Pick any two.
The simplicity and brilliance of that sign is undeniable.
Recently, that sign came to mind as a friend and new client discussed a situation he was facing. It suffices to say that my friend turned to an online legal service for general business advice and documentation for a project. After chastising him for not picking up the phone and giving me a call ahead of time, we discussed how I could help.
Although I have seen TV commercials, billboards, and other ads for online legal services, I have never known anyone who used them. I am an advocate of affordable legal services and I don’t think legal advice should require a second mortgage or promise to name your first born after your attorney. So, I always considered those services to be a good alternative that filled a need for run-of-the-mill legal issues (if there is such a thing).
However, I was shocked to learn that not only are online legal services not very affordable, but they may end up costing you more than if you had gone to an attorney in the first place, because you may need to fix problems that the services create.
After reviewing my friend’s documents, I identified several issues that needed to be fixed. While all of the documents were technically sound (meaning that they were free of typos and did create legal rights), they were filled with things that could develop into critical issues for him down the road. Some of the major issues included:
1) A waiver of legal notices;
2) Relying on and referring to other entities that my friend had no idea who they were, what they did, or that they even existed; and
3) Creating an opportunity for someone to take an ownership interest in the entity without my friend’s approval.
I won’t identify the online service that was used (to avoid the libel claim against me), but I will say that I am now generally leery of online legal services. My naïveté has faded and, not wanting to sound like a self-promoting attorney, I highly recommend avoiding such online services. While the click of a mouse may make you feel productive and put your mind at ease today, the ripple effect of the quick fix can be disastrous.
If for nothing else, let my friend’s experience serve as an example that taking the time to understand what you need and how to get it done efficiently and affordably will payoff in the long run. As my mother always says, “measure twice, cut once.”