LegalZoom Loses Lawsuits: Drawbacks to the DIY Approach to Litigation

Online services exist for just about anything. Sometimes, they can offer convenience and speed, like an online bank account. But what about professional services, like from a doctor or lawyer? You may have heard your family physician warn you not to seek medical advice from “Dr. Google” and websites that provide generic medical advice, such as WebMD.

For legal problems, websites like LegalZoom threaten clients in a similar way. Due to the general nature of these sites, they often provide impractical, incomplete, misleading, or false information, prompting users to make risky decisions about their legal situations. Their template legal documents include provisions that could hurt your position in litigation.

For over a decade, LegalZoom has faced criticism and legal action from several different sources in the United States and abroad. The do-it-yourself law website has come under fire again in recent years, with critics claiming that its services constitute “unauthorized practice of law.” A few sources even claimed the company provided false legal advice that could get the recipient into serious legal trouble. In light of the controversy surrounding LegalZoom, it’s important to understand why attorneys are not only preferable in a lawsuit scenario, but necessary.

Let’s Talk Money

For many consumers, LegalZoom’s main draw is the low cost. But the lowest cost, if you wanted to do everything yourself, would be to go directly to the government entity with which you are filing. You can pay about $150 and register your company with the State of Florida Division of Corporations and avoid the extra fees that LegalZoom charges for doing the same thing. Usually, the forms you get from self-help websites match the statute that defines the entity anyway, so there is little or no value added.

Beyond the initial price tag, when you don’t have a competent lawyer by your side, you can stand to lose a lot more money, by having to walk away from a loss without being able to take legal action, in a failed lawsuit or with a drawn-out legal battle. Generic legal forms can destroy your prospects of success. For example, if your generic form has an arbitration clause, you could be unable to file a lawsuit at all because you can’t afford the filing fees and arbitration costs, which are considerably higher than in county or state court. If you can’t win back your legal fees in a successful lawsuit, because the generic form did not give the winner entitlement to fees and costs, enforcement may not be worth it to pursue. And if you accidentally leave out information in the forms, fill them out incorrectly, or miss a filing deadline—incidents a lawyer knows to avoid—you could end up in big trouble.

Sworn to Serve

The term “attorney” is more than a title; it indicates years of special education and experience. According to the American Bar Association, anyone who hopes to become a lawyer must fulfill several requirements. First of all, aspiring lawyers must complete a bachelor’s degree and three years at an accredited law school. They must also pass a series of tests: a state bar examination, a national or state exam on professional ethics, and a character and background review that measures their fitness to become lawyers. When you’re facing a lawsuit, you would be best represented by someone who knows the law and took an oath to uphold it.

Your partners in law

When you hire an attorney, you get a real person—not just a website, a series of emails, or a disembodied voice on the phone—who learns about you, your goals and your case. Lawyers often focus within certain practice areas and industries, so you can even find someone with specialized knowledge about your particular situation. Don’t wait until things start to go downhill. If you start your legal journey with a lawyer at your side, you will have a dedicated representative who can help you make great decisions from start to finish.

If you’re facing a lawsuit, don’t wait until you get overwhelmed—contact an attorney right away. The knowledgeable lawyers at Gersten & Muir can give you the advantageous position you need to succeed. Call us to discuss your needs and get an effective, personalized approach to legal practice.

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Written by Gersten and Muir

Gersten and Muir

The attorneys of Gersten & Muir, P.A. are passionate advocates for businesses throughout Miami-Dade County. We provide numerous business legal services to help make your company grow and flourish. We are knowledgeable and dedicated to finding solutions that fit your company’s needs.