Beware DIY Legal Sites!

Posted on March 27, 2013 in Planning & Advisors

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Do-it-yourself legal sites drive me crazy. I came across a DIY legal site called Negonation this week (yeah, OK, it’s in Brazil, but the principle is the same. It touts a “get-your-contract-off-this-site-and-avoid-legal-fees” service. It claims that “its contracts are legally enforceable in the offline world, even if the parties are in different countries. That’s quite a bold claim.

Online sites don’t necessarily empower the lawyer in all of us. What they do is delude many people into thinking that they have an “inner lawyer.” Not everyone does, and that’s okay. I don’t have an “inner doctor”– if I have a medical need (even a regular check-up), I get help. I don’t have an “inner accountant”–I make sure that I have one on call who can provide guidance as to how I should handle my financial statements and taxes. I am who I am: anal, cautious, and detail-oriented (among other things). That makes me perfectly suited to being a lawyer. I am not cut out for many other professions, and that suits me just fine. I’ll leave those areas of specialty to the experts.

What’s dangerous about these sites is the false sense of security that entrepreneurs get from taking legal agreements from the Internet, without having the background or training to fairly evaluate whether what’s in the agreement is in their best interests, or whether there are other things that should be in the agreement that aren’t. There’s no one affiliated with the sites who will give you the legal advice about your specific situation–they’re just selling you a product (the agreement). Take it or leave it. They don’t take your own needs into account when creating the agreement– it’s an off-the-shelf product.

It would be like walking into Bloomingdales and buying a suit without looking at the size. You know you need a one, but if it doesn’t fit properly, you could end up spending more for alterations than you paid for the suit. Getting the right legal protections in place for your company isn’t just a matter of one-size-fits-all merchandise.

Lawyers provide a hybrid: product and service. And it’s the service you receive that ensures that the product truly meets your needs. For more guidance, see my article “What You Should Know Before Copying Contracts from the Internet.”

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