You can find anything online, including legal documents. But that doesn’t mean you should use them. Two local lawyers recently put LegalZoom and LawDepot, two popular online legal forms providers, to the test.
LawDepot calls itself a “trusted, do-it-yourself legal” website. LegalZoom says “we put the law on your side,” and features favorable quotations from the Wall Street Journal and a lawyer on its front page.
It remains true, however, that you get what you pay for. For example, employment lawyer Karen Lundquist recently took a good, hard look at LawDepot’s $15 employment agreement. She found that it actually contained a provision that was illegal under federal law. In other words, there is no state in the country where the term would be legal. In every state, a company that tries to cut costs by using LawDepot’s employment agreement is just begging to get sued.
Another local lawyer, Greg Luce, took a look at LegalZoom’s $69 will package. Luce tried to put a positive light on what he got, calling it “a good start.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
There is an old saying: “only a fool has himself for a lawyer.” Downloading online legal forms is like playing Russian Roulette with your business. Unless you have the expertise to spot the problems Lundquist and Luce ran into, you probably shouldn’t use them. Of course, if you had that expertise, you probably wouldn’t need the forms, anyway.
Cheap legal forms may be tempting, but sometimes the cheaper path costs a bit more up front. You will have trouble keeping your startup lean while you are defending yourself from an employment discrimination lawsuit. Pay a lawyer for the right document, and you can avoid that ugly scenario.
Skip the online legal forms unless you know what you are doing.
Sam Glover is a Minneapolis business lawyer for geeks. He also edits the law firm marketing and practice blog Lawyerist, Lawyerist, and Caveat Emptor, a consumer law blog, and speaks frequently on law practice and lawyering. We’re pleased to have Sam as a new contributor to Minnov8.