Update on LegalZoom.com Class Action Suit.

July 27th, 2011

I previously blogged about a class action against LegalZoom.com in Missouri, in which the site is accused in engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. Update from the WSJ Law Blog:

Last week, Missouri federal judge Nanette K. Laughrey partially rejected LegalZoom’s motion for summary judgment and set the case for trial on August 22.

In a statement issued yesterday, LegalZoom said that if the plaintiffs win at trial, it could dramatically impact the  availability of self-help legal books and forms in Missouri.

“If the plaintiffs are successful, we believe it is going to become a lot more expensive for small businesses and individuals to obtain basic legal forms,” Chas Rampenthal, Legal Zoom’s General counsel, said in the statement. “Missouri would become the only state in the nation to take away a consumer’s right to access online legal document software.”

Access to justice is a big plus here, that the cartel apparently does not appreciate.

Here is the statement from the Plaintiffs’ counsel:

“The state licensure of attorneys was established to protect the public from those untrained and uneducated in the practice of law,” Butsch said. The preparation of wills and other legal documents “may seem simple to a layman, but they aren’t,” he added. “There are consequences of signing a will . . .and those consequences can be great and they can’t be properly communicated by a company over the internet.” . . .

Butsch noted that there is now a glut of legal talent in the market, with many law graduates unable to find full-time employment. That fact, he said, has made customized legal help from practicing lawyers increasingly affordable. “I know quite a few lawyers who offer a quality legal service at very good rates,” he said.

What pretenses! There are lots of unemployed lawyers, so they can charge low fees! But don’t these lawyers, presumably with massive debt, need to charge fees to pay off the money invested? Seriously. And at one point, didn’t bar associations impose mandatory minimum fees? Rubbish.

Update: 4 more questions from Larry Ribstein:

  • Exactly who are these good lawyers he’s referring to, or at least where can Missouri consumers find them? How do consumers know they’re good apart from Mr. Butsch’s say-so?
  • Even if they charge “very good rates” by current standards, wouldn’t competition lower these fees?
  • Is he confident that lawyers are doing a better job than the internet of communicating the consequences of signing a will?
  • If a company like LegalZoom used the internet to communicate these risks, would he promise not to sue them for unauthorized practice of law?