Friday, August 12, 2011

Do Online Legal Document Services Provide High Quality Work?


It is hard these days to turn on the TV and not see ads for various online legal document services – especially for LegalZoom. But recently another company, Rocket Lawyer has been making waves and according to Compete.com has recently surpassed LegalZoom in total unique visitors.

Rocket Lawyer recently raised and investment round of $18.5 Million and according to Forbes has around 70,000 users per day. A recent search in Google also shows that there are around 429 Million results for the search term “online legal document forms” and 90.6 Million results for “online legal document service.”

What about Quality?

One of the biggest questions surrounding the use of these low cost alternatives to legal documentation is how good is the quality of work? Consumer reports recently went out to three of the leading online document service providers (LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer and Quicken WillMaker Plus) to create a will and here are the key findings from their test:

  • Although the results were better than having no will at all, they were very simple and typically not a good fit for many complex legal needs and guidance.
  • Many of the wills produced potential pitfalls and lacked important and timely information ranging from outdated tax laws, little guidance on state laws, ability for the user to modify and add potential conflicting provisions, limited abilities to create special needs trusts and little or no tax guidance.

What Consumers Need To Know

When it comes to good legal service and documentation, you get what you pay for. Many years ago, I tried filing taxes on my own only to learn that a good accountant will save me far more money than they cost due to their expertise, service and thorough understanding of the tax code. A good attorney should provide the same type of value.

If you are initially concerned about the costs involved with the legal documentation you need, ask a number of lawyers for quotes and be candid with them about your budget and what you are willing to spend. In many cases, a good attorney will work within your budget or recommend somebody who will. In addition to providing legal documentation, a good attorney should also provide you with guidance and a better understanding of state laws and tax issues that may be lacking with the low cost online alternatives. Once you have exhausted the potential attorneys at your disposal, then you can consider these online alternatives.

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