With the advent of the Internet, the do-it-yourself market has grown exponentially. But having access to information that teaches you how to do almost anything, some things better left to the professionals. This is especially true when it comes to preparing legal documents, which can be very complicated, time consuming and costly if you don’t know what you’re doing.
But what does a lawyer actually do for me?
A lawyer is an advocate, advisor and counselor. They have spent multiple years developing the necessary skills and knowledge to best offer legal advice in all matters, including the preparation and filing of legal documents. Lawyers are ethically bound to uphold the law while protecting your rights, so having a licensed lawyer help form your business, draft a will or trust, review contracts, speak with city officials or send out correspondences will almost always save you time, money and aggravation, both now and in the future.
What are the benefits of hiring a lawyer over using an online service like LegalZoom?
LegalZoom, and other document preparing websites, are generic systems that allow you to draft basic documents like wills, living trusts and business formation. But LegalZoom claims on their website that “80 percent of people who fill in blank forms to create legal documents do so incorrectly.” So although it may be a cheap alternative to filing this type of paperwork, unless you’ve done hours of research beforehand, the chances of making a mistake are high.
Filling out forms isn’t as easy as you may think. Simple statements may seem okay for you, but when it comes to the law, every word counts. Small mistakes or minor omissions can have big consequences. Lawyers understand the specific language necessary to make sure your documents are iron-clad and can hold up in a court of law.
In fact, LegalZoom is not a law firm and their employees are not lawyers, so they cannot be held accountable for how you fill out your documents, nor can they offer legal advice or represent you in legal matters. A lawyer, on the other hand, must be held accountable and can be sued for malpractice if they file forms incorrectly or do not meet the ethical standards set up by the American Bar Association.
Laws are also constantly in flux, and no one document fits the needs of every single person. Where documents on LegalZoom may be dated, Lawyers remain current on all state and federal laws and have the knowledge to know when and how to rewrite, alter or merge documents so as to better fit your needs.
LegalZoom may be good for smaller, less consequential documents, but when it comes to forming a business or writing a will, nothing beats the knowledge or the experience of a good lawyer to make sure everything is prepared correctly from the start.