Recently, there has been a rise in companies offering online legal services. You probably recognize the name LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, and Nolo. These sites offer a range of services from document preparation for a flat fee to monthly subscription services where you can get periodic legal advice and basic legal documents prepared. These sites are gaining in popularity because they offer a faster low-cost alternative than hiring an attorney. But are they really a good idea and can you trust online legal services? Furthermore, how do you pick a good online legal service? Are there better options than using those well-known companies like LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, and Nolo? Here’s what you need to know if you are looking for help preparing legal documents.
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The Original Players Of Online Automated Legal Documents
We all recognize the names LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer and NoloPress. These companies are the original founders of automated online legal document preparation. They have spent lots of money on advertising and now have name recognition. But are they the best option when you need legal documents?
One way to decide is to check reviews. How do people rate their experience using these services? Well, as of writing this article, Rocket Lawyer has a 2-star rating on the BBB website. LegalZoom has a 1-star rating on BBB. Nolo Press is more of a bookstore, so it’s hard to get an exact evaluation of people’s experiences using their books. However, what is clear is that many people are not happy using these services. So, the question is why? One downside of these online legal services is that they usually have a “one size fits all” approach to many of their documents. They also lack hands-on, personal service for their customers. For things like standard contracts (e.g., lease agreements, warranties, etc.) and LLC filings, which are relatively simple, some of these online legal services may be a viable option; however, there are better choices.
The Advantages of Using Boutique Online Legal Services
In comparison, today you also have the choice of using a boutique online legal service provider like A People’s Choice. Over the years, A People’s Choice has come up the ranks to now be one of the leading boutique California online legal service providers. How did we get here? We achieved our success through hard work, dedication, providing outstanding customer service, fair pricing, offering full case management services and convenient online interviews. Once a small fish in a big pond, A People’s Choice has excelled in the low-cost legal services field, and our customers’ reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp (see also our filtered reviews) and BBB reflect this.
A People’s Choice emphasizes a higher level of personalized service in comparison to those of automated online legal service providers. We have kept up with technology, giving our clients access to an online document portal, instant chat with staff and other added-value services that big companies offer. No longer do consumers have to give up one-on-one interaction and full service, personal help when using a professional and experienced online legal service.
Most Online Legal Services Limit Customization of Documents
Using automated providers of online legal services becomes problematic when a person needs to customize their legal documents to fit a particular purpose. Two examples of this are the areas of patents and nonprofit 501C3 applications. With both of these types of applications, there are no standardized forms. Each application must be carefully drafted for a specific purpose. The governmental offices for these procedures each have strict requirements for their applications. We have seen clients who used an online legal service to file these types of applications where the automated online legal service prepared and filed documents that a customer gave them without making sure it contained complete information and complied with all the particular filing requirements. Unfortunately, when the agency inevitably rejected the application, the applicant, in each instance was forced to refile, paying more filing fees.
At A People’s Choice, all documents are prepared by a real human being who wants to make sure your documents are properly completed with correct information. If something looks improper or incorrect, our staff will question it. Personal, hands-on attention for the document preparation phase is something that automated online legal service providers cannot offer.
Errors Have Consequences
Even worse is that most automated online legal services have a disclaimer that their forms might not be correct or accepted by the courts. That can certainly be problematic! More alarming is that some of the documents automated online legal services offer are not usable for some courts because the papers are missing imperative language of that court. These problems could invalidate the document and most certainly delay the legal process. More importantly, if your online legal documents turn out to be invalid, you may have very little recourse.
A People’s Choice has seen situations where someone used an automated online legal service to prepare a living trust to avoid probate only to have their heirs discover they now needed to file probate because documents were incorrectly prepared and executed. This, of course, is a worst-case scenario, since the point of making a trust was to avoid probate! Most routine legal processes are not just “filling in forms.” There are many aspects to each legal process; and even the task of signing a simple form, if done improperly, may have devastating consequences later when the error is discovered.
Another issue with automated online legal services is that they may be charging you for free documents. California uses judicial council forms. These documents can be obtained through most court’s websites for free, although you will have to pay a fee to file the documents as well as filling them out. Before paying and using an automated online legal service, a consumer should check state and local resources because the consumer may find they are paying for something they can get free elsewhere.
Compare Attorney Fees vs. Legal Document Preparation Fees
Before using an online legal service, a consumer should research how much an attorney would charge for a similar service. It’s hard to believe, but some online legal services quote fees for preparing and filing standardized documents that are almost what an attorney would charge! If you are using a non-attorney for document preparation, the fees they charge should offer substantial savings from what an attorney would charge for the same service. If you are paying close to the same price, you might as well hire the lawyer. Shopping around is important.
Why use an automated online legal service when you can get far superior help using a boutique legal service that offers personalized service like A People’s Choice! Contact A People’s Choice today at 800-747-2780 to discuss your legal document preparation needs.
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