Legal fees are famously extremely high. No one contacts a lawyer expecting to pay anything less than a few hundred dollars for just an hour of their time. But most people assume that this does not matter, as they do not need legal work done. When you watch shows like Suits, this assumption is understandable, as you never see them working with day-to-day matters of the average person.
However, at some point just about everyone needs a lawyer. People who have gone through a divorce know just how important the right lawyer is and just how expensive they can be. Anyone who has been injured due to the negligence of a third party and had to sue knows that sometimes the legal fees are more than what they intend to claim.
Even those who manage to avoid major legal predicaments like divorce or criminal cases still need to take care of legal matters. The most common legal issue people have to face at some point is a last will and testament. No matter who you are or what you do, you need a will if you want your wishes to be followed when you die.
In our capitalist world, when everyone needs something, one of two things happen. Either federal or state institutions regulate and subsidize the product or service. Or they let providers set their own rates and the industry collectively charges as much as they can get away with.
While there are nonprofits who help with legal fees in some cases (and the state will provide a lawyer at no cost if you are a defendant in a criminal trial), private legal firms charge exorbitant rates. In most cases, you will have to shell out your hard-earned cash.
If you don’t think that legal fees will have too much of an impact on you, consider that getting a simple will written in California will cost you around $350. This is in spite of the fact that it is an exceedingly simple document that broadly follows the same template on every occasion.
It is in this context that companies like LegalZoom have gained popularity. Looking at LegalZoom’s positive reviews, you may begin to come around to the idea that LegalZoom can replace your lawyer. But what is LegalZoom and what can it do?
What is LegalZoom?
LegalZoom is an online service that offers legal help that anyone can afford. In many cases, it does this by taking lawyers out of the equation. LegalZoom recognized that many legal functions usually performed by lawyers are actually very simple. Some are so simple that technology can do it in their place.
This technology is not even particularly complex. For documents like wills, designating power of attorney, and the like, a template will do. LegalZoom’s algorithms take your input and work it into the template, with systems that check for consistency and pinpoint potential errors.
As most people do not need complicated orders to be executed when they die, anything more than a simple will is unnecessary. The same is true when giving someone power of attorney over your medical or financial decisions.
LegalZoom sign up is inexpensive, with the ability to buy individual LegalZoom documents or packages. Most people will make do with the former. However, LegalZoom does more than just provide documents for these purposes.
What Else Does LegalZoom Do?
While LegalZoom is usually considered within the category of online will makers, they market themselves as useful for individuals and businesses. Starting a business today is technically very easy, and anyone can do it without getting paperwork done. However, as the business takes off and the taxman gets involved, bureaucracy becomes increasingly important.
As with wills, the documents required to register your business are straightforward. Millions of businesses have done this before and millions will in the near future. There is no need for a lawyer to get involved most of the time, and new business owners can make do with a package from a company like LegalZoom.
There are times when the eye of a lawyer can help (or at least provide reassurance) and LegalZoom offers this service at a reasonable rate. You will not pay anywhere near the average hourly rate of a lawyer in LA.
What Can’t LegalZoom Do?
Since LegalZoom uses algorithms to make legal services affordable, anything that is too complicated for AI requires a human touch. In practice, this means that any basic services that millions of people need will be available from LegalZoom. But when something has details which are specific to you, you will need the cognitive abilities of a human lawyer.
For example, divorce may be common but everyone’s circumstances are different. You cannot simply put your relationship history into an algorithm and hope for the best. The same is true with personal injury cases. There are straightforward occasions when it is clear who is at fault and witnesses are available. But most cases fall somewhere in between and require knowledge of both the situation and the law.
In these scenarios, you will need to hire a lawyer, and may have to spend hours with that lawyer ironing out the details. As such, lawyers’ fees are still unaffordable for most people. The difference that LegalZoom and similar services have made clear is that much of the time we simply do not need lawyers.
Is LegalZoom Unique?
LegalZoom provides an excellent way of creating legal documents at affordable prices but they are not the only service out there. Over the past couple of decades, many other services have popped up, each offering its own unique take on the online legal industry.
One of the major differences between LegalZoom and some of its biggest competitors is that other companies offer subscription packages. With a subscription package, you pay one small monthly fee for the ability to create a range of documents. You can cancel your subscription once you have created those documents, or you could keep it going for the chance to make adjustments as your life circumstances change.
This can be hugely helpful as a will is a document that should evolve. When you grow older, have more dependents, build more wealth, you will need to make it clear what you want to happen to accommodate your changing life. That is not to say that LegalZoom will charge exorbitant prices for adjustments, but some will find it easier to work with a subscription service.
Once again, this points to just how impractical it is to see a lawyer for simple documents like wills. If you were to see a lawyer every time something changed in your life, you would end up paying thousands over the years for this one document.
LegalZoom cannot replace your lawyer for everything, but when you require simple documents, it provides a more efficient service at a low price. Shop around for alternatives before committing to a service, as there are many options out there.