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Question about sales - online documents

San Francisco, CA |

Is it legal to compile a set a legal documents and sell them online? IE "Complete Divorce Kit" or "Child Custody Step-by-Step" ....?

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

Yes. Legal Zoom does it, as do others. There's currently litigation about LegalZoom's apparent practicing law without a license, but that aside, I'd note that very few legal matters can be done _properly_ without a lawyer, and you may not find out until it's too late - such as a Will that doesn't accomplish what's intended, and you're dead and never know, a writer's collaboration agreement that should have been a work for hire agreement, a trademark application that should have been a service mark application, etc., etc.

Sure, anyone can fill out forms, but knowing which forms to use, and how to fill them out so that they're actually recognized by a court and effective to accomplish what the client intends are completely different issues. I know I have plenty of clients who have wasted money on the LegalZoom forms that are right for what they are, but are wrong for my (formerly their) clients.

Also, you need to clear whatever name you choose to make sure it's viable and available. Trademark conflicts are common these days, and the wrong choice can get you sued, and/or cause you to change your business's name.

Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.

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Posted

Oh wow, I did not realize that about LegalZoom. I actually was considering a job with them but they seemed to have a strict hiring policy where you have to be a law student, a paralegal or an attorney to type the forms. Guess they should require documentation from potential employees.

Posted

Hi,

It is not illegal in and of itself. There are countless companies that sell these type of DIY legal kits and contract templates, etc.

Where you need to be careful is where this may fall into a category know as Unlicensed Practice of Law. Different states have different standards for what constitutes UPL.

In CA, for example, Legal Zoom and other providers of similar services operate under a special designation, something like a document preparer, that allows them to legally prepare documents and assist in preparing legal docs but without dispensing any specific legal advice. If that sounds strange and darn near impossilbe you are correct. But that is the way it is for now anyway. Legal Zoom has had legal problems in some states as well so there is no bright line here. And I am just using them as one example because everyone knows who they are.

You should probably consult a lawyer before making any investment just so you clearly understand the limits of what you can do here.

All the best,
Frank
Natoli-Lapin, LLC
(see Disclaimer)

The law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC (Home of Lantern Legal Services) offers our flat-rate legal services in the areas of business law and intellectual property to entrepreneurs, small-to-medium size businesses, independent inventors and artists across the nation and abroad. Feel free to call for a free phone consultation; your inquiries are always welcome: CONTACT: 866-871-8655 Support@LanternLegal.com DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis of this posting.

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Posted

There are a lot of companies that do something like that. But, it could be considered practicing law without a license. So, yes, you can do it up to a point.

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