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Ilinizas

Thoughts on DIY legal.

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Someone told me that 20% of incorporations in California are done by Legalzoom.

Then I look to Canada and see stuff like:

DIY will kits - https://om.company/

Do your own divorce lecture -  http://www.familylawnb.ca/english/uploads/Doing Your Own Divorce - Fredericton Dec_12 (EN) OPT.pdf

Uncontested divorce - https://untietheknot.ca/province/alberta/divorce 

Should there be more education, automation or DIY options available to people that need a legal solution?

 

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I work in a solicitation office on the support team, so these types of things are constantly brought up by clients. They work until they don't. If everything goes right and everyone plays fair they work great. However thats not why you hire a lawyer. You hire a lawyer because not everything goes right and nobody plays fair. Those free online services just fill out the forms for you, but when you hire a lawyer you get so much more than that. When a lawyer helps someone with incorporation they are use their expertise to try and predict every asshole that's going to come along and screw you over and protect your interests. These services do a terrible job on that end. Plus when things go south (and they will) and you need your self a litigator, if you hired a solicitor you get to say that you relied on an expert, followed their advice and did everything reasonable to fulfill your duties. You don't get that with online services like legal zoom.

So no, I don't think legal zoom and other diy law kits are a good solution.

 

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30 minutes ago, lawstudent20202020 said:

So no, I don't think legal zoom and other diy law kits are a good solution.

 

This is pretty short sighted. 

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Speaking of which, I was reading a client's minute book the other day and found references to an act in the consent to act as director that had been repealed for 10 years before incorporation. Blew my mind that the accountant that incorporated was so out of touch.

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8 minutes ago, palmsa said:

This is pretty short sighted. 

Care to explain? It's not that I don't think that people won't use these, I know they will. I don't think they are an appropriate replacement to legal advice. They lack all of the actual services of a lawyer and essential just walk you through how to fill out a form.

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Yes - I guess the argument is that they should potentially have greater access to inferior products that meet at least some of their needs, because otherwise many people live with no solution (40% of people don't have a will; many don't finalize their divorce for years; people have no real employment agreements etc etc.). 

 

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The other argument is that greater access to these inferior products will expand the marketplace for legal services. Thoughts on that? Is this good for the profession? Is it good for consumers?

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It depends on if there are statistics on whether these kits actually increase access to justice for those who could never afford real legal advice on one's respective legal issues, or if they're used by people simply because they're available and everyone feels like saving a few bucks in the short run.

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7 minutes ago, Ilinizas said:

Yes - I guess the argument is that they should potentially have greater access to inferior products that meet at least some of their needs, because otherwise many people live with no solution (40% of people don't have a will; many don't finalize their divorce for years; people have no real employment agreements etc etc.). 

 

I don't think this is the right away to go about access to legal services. Inferior legal services tend to lead to litigation which is significantly more expensive in the long run. 

 

1 hour ago, Ilinizas said:

The other argument is that greater access to these inferior products will expand the marketplace for legal services. Thoughts on that? Is this good for the profession? Is it good for consumers?

I could be misinterpretting this, but This argument is ethically wrong. We should not promote services that will fuck up people's lives and increase profitability in the long run for lawyers. 

I think education in the legal system would do much more good. The types of work that these services offer actually have massive consequences when done wrong, its people's houses, estates, and marriages that we are dealing with. For your average person those are pretty much the most important things they have, and people don't connect the work the lawyer does with that, which is part of the problem imho. They don't understand the value added by the lawyer and just see it as an unnecessary cost.

 

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A growing tranche of society are essentially lifelong debtors. They have no wealth to transmit to the next generation or to fight over in a separation. So for them, it is fine to have a symbolic but functionally useless "DIY Will", and we would expect use of DIY products to grow as more people join this bottom stratum of drones and working poor.

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3 hours ago, lawstudent20202020 said:

I could be misinterpretting this, but This argument is ethically wrong. We should not promote services that will fuck up people's lives and increase profitability in the long run for lawyers. 

The challenging part is considering how much people's lives get fucked up because they can't afford a lawyer, and then have to do nothing or do a terrible job (representing themselves, drafting a will, trying to trademark something, trying to manage employment relationships etc). So, to me, it's not as cut and dry as "inferior product" = litigation. The calculation needs be a cost benefit comparing "no solution" v. "inferior product". I'm not sold one way or the other, but I'm leaning towards cheap standardized products as actually reducing consumer suffering and litigation. It'd be interesting to have an LLM actually look into it though. 

Edited by Ilinizas

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4 hours ago, FingersCr0ssed said:

It depends on if there are statistics on whether these kits actually increase access to justice for those who could never afford real legal advice on one's respective legal issues, or if they're used by people simply because they're available and everyone feels like saving a few bucks in the short run.

I agree. That's the unknown that we need someone to figure out. In my mind, it should be a simple microeconomics question, but lawyers serve so many verticals, that it probably changes for most legal solutions. Like, typically, when the price decrease, more people are willing to purchase the service. (I'm paraphrasing), Would a lower average cost for a will increase the overall market, or just decrease the cost paid without expanding the number of people purchasing? I don't know. Good question. 

 

I do wonder though, if this touches on the (at times) self-serving nature of self-regulation. Should our focus be on the effect on the size of the marketplace, or should it be on the % of consumers receiving an affordable legal solution (and increasing the available legal solutions so that more consumers can receive a legal solution). 

Edited by Ilinizas

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22 minutes ago, Ilinizas said:

The challenging part is considering how much people's lives fucked up because they can't afford a lawyer, and then have to do nothing or do a terrible job (representing themselves, drafting a will, trying to trademark something, trying to manage employment relationships etc). So, to me, it's not as cut and dry as "inferior product" = litigation. The calculation needs be a cost benefit comparing "no solution" v. "inferior product". I'm not sold one way or the other, but I'm leaning towards cheap standardized products as actually reducing consumer suffering and litigation. It'd be interesting to have an LLM actually look into it though. 

That is assuming these products add some value. I would argue they don't add anything over just by doing it themselves. Perhaps a better solution would be guidelines available to the public where it would be reasonavle for someone to out together a basic will or other simple issue themselves. This way the simple things where everyone plays fair still work out just like they would with the online services, but the ones that go to shit, that would have gone to shit with the paid online service, don't have someone profiting off of the people that can't afford a lawyer without actually adding anything of value.

In the short time I have worked in law I've just seen way to many people work themselves inescapable pits becuase they have tried to use shortcuts like this, and I just can't say that they are better than nothing because of how screwed people are when things go wrong.

As a side note the types of transactions these services replace can be fairly inexpensive and I'm not sure that cost is the issue so much as people not understanding what they are actually pay for when they go to see a lawyer.

One of my professors focused on access to justice in their PhD, and they have said that money is not the biggest bar to access to justice as most people instinctively think. It's actually a lack of education on what their legal rights are.

One final note: maybe we need to start thinking about extending public funding to things like wills and non contentious divorces to lower income people.

Edited by lawstudent20202020
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I've never seen a DIY kit that didn't add at least some value. DIY kits typically include an education element. You need to learn how to fill out the form, and there are usually instructions to do that. If that education piece is done well, then it's valuable, but unless someone profits, it's not ever going to exist. So, the idea that no one should profit, essentially means that this will never be an option. 

As for "lack of money" v. "lack of education"... how do people get educated? They pay for it. It seems like a 6 of 1 and a half dozen of the other situation. They pay for education by hiring a lawyer. I guess, for me, it's a bit strange to hear you say that on one hand, you've seen so many people fuck things up trying to do it themselves, and on the other hand, "cost" isn't the primary barrier to accessing legal services. Why are there so many self-reps, and why are 20% of the incorporations in California done by LegalZoom? I guess you Professor would say... "the lack the education." And the logical next question - so now what? "Everyone should just hire a lawyer"? That's not really working all that well. 

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19 minutes ago, Ilinizas said:

As for "lack of money" v. "lack of education"... how do people get educated?

I'm thinking more government funded education like PSAs, government organizations regularly carry out educational campaigns, not all education has to be paid for directly by a person.

Honestly I think there are so many self reps and legal zoom incorps because people don't recognize the value of the lawyer. There's a reason why big corporations don't give a second thought about paying their lawyers, they know it's worth it.

Alot of people don't. Look at any forum for self reps or people trying not to use a lawyer and look at the attitude they have for lawyers. It's an absolute disdain of the services a lawyer provides. 

I'm not saying our current system is great or flawless it's far from that, but the level of service given by legal zoom is just not there. There's no real shortcut around needing a lawyer to navigate our current legal system. Personally I think maybe we should start looking at expanding publicly funded legal services more like the medical system. If people talked to a lawyer (and listened to their lawyer) from the beginning many issues wouldn't end up in court.

As for those legal zoom incorps in California, I would bet money that almost all of those go bust before they get big or need to hire a lawyer to sort out the mess of the original incorporation once they get big enough that it matters.

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2 hours ago, lawstudent20202020 said:

Honestly I think there are so many self reps and legal zoom incorps because people don't recognize the value of the lawyer. There's a reason why big corporations don't give a second thought about paying their lawyers, they know it's worth it.

Big corporations spend a lot of time trying not to pay their lawyers. It’s been one of the defining issues of the legal profession for at least a decade. 

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Actually, we spend a lot of time trying to pay our lawyers, but to make our payments more predictable and tied to value added. We'll always pay our lawyers, but rarely their off-the-shelf prices.

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12 minutes ago, Jaggers said:

Actually, we spend a lot of time trying to pay our lawyers, but to make our payments more predictable and tied to value added. We'll always pay our lawyers, but rarely their off-the-shelf prices.

Well yeah, I'm not suggesting big corporations are literally not paying their lawyers – they're just trying to pay them less overall (and as you said, more predictably). In many cases, they're also trying to pay in-house lawyers more and external counsel less.

Obviously large corporations are paying their bills. @lawstudent20202020's point wasn't that big corporations pay their lawyers period (or if it was, that's kinda a dumb point), it was that they don't think twice about paying their lawyers. Which is clearly wrong, and has been a defining issue in the legal profession for at least a decade. 

Or do you disagree?

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1 hour ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

Obviously large corporations are paying their bills. @lawstudent20202020's point wasn't that big corporations pay their lawyers period (or if it was, that's kinda a dumb point), it was that they don't think twice about paying their lawyers. Which is clearly wrong, and has been a defining issue in the legal profession for at least a decade. 

No my point was that corporations understand the value of their legal services.

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2 minutes ago, lawstudent20202020 said:

No my point was that corporations understand the value of their legal services.

In the broad sense? Sure, no TSX40 company is doing an M&A deal without counsel. But you're really oversimplifying the relationship between corporations and their counsel to say that corporations understand the value of legal services. Corporations have spent a whole bunch of time and money trying to reduce their legal costs recently, and through a whole bunch of different methods (fixed fee arrangements, taking stuff in-house, aggressive negotiation with their counsel, etc). 

And part of that conflict / trend is that corporations and law firms have very different ideas about the value of legal services. 

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