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Lawyers Delivering Legal Services OnLine

Category Archives: Unauthorized Practice of Law

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North Carolina Lawyers Oppose Access to the Legal System

Posted in Change, Document Automation, Expert Systems, Legal Ethics, Self-Help Law, Unauthorized Practice of Law, Web-Enabled Document Assembly
 A bill was introduced in the North Carolina legislature that would narrow the definition of the “practice of law” to exclude sell-help legal materials, including books, software, and legal information. [ See House Bill 663 ]. The text of the amendment is: “(b) The phrase “practice law” does not encompass any of the following:” …  (2) the … Continue Reading

Limited Licensing of Legal Technicians: A Good Idea?

Posted in Legal Education, Limited Scope Legal Services, Self-Help Law, Standards and Best Practices, Training and Education, Unauthorized Practice of Law
The American Bar Association has issued its draft Report and Recommendations on the Future of Legal Education. You can download it here. I agree with many of the recommendations of the report which urges law schools to experiment with different modes of legal education, recommends relaxing ABA accreditation rules which impede innovation, and modifies the … Continue Reading

Private Investment in US Legal Services

Posted in Competition, eLawyering Ethical Issues, Legal Ethics, Unauthorized Practice of Law
I had the honor of speaking at ReInventLawSiliconValley, a conference on innovation and the legal system sponsored by the ReInvent Law Laboratory at Michigan State Law School, co-founded by Professors Dan Martin Katz and Renee Newman Knake. This was a great learning day for me and I suggest if you are interested in the subject of change … Continue Reading

My Experience with LawPivot: An Online Legal Advice Service

Posted in Law Startups, Legal Advice Online, Legal Ethics, Legal Fees, Limited Scope Legal Services, Unauthorized Practice of Law
LawPivot, is a Silicon Valley legal industry start-up,  a new breed of online legal advice Web site that provides legal answers through a network of attorneys. Sometimes the legal advice or legal information is free like AVVO and LAWQA,  and sometimes you pay a fee, which LawPivot and JustAnswer require. See more:  American Bar Association Journal article on LawPivot. … Continue Reading

UPL and Legal Document Preparation by Non-Lawyer Providers

Posted in LegalZoom, Unauthorized Practice of Law
The ABA Standing Committee on Client Protection just released a survey it conducted on unlicensed practice of law programs ( UPL) in United States jurisdictions in 2011-12. Only 29 jurisdictions responded to the survey.  Twenty-three of the 29 actively enforce UPL regulations, although some jurisdictions indicate that insufficient funding or resources make enforcement challenging. Nine jurisdictions … Continue Reading

LegalZoom: The “Good Enough” Legal Solution

Posted in Document Automation, Legal Plans, LegalZoom, Limited Scope Legal Services, Unauthorized Practice of Law, Unbundled Legal Services, Web-Enabled Document Assembly
LegalZoom, the leading online provider of legal services to consumers and small business, as predicted here previously, finally filed for an IPO last week. The company is seeking to raise $120 million to expand their services both in the US and internationally. LegalZoom’s data in the S-1 filing is now available for everyone to analyze: … Continue Reading

Free Online Course on Digital Law Practice

Posted in Change, Document Automation, eLawyering Events, Social Networking, Training and Education, Unauthorized Practice of Law, Unbundled Legal Services, Web-Enabled Document Assembly
The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) is offering a free online course on digital law practice, primarily for law students and law professors, but anyone can register.   I don’t doubt that most law faculty will find these topics to be irrelevant, but its connecting with law students, as over 500 law students have … Continue Reading

Is It Time To Deregulate the Practice of Law?

Posted in Competition, LegalZoom, Unauthorized Practice of Law, Unbundled Legal Services
An editorial appeared in today’s (08/22/2011) Wall St. Journal , titled "Time to Deregulate the Practice of Law", by Clifford Winston and Robert W. Crandell, both Fellows at the Brookings Institution. [ Ungated version here ]. The editorial argues that it is time for the legal profession to be deregulated, as other industries have been, … Continue Reading

Is Legal Software Conduct? True or False?

Posted in Competition, Document Automation, Expert Systems, LegalZoom, Unauthorized Practice of Law, Web-Enabled Document Assembly
On August 2, 2011, Federal District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey, for the Western District of Missouri, the Judge presiding over the class action case against LegalZoom for unauthorized practice of law, released an opinion denying, in part, Defendant’s Motion of Summary Judgment. The Court held that document preparation by non-lawyers, under Missouri Law, is conduct, … Continue Reading

Is LegalZoom Just a Self-Help Legal Software Company?

Posted in Competition, Document Automation, eLawyering Ethical Issues, Expert Systems, LegalZoom, Self-Help Law, Unauthorized Practice of Law, Web-Enabled Document Assembly
In a Fortune Magazine blog post by Roger Parloff just last week, entitled Can Software Practice Law?, writing about the class action suit against LegalZoom in Missouri for violating Missouri’s UPL statute, Parloff argues that LegalZoom is no more than a self-help legal software company, and therefore entitled to the same protections as a self-help legal software … Continue Reading

Should law firms be owned by non-lawyer investors?

Posted in Competition, UK Legal Reform, Unauthorized Practice of Law, Venture Capital
There has been much discussion recently in various venues about whether 5.4 of the US Rules of Professional Responsibility should be amended or revised to permit investment in law firms by non-lawyer, or non-lawyer entities, or even ownership of US law firms by non-lawyer entities. The ABA’s Ethics 20/20 Commission is circulating a paper on the … Continue Reading

LegalZoom is Considering an IPO

Posted in Competition, eLawyering Ethical Issues, LegalZoom, Unauthorized Practice of Law, Unbundled Legal Services, Venture Capital
Apparently LegalZoom is in the early stages of planning an IPO, (going public),  according to an unnamed source at VentureBeat. Employing more that 500 employees, and having raised over $45 million in venture capital over the last few years, LegalZoom is clearly the leading non-lawyer legal document preparation web site. This is a good example … Continue Reading

LawPivot: Another Legal Advice Web Site

Posted in Change, eLawyering Ethical Issues, Free Law, Legal Fees, Legal Referral, Marketing On-Line Legal Services, UK Legal Reform, Unauthorized Practice of Law, Virtual Law Firms
Another interesting start-up has emerged out of Silicon Valley to provide crowdsourced legal advice to other start-ups for free. Vertical Q&A web sites seems to be the next new thing among venture capital investors. Even Facebook  rolled out this year a crowd-sourced Q&A service. LawPivot, a legal Q&A web site founded in 2009,  hopes to … Continue Reading

Will LegalZoom Become the Largest Law Firm in the US?

Posted in eLawyering Ethical Issues, Legal Referral, LegalZoom, Marketing On-Line Legal Services, UK Legal Reform, Unauthorized Practice of Law, Virtual Law Firms
  LegalZoom has been beta testing a concept which links its marketing capabilities to a network of law firms that offer legal services under the LegalZoom brand. With some state bar associations accusing LegalZoom of  the unauthorized practice of law,  it might makes sense for the company to seek deeper alliances with networks of attorneys … Continue Reading

We the People Files for Chapter 11: Another Casualty of the Internet

Posted in Competition, Law Firm Productivity, LegalZoom, Pro Se, Self-Help Law, Unauthorized Practice of Law
Last Friday, We The People USA, , the legal document preparation company that operates through a network of franchisees,  voluntarily filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  The company and its affiliate, We The People LLC, are subsidiaries of Dollar Financial Group, Inc.  While the companies apparently had $24 million in sales and 138 franchised locations in … Continue Reading

LegalZoom Sued for UPL in Missouri

Posted in Competition, Document Automation, Expert Systems, Law Firm Productivity, Legal Fees, LegalZoom, Unauthorized Practice of Law, Unbundled Legal Services, Virtual Law Firms
It seems like LegalZoom’s practices are finally catching up with it. The company is being sued in Missouri on the grounds of unauthorized practice of law and the plaintiff’s are requesting class certification. To give an example of how popular LegalZoom’s services have become, LegalZoom in its petition for removal to Federal court claims that … Continue Reading

Innovation and Rules of Professional Responsibility

Posted in Change, Competition, eLawyering Ethical Issues, Home Office Lawyering, Law Firm Productivity, Legal Referral, Marketing On-Line Legal Services, Standards and Best Practices, Unauthorized Practice of Law, Unbundled Legal Services
ABA President B. Lamm has created a new Commission on Ethics called Ethics 20/20 to review  ethics rules and regulation of the legal profession in the United States in the context of a global legal services marketplace. Hearings will be held at ABA Meetings to get input from various interests on how to reform or … Continue Reading

Blue Ocean Strategy and Limited Legal Services

Posted in Change, Competition, Law Firm Productivity, Legal Fees, LegalZoom, Marketing On-Line Legal Services, Unauthorized Practice of Law, Unbundled Legal Services, Virtual Law Firms, Virtual Law Practice
When we designed the DirectLaw web service we relied on theories developed by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne in their best selling book Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant . Our concept is that a technology platform that enables law firms to offer limited legal services … Continue Reading

Conn Bar Attacks Web-Based Legal Services

Posted in Competition, Legal Ethics, Unauthorized Practice of Law
Attorney Louis Pepe, a Connecticut attorney and Chair of a Connecticut Bar Task Force examining non–lawyer legal information web sites, believes that these web sites are breaking the law by providing legal services in a state in which they’re not licensed to practice, as reported in the Connecticut Law Tribune. There are differences between  legal … Continue Reading

Client Confidentiality and Online Document Preparation

Posted in Document Automation, eLawyering Ethical Issues, Outsourcing, Unauthorized Practice of Law
Some of our law firm clients have asked us whether there is a breach of confidentiality if a law firm uses our automated legal documents and virtual law firm technology as part of their web site. In our model, we provide a technology platform where a client who has been accepted by the law firm … Continue Reading

LegalZoom.com Sued Over Trademark Filing Fees

Posted in eLawyering Ethical Issues, LegalZoom, Pro Se, Unauthorized Practice of Law
Apparently LegalZoom has been advertising to its customers that the trademark filing fee is $325.00, when it was actually $275.00,  an obvious misrepresentation. Apparently they have been doing this since 2005. This has resulted in a consumer class action suit to recover the $50.00 overcharge on behalf of all customers who have paid the higher … Continue Reading