Inexpensive legal forms online: Are they worth it?

I keep hearing that lawyers are becoming irrelevant because most people can do their own legal work using inexpensive online forms. I may have said this once or twice myself. But the reality is that many online legal forms are disastrously insufficient.

Local lawyers Gregory Luce and Karen Lundquist recently took a close look at two forms they bought online. Luce bought a $69 will from LegalZoom, and Lundquist bought a $15 employment agreement from LawDepot. They wanted to judge these services on the facts, not the rhetoric.

Luce was actually looking to make a personal will. LegalZoom’s website asked him a few questions and sent his information to a “document specialist” before sending it to him. While he is a lawyer, Luce is not an estate planning expert. Nevertheless, the will he got is best characterized as “a good start.” Estate planning attorneys who commented on Luce’s will pointed out several serious flaws in the will he received. (LegalZoom demanded that Luce take down the actual will, citing their terms of use. Perhaps they aren’t all that confident in their product?)

Lundquist is an employment lawyer, so she came to her LawDepot employment agreement with some expertise. She found the agreement actually contained illegal provisions, harmful terms and was “in sum, . . . a mess.”

The problem with online legal forms is that most consumers do not have sufficient knowledge to spot the same problems Luce and Lundquist did. And some of those errors — such as the illegal terms Lundquist found — could wind up costing many times the cost of paying a competent lawyer to draft a similar agreement.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Glenn Gilbert on 03/24/2010 - 06:51 am.

    As someone who has been intending to have a will drafted for several years now, I found this story of personal interest.

    I followed the links to the source material and found the sample Will, and the comments pointing out the flaws to be most helpful.

    Now I have a better sense of what to expect, and what kind of contingencies it should cover. That will come in handy when we finally sit down with an estate planner; which I’m sure will be “soon”.

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