Legal Services on the Internet

Helping over 200,000 customers, a legal website offers everything from divorce documents to U.S. citizenship information among other perks.

LegalZoom.com, based in Los Angeles, CA and founded by several attorneys including Robert Shapiro, the famed O.J. Simpson case prosecutor, furnishes online access to forms for corporations, prenuptials, living trusts, wills, trademarks, copyrights, living wills, powers of attorney, and name changes. Attorneys assisting online users have over 30 years experience and state that their services are low-cost and fast, which include answering all questions via email. LegalZoom.com is featured in over 500 national publications and t.v. shows.

For those wanting or needing to bypass the cost of an attorney for their legal matters, the site, recommended by “Popular Science,” Clark Howard, MSN and ABC news, charges $249 for divorces with no children and $300 for divorces with children. According to the LegalZoom.com website, a lawyer would charge approximately $1,880 to obtain a divorce with minor children and the proper paperwork. Figures are based on an average hourly rate of $228/hour from a 2002 law firm survey.

“Incorporating your business or forming an LLC does not have to be a difficult and expensive process,” said Lauren Josephs, assistant marketing manager for LegalZoom.com. “We offer personalized services like last wills and living wills. Customers fill out a simple online questionnaire and LegalZoom.com takes care of the rest. Close to 200,000 customers have realized that protecting themselves with the right legal documents can be easy and affordable.”

Creating a federal copyright application online at LegalZoom.com saves consumers $561 as opposed to the $710 to create and file the document. LegalZoom.com staff reviews all documents for completeness and other common mistakes and offers a 100 percent guarantee or your money back. In an address.com survey of legal sites, Legalzoom.com was voted most secure legal site on the web in 2000.

Standard last wills and testaments cost $59.00 through the LegalZoom.com site. Living wills, customized to each particular need, are $39 with a Health Care Power of Attorney included (a $35 value).

Although LegalZoom.com is a registered and bonded legal document assistant, it is not a law firm or a substitute for the advice of an attorney.

One of 45,600,000 legal websites offering free or almost free services on the web, LegalZoom boasts in their marketing material of having some of the most prominent attorneys in the country, one of whom served on the Supreme Court.

On a typical day in Fort Worth, Texas at the newly built Family Law Center on Weatherford Street in downtown, people mill in and out of the large district court clerk’s office, filing their own papers for divorce.

Some people are redirected, told they are missing vital forms, or sent across the street to the law library to copy some pages out of the library’s own “Do It Yourself Divorce” book, return the copy of what’s needed after filling it out with their information, paying the filing fee, getting instructed on further signatures, then directed to another clerk to finish up the process.

To those not familiar with the judicial process, do it yourself divorces can be a daunting task, one that many opt not to take, choosing instead to hire an attorney or use sites such as LegalZoom.com.

Some people aren’t as fortunate as Rachel Roberts-Bickley who got her divorce taken care of when she worked for a family law attorney, all for free.

One caveat of Do It Yourself Divorce Kits sold at office supply stores is that some are not accepted by certain states when filing divorce petitions at the courthouse. Texas, for instance, is one state that does not allow forms from office supply store divorce kits to be used because the kits use both sides of each form when printing the fill-in-the-blank items.

On a recent sunny day in Tarrant County after perusing one customer’s stack of papers from a divorce kit, a Family Law Center clerk frowned.

“Why, this doesn’t even have a signature page,” she said. “There’s a much simpler, easier
one at the law library, catty corner across the street.”

Another customer was going to pay her attorney friend $300 to do her divorce but she couldn’t afford it. That was when the customer decided to surf the web to find free legal help and found LegalZoom.com.

After her husband had lost two sets of drafted divorce papers over a nine-year period, the customer said she was relieved to finally see the light at the end of the legal tunnel.

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