Why You Need a Real Lawyer

There are a number of internet-based “legal service” providers, who provide quick forms for legal needs.  They advertise on television quite a bit.  They provide forms for incorporation, wills and estate plans, and more.  Beware!!  The results can be disastrous.

No doubt you’ve heard or read that Bar Associations in most states have sued most of these providers for the Unauthorized Practice of Law.   Unless you are a lawyer or employed in the legal field, you probably felt they were the underdog. You may have rooted for them to win.  And indeed, they are very careful in interpreting the UPL statute in each state to ensure they do not cross the line.  So they survive all challenges.  At least so far.

Their advertising portrays them as the hero trying to save John Q Public’s hard-earned dollars from greedy lawyers.  And frankly, John is eating it up big time.  Use of these internet-based services is growing.

The problem is that John Q Public doesn’t know when the matter requires greater finesse than these forms can provide.  And when an undesirable outcome finally shows up — often years later — it often can’t be fixed, or costs far more to fix than would have been spent originally to do it right.

Here’s the problem.  There’s no way to know in advance if the solution is inadequate, unless an actual lawyer is involved.  Later, when a lawyer must correct, or attempt to correct, the situation, he or she is bound by confidentiality and cannot reveal to the public the consequences of using such services.  So unfortunately John Q Public shares all the success stories with friends and relatives, and enhances the reputation of these services.  Rarely does John Q Public hear of the horror stories from others.  And those who ultimately must use a real lawyer to fix problems after the fact rarely talk about it.

So I have challenged lawyers to share some of those stories with me, without any client-identifiable information.  I will in turn publish the information.  Share it with friends, relatives and colleagues who are tempted to meet their legal needs “on the cheap” with an online service provider.

All the stories will be posted under the same title “Why You Need a Real Lawyer” so if you don’t want to subscribe, just return to the blog on occasion and look for that title in the Table of Contents.

Story #1:

Client owns a small business as a sole proprietor.  Client’s accountant tells client to incorporate to save money.  Accountant goes to a website to fill out forms and incorporates the client, proclaiming success.  Client is involved with government contracting.  Client tells contract officer he is incorporated.   Contract officer gives client forms to fill out and have certified for compliance with government contracting rules.  Client is in shock when contract officer asks pointed questions about all the other forms the client should have already submitted to various agencies – and why the client’s lawyer (accountant, actually) did not do those things!  Contract officer gives client a month to clean up the mess before they take steps to cancel the contract.  So client comes to [attorney] to — eight months after incorporating — file the notices and fill out the forms that are now nine months late.  Finally, client can certify to contracting officer that the right steps are done, and the government will now renew the contract.

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