They don’t call it the information age for nothing. These days, if you have any question you can have an answer at the push of a button. Anything you need to know can be found online; from instructions on how to complete a project to medical advice. More and more lawyers acknowledge that a good part of their business comes from online referrals. Lawyers continually express concern about the accuracy of information their clients and potential clients are getting from the internet. Sites like AVVO and Legalzoom offer free legal information or legal documents at a discounted rate to anyone. But often you can’t be sure whether the legal advice you’re getting applies to your specific legal situation.
Here are some examples on how online legal advice can go wrong:
Purchasing Divorce Papers Online– These divorce packages can be found on sites like Legalzoom for a seriously discounted rate. However, they often come in a “one-size fits all” format, while divorce law varies from state-to-state and does not conform to a “one-size fits all” capacity. Someone who uses these papers to file for divorce in South Carolina, for example, might cite irreconcilable differences in the complaint, which is something South Carolina does not recognize as grounds for divorce.
The Do-It-Yourself Will- another easy to come by legal document online is a Do-It-Yourself will. But again, problems may arise. Many states require not just one, but two trustees be named in a will in case something should happen to the first or if that person is unwilling to serve. This is a fact that these papers can easily overlook. In addition, according to Legalzoom.com, eighty-percent of people who fill in blank forms to create legal documents do it incorrectly. When it comes to something as major as a will, a mistake like this can end up costing more down the road.
Lack of Attorney-Client Privilege- Sites like Legalzoom and AVVO have privacy policies that protect your information from third-parties but lack an attorney-client privilege. Attorney-client privilege is a legal concept that protects the information that passes between the attorney and the client and keeps the information confidential. This means that the information you give on AVVO or Legalzoom could (conceivably) be admitted as evidence in court proceedings.
You’re not a client– When you purchase legal documents from Legalzoom; you’re not buying from a law firm or a lawyer. You’re buying documents from a company that manufactures these documents and gives information not advice. AVVO does have real attorneys answering legal questions but they are not advising either, rather repeating information that could be found in any law book.
The fact is each and every case is unique. If you have legal questions, it’s best to consult with a licensed attorney in the state in which you reside who can advise you correctly on your rights under the law.