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Lawsuit Claims LegalZoom Is Practicing Law Without a License

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the how-quickly-can-a-computer-finish-law-school? dept.

The Courts 246

Bob the Super Hamste writes "Fortune has an interesting piece about a federal class action law suit against LegalZoom claiming that its software is illegally practicing law without a license. The law suit seeks to recover money from LegalZoom for every resident in Missouri who has used LegalZoom regardless of how satisfied the users were of the service. Currently Missouri law states that an individual who paid money to a non lawyer for legal services is entitled to sue the provider for 3 times the amount paid."

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246 comments

Yay! (0)

mholve (1101) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623384)

Even MORE frivolous lawsuits ensue!

Re:Yay! (3, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623460)

No kidding - the twits filing the suit admits they weren't harmed by the service and just wants to reclaim their fees x3. This definitely qualifies as a top ten all time frivolous class action suit.

Re:Yay! (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623558)

I disagree with that, they got lucky that they weren't harmed by it. They were still defrauded, assuming that LegalZoom did as alleged.

Re:Yay! (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624210)

I disagree with that, they got lucky that they weren't harmed by it. They were still defrauded, assuming that LegalZoom did as alleged.

Look, the only people being harmed in Missouri by Legalzoom are the lawyers who can't charge $200/hr (or whatever the rate is) to make a basic will or incorporation filing. I wouldn't be surprised if these defendants who weren't harmed are either lawyers themselves who want LZ to not to business in the state or they're stooges for said lawyers.

As long as they sue the software itself (2)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624232)

Let me get this straight. These people are bringing suit because some software gave them legal advice?

So they are essentially taking the position that the software is an intelligent agent capable of giving advice.

So they are implicitly positioning the software as a legal person (the agent that gave the advice, presumably
by assessing input from the plaintiffs and making its own decisions about what advice to give.)

So they should be petitioning to sue the software itself. (And good luck collecting from it.)

Trying to sue whoever wrote the software and whoever operates it and gives it a server and power is
kind of like suing the parents and the landlord of the person who did you wrong.

Re:Yay! (2)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624266)

You mean they were lucky they were not harmed from advice received indirectly by an attorney? Hate to tell you this, but if this is illegal, so is most of the legal profession (as tons of legal advice is issued under "guidance of an attorney", which exactly what you get with the service). Additionally, I would be absolutely amazed if there isn't a disclaimer which basically states, if in doubt, contact an attorney. This service is not a replacement for an attorney. Typically these services double as a referral service. Not exactly surprising.

So basically, if you were injured, its extremely likely its because you're a complete fucking idiot too stupid to realize you shouldn't play in the highway.

Completely fucking frivolous. I hope this guy, and his lawyer, gets thrown under the bus and made an extreme example.

Re:Yay! (1, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623636)

Good thing that practicing law without a brain is still allowed.

Re:Yay! (5, Interesting)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624014)

No kidding - the twits filing the suit admits they weren't harmed by the service and just wants to reclaim their fees x3. This definitely qualifies as a top ten all time frivolous class action suit.

Actually I'd guess it's more a move by lawyers in Missouri to drive LZ out of the state by making it to expensive to do business there. For many attorneys, simple legal documents are there bread and butter and if people start using low-cost DIY sites the attorneys stand to lose money or will be forced to lower prices.

Attorneys have been good at fighting any move to introduce competition - years ago they fought over advertising and even now limit what can be said. They created the idea that law school, instead of the old apprentice system where you read the law under an experienced attorney, was needed to be admitted to the bar (although some states still allow you to take the bar without going to law school under certain circumstances).

Of course, what they are doing is not unique to the legal profession. I just wish engineers had been clever enough to figure out a way to do the same thing so that "Engineer" could only be used by a "real" engineer. Yes, there are P.E.s but in most engineering jobs a P.E. is just a fancy title, not a job requirement.

Re:Yay! (3, Insightful)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623658)

So... does this mean they can sue every publisher of a legal advice book?

Like Nolo Press, home will kit sellers, "Incorporating for Dummies," etc?

I've read that in other countries the legal language is nowhere near as obscure and cryptic, that that is unusual to the US, and designed as a deliberate obfuscation by lawyers so as to make it REQUIRE a lawyer to do anything.

Re:Yay! (2)

beckerist (985855) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623854)

Great point. Does WebMD really have their license to practice medicine? How about FreeCreditReport having having a CPA license? For that matter...is Wikipedia legal in Missouri? All of these sites are available to help, at the users discretion. None of them guarantee accuracy though all of them are regulated to a point where their usefulness outweighs their potential inaccuracies. If you don't like it, hire a real lawyer/doctor/accountant/nerd.

Re:Yay! (1)

sarysa (1089739) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624168)

Frivolous, maybe...but definitely not trivial, and ABSOLUTELY not ignorable. Industries often resort to the legal system to protect themselves from overcrowding or obsolescence. Try starting a cab company in New York for instance...most people can't, and those who can will take decades to make back the seed money.

This is clearly lawyers trying protect their industry via the state legal system, and they may win...in which case LegalZoom may give Missouri the finger and bar Missourans from using the site, while Missouri's legal profession is protected. Once that happens, many other states (whose legislatures and federal elected officials are slanted heavily toward the legal profession) will follow suit and/or tweak their laws to push out sites like LegalZoom. End result: We all go back to spending $200/hr for everyday legal needs.

Who wins.......... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36623392)

And who wins here????? You guessed it, the LAWYERS!!!!

Re:Who wins.......... (5, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623542)

And who wins here????? You guessed it, the LAWYERS!!!!

More than any other profession, those who practice law have the ability and influence to assure their lack of competition from computer aplications.

You could write a program to scour a database of every legal decision, even include some fuzzy logic to handle grey areas - at the very least to bring them to your attention, and above all put it on plain english, not that "Lawyer Speak" you see on legal documents (which I'm quite positive are there to baffle and bamboozle the general public) and you would be driven into the dirt for having the audacity to do it.

Lawyers have in the past decried software legal aids as providing customers with less than the best service possible (thus preserving their positions), but as we see computer chess games surpass even the best human opponents you can well assume a computer could do far more research and connect far more dots than the finest legal mind ever could, in mere seconds.

The day will come when they won't have a leg to stand on, but as Science Fiction has often charged humanity will discriminate against cyber-persons, you can see the Legal Community are at the forefront.

Re:Who wins.......... (2, Insightful)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623586)

Amen, brother! (in the secular sense)

This case is yet another example why yet another sector of the economy can't adapt to new realities and increase its efficiency.

Re:Who wins.......... (4, Funny)

N0Man74 (1620447) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623758)

Forget Jeopardy, let's get a computer to pass the bar exam. ;-) As long as we don't program in self-interest too..

"April 19, 2015 ... at 8:11 PM ... Lawnet became self aware, starting a chain of events that led to an intense legal battle between man and machine."

Re:Who wins.......... (2)

what2123 (1116571) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623890)

Subsequent it ruled that all software patents were inherently invalid based on the true meaning of innovation and not common sense. It also laughed at the Disney Law creating the first true emotion ever by an AI being.

Re:Who wins.......... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36623984)

"You could write a program to scour a database of every legal decision, even include some fuzzy logic to handle grey areas - at the very least to bring them to your attention, and above all put it on plain english, not that "Lawyer Speak" you see on legal documents (which I'm quite positive are there to baffle and bamboozle the general public) and you would be driven into the dirt for having the audacity to do it."

No; you'd be driven into dirt for having the audacity to think you were qualified to so such a thing without either being a lawyer or operating along with the approval of a lawyer. It's a nice thought that you could write a program to put the law into "plain english," but based on the words you are using it appears you do not know what you are talking about.

"but as we see computer chess games surpass even the best human opponents you can well assume a computer could do far more research and connect far more dots than the finest legal mind ever could, in mere seconds."

You, sir, have no business talking about the law or chess if you are going to equate the law to chess.

Re:Who wins.......... (2)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624306)

"You, sir, have no business talking about the law or chess if you are going to equate the law to chess."

You are absolutely right. Law is much more analogous to "So You Think You Can Dance...?"

Re:Who wins.......... (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624010)

Lawyers have in the past decried software legal aids as providing customers with less than the best service possible (thus preserving their positions), but as we see computer chess games surpass even the best human opponents you can well assume a computer could do far more research and connect far more dots than the finest legal mind ever could, in mere seconds.

The same day you can point a computer to wikipedia and have Lt. Cmdr. Data. And no, Watson doesn't come close. Sure you can throw together some keyword software but to actually parse and understand what a legal text really is about, apply it to your case and give you something like a legal argument would take far more strong AI than what's available.

Chess is in many ways ridiculously simple, the positions are finite, the rules absolute. But your legal case is not exactly like any other legal case and good luck trying to map all the rules like "the right to free speech" but it actually means drawings too and it doesn't mean shouting fire in a crowded theater. Without a huge number of abstract concepts beyond what's in the text itself you'll get nowhere.

Re:Who wins.......... (2)

Nemesisghost (1720424) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624256)

While I agree, the situation here with LegalZoom is almost exactly like chess. It doesn't try to give you legal advice, only it generates a legal document for you to use. What is allowed is fairly limited and there are absolutely no edge conditions. I see it more as going to McDonalds than having a personal chef. Yes, the personal chef will make me better meals, more tailored to my needs & desires. But McDonalds will be cheaper and probably faster.

Re:Who wins.......... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36624116)

Mr. WATSON, Esquire...

So much for their "guarantees" (2)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623412)

Their documents might hold up in court, but their company may not.

Re:So much for their "guarantees" (3, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623690)

not quite, whether you are referring to legalzoom or the company suing them.

in irony, suing legalzoom and referencing them on slashdot is probably providing them quite the boom in business.

Re:So much for their "guarantees" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36623782)

An especially large boom in business, considering that if the lawsuit goes through and sets a precedent, you could get back 3x what you paid them. It's the investment opportunity of a lifetime. Spend $1,000 on legal documents, get $3,000 back from the company that sold you the documents, AND you get to keep the documents.

DISCLAIMER: I am not giving out legal or fiscal advice. More likely than not, they will file for bankruptcy and you won't get a dime back.

Re:So much for their "guarantees" (1)

flitty (981864) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624172)

I have a friend who works at the IRS cleaning up business filings, calling businesses when they have incorrect information or missing information on their filings. He was complaining just last week that probably half of his calls are made to businesses who use LegalZoom and other similar online services. He was saying that these companies should be shut down for false advertising and misleading customers to what service they are really providing.

What's a bus full of lawyers going off a cliff? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36623414)

What do you call a bus full of lawyers going off a cliff?

A comedy.

What if there's an empty seat?

A tragedy!

Re:What's a bus full of lawyers going off a cliff? (4, Funny)

plover (150551) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624098)

Q: How do you save a lawyer from drowning?

A: Take your foot off his head.

Q: What do you have if there's a lawyer buried up to his neck in sand?

A: Not nearly enough sand.

Haters gonna hate (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36623418)

Practicing law without a license? But that would make these people who wasted nearly a decade on getting their law degree redundant! Better fire off a lawsuit (good thing they're good at this kind of thing)!

Re:Haters gonna hate (5, Insightful)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623478)

Practicing law without a license? But that would make these people who wasted nearly a decade on getting their law degree redundant! Better fire off a lawsuit (good thing they're good at this kind of thing)!

Something similar actually already happened here in Canada, rather ontario between the upper canada law society and non-registered legal experts who weren't paralegals but represented people in court for things like compensation claims, and so on. The law society argued that these people were practicing without a license, in turn the government passed a law making it so that they had to be at least paralegals. And in turn fell under the upper-canada law society, meaning that they now also had to pay yearly administration fees and so on.

It really wasn't about the quality of the people who were doing this. It was their desire to get everyone who was doing legal work all under their umbrella so they could milk money from them.

Re:Haters gonna hate (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623670)

No kidding. It's all a scam. It's like those big pharmaceutical companies. They're all in it to stop honest snake-oil peddlers from exposing the healthcare industry secrets and costing them millions.

Or... you know... maybe some pursuits require a minimal amount of preparation and licensing to show that you've managed at least that minimum less you do serious damage to someone's life by merit of fast talking alone.

Law is only for the rich (2)

NathanWoodruff (966362) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623426)

If all lawyers in Missouri set a price that is out of reach for the common person, only rich people will have lawyers. Nathan

Re:Law is only for the rich (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623616)

Yes, but this is hardly the correct solution. The correct solution would be to fix the system so that one can't just pay whatever one wants for attorneys even if the amount is grossly disproportionate to what the other side can afford.

A will is a legal document (4, Interesting)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623450)

By Missouri law-
"Missouri's statutes define law practice as, among other things, "the drawing or the . . . assisting in the drawing for a valuable consideration of any paper, document or instrument affecting . . . [legal] rights."
So if I, all by myself, draws up a will, I'm breaking the law? According to TFA, every single page on the website has disclaimers that this is not true legal advice. Another interesting facet is if found guilty, would this affect EULAs?

Re:A will is a legal document (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623544)

What makes you think EULAs are drafted without legal counsel?

Re:A will is a legal document (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624338)

What makes you think EULAs are drafted without legal counsel?

I think he means LegalZoom's ELUA that the users accepted when they used the service.

No (3, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623572)

Unless you can work out a way to pay yourself for writing a will, no.

The statute was obviously intended to deal with fake lawyers - yes there are people who will brave the social opprobrium of claiming to be a lawyer in exchange for money. However, provided that the website doesn't itself produce wills, deeds or other legal instruments, it should be in the clear.

This is a grey area - the law could have benefits in preventing the automatic generation of, say, RIAA-type fishing expedition claim documents. It would be interesting if a real lawyer were to comment on the EULA issue; there is probably a good reason why it is excluded.

Re:No (1, Insightful)

imlepid (214300) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623726)

The statute was obviously intended to deal with fake lawyers - yes there are people who will brave the social opprobrium of claiming to be a lawyer in exchange for money.

No, it wasn't. The statute was obviously intended to keep out competition from people like paralegals and other lawyers-lite who can do 90% of what a lawyer does but doesn't actually have a law degree. Don't forget, many (most?) lawmakers are lawyers by training and thus they are very willing to protect the legal profession.

Re:No (4, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624092)

You can use the same argument about doctors, or virtually any "profession" that claims to have standards. Auto mechanics have to be certified in some jurisdictions and you can bet there are laws in place in those locations that make it a crime to pretend to be an auto mechanic without proper (legal) certification.

This goes back to guilds and unions. If you aren't a member of the guild then you can't do whatever it is the guild members do, whether it is weaving, being an apothecary or a wheelwright. We have preserved this today with lots of professional societies and groups taking the place of the guilds. You can't be a lawyer if you don't pass the state bar exam - and, coincidently, join the bar association for the state. You can't be a doctor unless you are certified as a doctor in that state. And there are plenty of places where you can't be an electrician if you aren't a member of the IBEW union. Plumbers are required to be union plumbers in some places as well.

The defense of this is that you are at least partially assured of competence when dealng with a guild member. You have a "standards body" to go complain to if you are cheated or are dealt with incompetently. If you choose to deal with non-guild members you are pretty much on your own. Today if you prefer to go to an alternative medical practitioner who chants over you will dosing you with dung balls and mouse ears it is your legally-protected choice. However, if you don't get better or your broken leg doesn't heal properly good luck with (a) finding your practiticioner and (b) getting a lawsuit to stick. You might - might - have better luck with a non-union electrician in a jurisdiction where such are not legal.

So sure, the laws are most definitely on the side of the guilds. It has been that way for around a thousand years or so. The guilds exist for a reason and certainly a thousand years ago it was a very good reason. Today there are still some good reasons for them but the volume of cultural, societal and legal inertia behind the guilds makes it very unlikely we are going to move away from this sort of system any time soon.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36624264)

EULA's are most likely being drafted by counsel for the software or service provider. They are not legal advise; they are contracts that end users are agreeing to.

Re:A will is a legal document (2)

vux984 (928602) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623702)

So if I, all by myself, draws up a will, I'm breaking the law?

Of course not. If you did it all by yourself you didn't pay anyone.

However if you bought a book on how to do it, paper, and a pen... you apparently can sue each of those companies for "assisting" you. Possibly the electric company for providing you light while doing it as well.

That's clearly where the software felt it should be classed. They'll argue the end user is drawing up the will unassisted, and that their software is in the same class as a book or pamphlet on "how to write a will".

Re:A will is a legal document (2)

westlake (615356) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624214)

So if I, all by myself, draws up a will, I'm breaking the law?

When my grandmother moved into a nursing home, I needed to clear title to her house.

That was my introduction to the mischief and malice that can be written into a will -- and how the heirs trying to put things to right on their own --- and doing it on the cheap -- can only make things worse.

Life in the post-Watson world. (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623454)

I wonder if they could win their case by pointing the software in question at the litigation against it Watson style?

My guess is that's not what LegalZoom does, but...

Still, makes me wonder what was the driver for this lawsuit. Did someone get burned because the software screwed them?

Re:Life in the post-Watson world. (2)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623600)

From my reading of the article it seems that one of the individuals is just using this as a money grab as he was pleased with their service.

Re:Life in the post-Watson world. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624300)

It really seems like too little money to bother with. I think there most expensive service is 300 dollars.

Legalzoom offers a service where a "customer care" reviews your document, if they aren't lawyers, that might be the issue.

Re:Life in the post-Watson world. (3, Informative)

YojimboJango (978350) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623694)

A lawyer got burned is what happened.

Chances are there was a group of lawyers that sat around in an overly expensive office and drafted (read, photocopied) paperwork for six figure salaries. They then found a website that threatened to do everything they did for free. Now having lots of free time they decide to actually use their education and sue their competition out of existence.

Lesson: Never automate a lawyers or a congressman job. You can automate and outsource the entire rest of the country, but if you even look wrong at those professions you will be sued out of existence.

Re:Life in the post-Watson world. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36624220)

Lesson: Never automate a lawyers or a congressman job. You can automate and outsource the entire rest of the country, but if you even look wrong at those professions you will be sued out of existence.

Dead men don't sue.

Re:Life in the post-Watson world. (2)

jesseck (942036) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623818)

FTFA:

In December 2009 LegalZoom customer Todd Janson, later joined by two others, filed a class-action against LegalZoom in Jefferson City. The plaintiffs don't claim to have suffered any injury from using the software. But Missouri law says that someone who has paid money to a non-lawyer for legal services is entitled to sue the poseur for a sum equal to three times what he paid. So the suit seeks that recovery for every Missouri resident who used LegalZoom since December 17, 2004—regardless of how satisfied they might have been with the service. The lead lawyer is Tim Van Ronzelen of Jefferson City's Cook, Vetter, Doerhoff & Landwehr.

They weren't harmed... just greedy.

just sour grapes (1)

verrol (43973) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623456)

i would bet that some lawyers are suing because they lost out on those businesses.

Re:just sour grapes (2, Insightful)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623506)

Agreed. Now that lawyers realize that they can be replaced with a script, they are pissed.

Re:just sour grapes (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623638)

A very small shell script.

10 print "Maybe"
20 if (client->money-- > 0) goto 10
30 print "Get out of my office, deadbeat"

Oh, or a pack of rabid hyenas.

Re:just sour grapes (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624020)

Agreed. Now that lawyers realize that they can be replaced with a script, they are pissed.

Script pissies.

--

It puts the law on your side; not on your back.

Re:just sour grapes (1)

john82 (68332) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623768)

What if there were a class action lawsuit against lawyers for charging outrageous rates to do something which can be accomplished by a individual following a script or template? Better yet, how about a class action against "Slip and Fall" lawyers for filing unnecessary cases and seeking exorbitant settlements leading to artificially high malpractice insurance, overly cautious doctors, and an inflated cost for healthcare?

Re:just sour grapes (3, Funny)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623858)

Well put. Now all we need is lawyer...

Re:just sour grapes (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624342)

Two problems:

When you cross the dividing line between needing a form to fill in the blanks and when you need an actual lawyer isn't clearly spelled out by anyone. It is up to you (or your lawyer) to recognize it. Fail to recognize it and you end up on the short end. Now how often does that happen with a lease? Never. How often does it happen with a will? Not too often. How often does it happen with the purchase of a business? Lots and lots and lots.

Second problem with the slip-and-fall lawyers. People get money from this. Lots of money. If you can "win the lottery" this way it is wonderful, but if you are standing around watching you are going to be left wondering why that guy got the big wad of cash and you got nothing. Believe me, you want to do something about liability lawsuits (slip-and-fall, malpractice of all sorts, etc.) and the people that got their big wad will come out of the woodwork to defend the process. "Tort reform" is an other name for doing something about liability lawsuits and it never seems to go anywhere because too many people have either won the lottery or are thinking they might someday real soon now.

That's why we can't have nice things! (0)

Tamran (1424955) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623490)

Also, that's what disclaimers are for. For example, on the weeder I got the other day, it says not to operate on a ladder, upside down, on drugs etc ... you'd think the LegalZoom software guys knew that already and would have had a "this is not really legal advice" disclaimer. Err, wait, are they actually lawyers?

Legal Templates (5, Insightful)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623500)

That's pretty dumb. As far as I know, LegalZoom isn't practicing law so much as providing people with templates for documents where they can fill in bits that they want and delete other bits they don't want. This is not the same as giving people legal advice, or engaging in an attorney-client relationship with anyone.

Besides, if this is successful, it'll have a detrimental effect to authors and publishers who publish books with legal templates (Draft your own Will books, for instance), most of which are for really simple stuff like wills or simple contracts. It's going to deny the poorest people access to making these documents because it's going to force them to seek attorneys who are often too expensive.

Re:Legal Templates (3, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623618)

Besides, if this is successful, it'll have a detrimental effect to authors and publishers who publish books with legal templates (Draft your own Will books, for instance), most of which are for really simple stuff like wills or simple contracts. It's going to deny the poorest people access to making these documents because it's going to force them to seek attorneys who are often too expensive.

That is the idea here. The lawyers don't like those books either. The whole point of laws like the one in this case is to protect certain groups from competition (or to force those who go into certain businesses to pay dues to an organization).

Re:Legal Templates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36624052)

By extension, the whole point of licensure, certification, apprenticeship, etc. is to protect groups from competition -- not to protect customers from shoddy, unsafe, incompetent service. I mean, after all, we can still get plenty of that from those who have completed said processes.

Re:Legal Templates (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36623678)

Also, who's next on the list to be sued? Office Depot, Staples or OfficeMax? All of them carry similar legal forms in shrink-wrapped form. The service is no different than the basic facilities of LegalZoom. Although, LegalZoom does have a membership based program where you can have certain documents they provide you with reviewed by an attorney. But, those services are separate from the core business of providing the legal templates.

Re:Legal Templates (1)

bjk002 (757977) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623836)

I'm waiting for the AAA [google.com] to sue TurboTax and their ilk. The tipping point is nearly here... Prepare yourself!!

Kangaroo court (4, Funny)

paiute (550198) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623502)

Unfortunately for the plaintiffs. the State of Missouri just announced that the case will be heard by their new AutoCourt software.

Re:Kangaroo court (1)

memyselfandeye (1849868) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623920)

The ironic thing is I just completed a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney using a template downloaded off a website hosted by my state, Ohio. Missouri [mo.gov] has one too. I suppose I should sue my State for 3x damages. I'm sure some of my tax money went into that bandwidth.

Do you hear the ROFOLing
A ROFOLing we go...

Re:Kangaroo court (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624370)

Looks like the defense will have a very easy time with this case then.

WebMD (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36623528)

I'm suing WebMD for practicing medicine without a license.

Slashdot - Links in Comments (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36623546)

Slashdot has marginally changed design again, and now links in comments don't work when clicked.

And for those who are about to say "STOP USING IE6 OR SOME SHIT U NOOB," I'm on Chrome 12.0.742.112.

Re:Slashdot - Links in Comments (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623940)

+1, informative.

I thought it was just something wrong on my end.

Litigious bastards (4, Insightful)

JosKarith (757063) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623560)

It's an obvious attempt at a chilling effect to destroy the site. I very much doubt that the idea to do this came from the plaintiff - the American legal profession will have been searching for an excuse to get a ruling against this site and now they've found a jurisdiction and willing shill.

Re:Litigious bastards (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36624238)

I really hope it backfires. I was looking for a service like this, and this lawsuit probably just gained them a least one customer. I didn't see exactly what I was looking for on their site but I'm emailing them.

Re:Litigious bastards (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36624348)

the American legal profession will have been searching for an excuse to get a ruling against this site
 
Citation, please.
 
As a lawyer, and an out-of-work one at that, I have no problem with these guys. Missouri may be backward, but in most states, the key test of practicing law is offering legal advice. Is it "legal advice" to create a form will? Sure, but you can bet an actual lawyer did it. It would not be legal advice to pass that piece of (electronic) paper around. However, it would be legal advice to say "this form will address your need for a will and your estate situation". So it would seem to all depend on how it is presented. Were I legalzoom's lawyer, I'd recommend language like "here is a form that has been used to create wills in Missouri".
 
Lawyers don't generally think of themselves as toll-collecting guildmembers- all of them I know see themselves as serious, skilled professionals who work to solve any number of problems on behalf of their clients. Why wouldn't they want to give up the form-filling business to concentrate on what they actually got into the profession to do?

Lawyers dont like competition (2)

kaptink (699820) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623570)

Lawyers dont like competition and are very good at suing cause thats what they do. I just watched a great doco on the dodgy legal tactics going on in the states called 'hot coffee' based on the well known McDonnalds/coffee lawsuit. Very much worth a watch.

Meanwhile, in China (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36623584)

The longest bridge on Earth [dailymail.co.uk] opens and the lawyers of the West hardly notice. They claim it cost a billion GPB. I doubt our lawyers could have completed the 'environmental impact statement' for under two billion.

YOUR AMERICAN DEBT DOLLARS AT WORK !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36623664)

Go Obama, let's give them chinamen some more bridge money, while you go out and build roads for fucking iraq and afghans !!

BS frivolous class action lawsuit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36623660)

Typical class action lawsuit to fill the pockets of the scumbag attorneys.

Useless law suit... makes me wonder (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623686)

Okay, so apparently some people read a law that might state that LegalZoom is an illegal service. So they have filed suit to claim their triple damanges bonus reward. I wonder -- did they get their filing papers from LegalZoom to do this? I think it would be more than a little amusing if this were the case.

Re:Useless law suit... makes me wonder (2)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623746)

Well if they could used LegalZoom for their filing papers, I don't know the full range of services offered, it would only increase their awarded damage if successful. To me this seems like someone's get rich scheme.

WebMD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36623762)

So does WebMD and other medical information websites practice medicine without a license? Guess they're next on the lawsuit hit-list.

IANAL, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36623774)

How does a federal class action suit only apply to Missouri? Shouldn't this be in the state courts?

Re:IANAL, but (1)

Montezumaa (1674080) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623960)

LegalZoom is not based in Missouri. Since the company is not based in Missouri, only a federal court has jurisdiction.

Web MD is next! (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623820)

Web MD is next for practicing medicine without a license. Or, the whole thing is insane. Cant think of a third option.

Re:Web MD is next! (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624334)

If WebMD had a service where people reviewed someone symptoms, and those people turned out not to be Drs, then yes, suing WebMD would be the correct response for consumer protection.

This looks like one of the stories about a lawsuit that takes the most trivial interpetation and then whines about broken tort.

Paying software. (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623834)

You're entitled to claim 3x the fees you paid a non-lawyer for legal services.
So... did they pay the software itself money? Did the software give any of the money to it's owners and creators (who might be lawyers) or did it keep it all for itself. And if so, what DID the software do with all that money?

Devil's Advocate (1)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623874)

IANAL, but I play one on the Internet... ;) This makes sense, playing devil's advocate. Can I start up a website, make up documents for wills, divorce, etc. and have no legal background? Without an in-state attorney to produce the documents, I have no standing to say that they will be legal in that state.

I would hope that LegalZoom has an in-state lawyer actually verifying these documents.

Re:Devil's Advocate (2)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624024)

The founders (at least Robert Shapiro) are lawyers so there is at least some basis for these to be legit. I've used Legal Zoom in the past and it appears they do have lawyers, either in house or contracted, for each state but I can't speak from a position of authority on how their company is structured.

Re:Devil's Advocate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36624036)

Why shouldn't you be able to do that?
I think it is called 'free speech'...
If people mindlessly download your ramblings and try to use them as templates for legally binding contracts that's not your problem.
(Under the assumption that you do not claim to be a lawyer.)

Re:Devil's Advocate (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624272)

You could go to your local library and dig up copies of local forms that have been used. With some cleverness on a computer you could remove people's names from the documents you find there and substitute blank spaces or (oooh!) variables that are substituted by some really spiffy software.

Then you would have what LegalZoom has done. Oh, you might want one lawyer that has looked over the whole mess and said it was OK. You didn't really think LegalZoom is more than a web site and a call center did you?

Guild (0)

sloth10k (1298709) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623876)

This is all about the lawyers' guild wanting to maintain an artificial scarcity of legal options, so that they can keep their fees high. It's why the bar exists, and it's why laws are purposely so obtuse that an everyman cannot interpret and argue them. Lawyers want to maintain the need for 'lawyerly' services, to the detriment of the remainder of the public.

How will this end? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36623892)

Yeah, a profession that can sue with impunity and low costs being overseen by Judges. And these judges used to be or still practicing lawyers... I wonder what the outcome will be???

Licensing (1)

TonyXL (33244) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623926)

Forced licensing is and always has been a tool for limiting competition, under the guise of protecting the consumer. And here we see, yet again, the consumer is actually hurt, not helped.

Template (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623934)

Does LegalZoom have a template for filing class action lawsuits?

Occupational Licensure - Incumbent Wage Protection (1)

bmajik (96670) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623936)

Every occupation wants state-backed occupational licensure. They _tell_ you it is for reasons like

- only a licensed plumber has taken the rigorous training required to understand that you don't want to drink fecal matter
- only a licensed electrician has taken the rigorous training required to understand that you don't want to lick 2 or more live electrical conductors at once
- only a licensed pharmacist has taken the rigorous training required to understand that you do not take all of the pills in the bottle at once
- only a licensed lawyer has taken the rigorous training required to understand that .. well wait a minute.. Oh right, that the way to to win cases is to not go to trial but to settle... and failing that, to play golf with the Judge prior to the hearing.

Occupational Licensure is incumbent protection. It's a racket, it drives up wages artificially, and I don't see that it has any impact at all on quality of services delivered.

There are no lawyers anywhere in the world who are worried that someone might get "bad legal advice" from this software. But the legions of folks who got through the state bar and do unintersting mundane tasks like real estate purchase agreements, wills, adoptions, etc, don't want their gravy train to be impacted.

What's a lawyer to do? Write some laws, of course.

All you need to know about the state, the law, and the lawyers is that Jesus came to this world to tell a bunch of lawyers that they were ruining everything. He didn't have anything bad to say about the romans who actually invaded and tortured people. He was pissed off at the lawyers.

Re:Occupational Licensure - Incumbent Wage Protect (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624144)

Every occupation wants state-backed occupational licensure. They _tell_ you it is for reasons like

- only a licensed plumber has taken the rigorous training required to understand that you don't want to drink fecal matter - only a licensed electrician has taken the rigorous training required to understand that you don't want to lick 2 or more live electrical conductors at once - only a licensed pharmacist has taken the rigorous training required to understand that you do not take all of the pills in the bottle at once -

While I agree that licensing laws protect wages, and in many cases are ridiculous - does it really matter if your barber is licensed? - there are also valid reason for licensing some professions

A license indicates a level of understanding of the basics of a profession - a plumber or electrician knows code and some of the reasons behind it so you get proper water seals and safe circuits installed. A pharmacists understands drug interactions and, assuming you use the same one, can catch incorrect prescriptions or potential adverse reactions with drugs you are already taking; they are a second line of defense to ensure your safety.

Of course, professions also seek licensing to minimize competition and increase barriers to entry.

Re:Occupational Licensure - Incumbent Wage Protect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36624298)

A license indicates a level of understanding of the basics of a profession

No it does not. I have personal experience of grossly incompetent dentists, physicians, electricians and plumbers. A license indicates that someone spent enough time jumping through the proper hoops, and deposited enough coins in the licensure machine to get ... a license! That's it.

Seems cut a dried to me. (1)

Liambp (1565081) | more than 2 years ago | (#36623948)

LegalZoom is only a software tool. Clearly the people posing as lawyers in this case are the customers who bought LegalZoom and used it to draw up lawyer like documents.

The solution seems obvious to me. All the users of LegalZoom must pay themselves the mandatory compensation amount. Less a cut of course for the lawyers who so helpfully pursued the class action for them.

There go word processors... (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624000)

So this applies to any software used to write a legal document without license to practice law? What about the fat ass corporate lawyers who inevitably have their assistants or paralegals type up all of the documents, and then just put pen to paper and collect their fee? Any assistant who used Word, Notepad, TextEdit, whatever...would technically be guilty as well as the software they used?

This is some frivolous shit here...I hate lawyers.

Headline from the future (1)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624050)

June 30, 2*bzzt*.

NIKE, CA - LegalZoom announces on the anniversary of a certain lawsuit's filing that they have increased the powers a corporation has in being considered a "person". LegalZoom has declared themselves to be the first corporation to pass the bar exam and be awarded status as a lawyer. This will coincide with a new payment plan that will use your International Internet Identification Code, IIIC, to bill you per minute visiting the website.

Next up: medical advice (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624120)

It is unethical for websites like WebMD to suggest that I take Benadryl for pollen allergies or Ibuprofen for a headache. How can they claim to be providing adequate medical advice? I should sue them for suggesting well-tested remedies to common conditions instead of requiring me to visit a doctor in person to receive identical recommendations.

LegalZoom is a forms respository (2)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624208)

As a forms respository, it serves some purpose. If you have a problem, say needed a simple will, you can find a form that will allow you to present your will in the proper style to be recognized by people who know what a will is supposed to look like and what it is supposed to contain. And if all you need really is a simple will, then you got what you needed at a really cheap price.

On the other hand, there is nobody to tell you when you cross the line from needing a simple will to needing something more complex. So you have a simple will and think everything is fine. The same problem comes with every other sort of form they offer. If the form they cough up is all you really need it is a great and cheap service. But there is no judgement about what else might be needed. For that some sort of creative thought or at least more than just a passing familiarity with the local laws is needed.

Sure, lawyers cost money and you can hope until your dying day that you never need one. But as many people have found out, when you need a lawyer the first criteria should not be cheap. If you already know enough to be able to tell when you need a lawyer vs. a form repository then LegalZoom is a great service - but there are free form repositories so you don't need to use LegalZoom to get a standard lease form. What LegalZoom really has is advertising which your local library (another form respository) doesn't have. If you listen to much radio (ugh!) you will hear endless ads for LegalZoom - but you never hear an ad for the library. In that way LegalZoom is far more effective at gathering your support than the library is.

Maybe libraries should start advertising?

All lawyers are evil..and all geeks have Aspergers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36624242)

What a bunch of knee-jerk reactions! Lawyers are evil because they are lawyers. They must have evil motives for everything they do. Bull!

Haven't any of you worked with a real freakin' lawyer? Do you know how much scrutiny they go under, the ethics courses they have to take as required by their school and/or bar association? How many of you have the possibility of getting barred from your profession for doing something unethical? No one makes a developer learn about the ethics of their profession, and have no governing body to license them, yet a single rogue programmer can do a hell of a lot more damage than a single lawyer.

The vast majority of lawyers are folks who worked long and hard to get their degrees so they can make the simple stuff in life simple, because most folks are idiots when it comes to working with one another. Don't like contracts law? Then find some other way to make folks not try to cheat one another. Don't like law suits? Find some other way to keep companies from screwing with their customers and hiding behind the corporate wall. When you do, we'll all be there. Until then, the lawyers do a damn good job of it, and I'm sick and tired of folks maligning an entire profession for the bad work of a few.

You go to a lawyer when you want to buy a house, and 3 years later find out the previous owners lied and the foundation was rotten. You go to a lawyer when you want to start a company and want to make sure that one person doesn't go off and bring it all down by their own mistakes. You go to a lawyer when the system has run you over and you don't know how to stand up for yourself.

Yeah, it should all be simpler. Folks should be able to do it all themselves. That's the complications of the making of the laws, not the folks who practice it.

Probate is the Issue (1)

Nynaeve70 (2232514) | more than 2 years ago | (#36624252)

It isn't just the writing of the will that is involved here. If the lawyer has written the will, then he/she gets more money from the estate later during probate. There are times when a lawyer is a good deal, but for something simple as I leave everything to one or two people...

Scumbags. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36624358)

As many have pointed out, this has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of service and everything to do with the fact that it's cheap and bypasses expensive lawyer fees.

This is apparently the new business model in America. Not creating innovative products, but suing them into oblivion.

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