Self help may be less than helpful

Often clients will ask if they can use a self-help site (think Legal Zoom) for their legal needs.  Sometimes they will even be more blunt and ask: “Why should I come to you and pay more?”  The answer is that for very simple and straightforward issues, those sites may be helpful.  However, my experience has taught me that very few issues are simple.  Yes, there is a bit of “cutting and pasting” that goes into document preparation.  However, when you consult with an attorney, you are also paying for their experience and wisdom.  With an attorney, you have a relationship–the ability to follow up and ask questions and negotiate, mediate, or even litigate if necessary.  If you develop that relationship for a “simple” will, that attorney is there when someone contests the will (or you have an unrelated litigation dispute, etc)  Attorneys must follow ethical guidelines and most have malpractice insurance, as opposed to the  multiple disclaimers and waivers of liability you are likely to encounter with an online site.  Obviously, these online sites are of no use in adversarial environments.  So, we litigators won’t be replaced by computers soon.

Hopefully you will be able to address your concerns to an attorney before enlisting their aid.  If it takes you longer than a sentence or two to explain what you want to do (i.e. “I don’t own a house and I want to leave all of my money to my sister”), that’s a good indication that you need to see a lawyer.  I am certainly in favor of saving clients money–IF it is in their best interest–but lawyers are not financial planners.

A related issue for future discussion is the advantages and disadvantages of doing your own research about your type of case online.

Link to the story from “Law Sites”




1 Response to “Self help may be less than helpful”

  1. 1 Amy
    September 24, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    Fully agree. Nothing replaces legal experience.

    Thank you,
    Amy Smith Sampson

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