flawed and could be legally rejected. "While a LegalZoom form may be OK, it may not be recognized, depending on the institution and the person behind the desk there," said a estate planning attorney from New York.
Should your online document have holes in it, there is a chance you may not be able to take the online company to court. In the fine print of online legal document companies' terms of service, there are clauses that state any disputes are to be resolved in small claims court or arbitration.
Essentially, this means you agree to have an arbitrator decide the case you have against the company, and you will be unable to take them to court. This becomes problematic as many arbitrators rely on repeat business from the companies who employ them, which introduces the potential for bias.
Finally, while the online documents may appear simple and clean, they may lead to a big costly mess later. While many people who use these types of sites to create wills, they complete the forms with very vague and generalized language that to a layperson may appear to be specific, but to a lawyer is anything but. These types of language situations could mushroom into a court hearing, which will be costly for all parties involved.
So why should you just visit an attorney's office when facing legal decisions? Aside from getting a complete and inclusive legal document that encompasses all of your personalized needs and a document that will hold up and be recognized in all necessary legal environments, it may surprise you to learn that the prices you pay for online legal documents may be more than what you'd pay in a traditional attorney's office.
What's more, is you can get guidance and legitimate personalized legal advice to include language and consider situations that you may not have considered. All of which do not come with a generalized legal form from an online service. As the old saying goes, 'you get what you pay for,' and when it comes to your legal needs, it is far too important to cut corners.