by Andrew Sohn, Esq.
It’s becoming increasingly popular nowadays to utilize online legal “DIY” platforms to complete legal documents or even perform your own legal services. It’s a fast-paced world, we could all save a little money, and traditionally, communicating with attorneys can be daunting, strenuous, and expensive… we understand the reasoning, but when it comes to anything involving “legal implications” and/or assuming your own legal risks, it is ALWAYS better to trust licensed legal professionals.
PART I: “DIY” TRENDS WE’VE SEEN AT ALG
Business Transactions at ALG
To start, our firm has seen an increased number of business clients that use these DIY platforms and then come to us a year or two after their businesses have been formed, asking us to “revise their legal documents.” Upon looking at what is presented to us, we’re shocked at times to see:
- the lack of quality of the work product and document; and
- the excessive use of boilerplate language in these documents.
Boilerplate legal language can seem “important” and “necessary” in almost every contract, especially to the untrained eye. Those who are unfamiliar with legal contract terms may assume that having more is better. My question is, what’s the point if you don’t understand what it means or more importantly, if you don’t understand all of its legal implications? Experienced legal counselors will understand that some provisions and language should be redacted or removed altogether. It may even be detrimental to have that legal boilerplate language written into your contract if it doesn’t apply to you. It all depends on the client’s specific situation, circumstances surrounding the business, and the client’s business goals.
It seems that these DIY clients come to us after the fact, essentially when it really “starts to matter.” Meaning, typically two different scenarios:
- Clients are looking to sell their business and/or transition out of their company and need to have all of their legal documents cleaned up and revised for the sale or acquisition.
- Clients are looking for potential business partners and/or investors and need to have these formation documents revised to be able to accommodate these new parties.
Good business attorneys should always plan for “future growth and changes” rather than just focusing on getting you started as quickly as possible while only being focused on the NOW. It’s a material difference and something that needs to be addressed at the formation of the business.
Estate Planning at ALG
Thankfully for our estate planning side of the practice, we have not seen a lot of “redos” for estate plans. This is due to the fact that we believe the general public still believes that it is entirely too risky to leave all of your hard-earned assets to these online platforms whereby you assume all of the risk and legal liability with these DIY online platforms assuming no liability or risk. Estate Planning is too personal and there’s too much at stake to risk it all for a discount or savings online. This is not a DIY type of project. One must consider the following factors when deciding whether or not they should trust LegalZoom (or other companies that are not law firms):
- The Probate Code and estate planning laws are changing all the time. Attorneys attend seminars regularly and obtain updated information on all the changes.
- There is an incredible amount of detail that must be accounted for in an estate plan. This is not something for the untrained layperson to DIY.
- No attorney vs. having an attorney you can contact at any time with questions and/or concerns throughout the entire process.
Therefore, it’s vital that clients understand throughout the estate planning documents what they are drafting and how it will affect them and their future generations.
Furthermore, as a practice note, Avodah Law Group, is not an estate planning “mill” and/or simply a document preparation service. Our firm strictly limits the number of estate planning clients we have at one time. This is for two reasons: (1) we want to ensure the quality of the work; and (2) there’s a lot of care and involvement through our estate planning process which limits our availability for too many clients.
As a Partner at the Avodah Law Group, Andrew W. Sohn, Esq. advises, represents, and provides legal counsel to small to medium sized businesses across a variety of industries. His firm is dedicated to serving as outside general counsel for business owners across the globe.