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Consumer Report Says Legal Zoom Doesn’t Cut It

Consumer Reports says document production sites like Legal Zoom, Nolo and Rocket Lawyer can’t hold a candle to a real lawyer.

For a fraction of what you’d pay a lawyer, websites such as LegalZoom, Nolo, and Rocket Lawyer can help you create your own will, power of attorney, and other important legal documents. But can they really save you a visit to a lawyer?

We recently evaluated those three services. Using their online worksheets or downloads, we created a will, a car bill of sale for a seller, a home lease for a small landlord, and a promissory note. We then asked three law professors—Gerry W. Beyer of Texas Tech University School of Law, who specializes in estates and trusts; Richard K. Neumann of Hofstra University, a contract specialist; and Norman Silber, an expert in consumer and commercial law at Hofstra and Yale—to review in a blind test the processes and resulting documents.

The verdict. Using any of the three services is generally better than drafting the documents yourself without legal training or not having them at all. But unless your needs are simple—say, you want to leave your entire estate to your spouse—none of the will-writing products is likely to entirely meet your needs. And in some cases, the other documents aren’t specific enough or contain language that could lead to “an unintended result,” in Silber’s words.

My take on this: It’s absolutely true you will get way better service and results with an experienced lawyer than an online document production company (like Legal Zoom, Nolo and Rocket Lawyer). But it doesn’t have to be complicated and cost an arm and a leg. There are leading innovative attorneys out there who have developed ways to deliver personalized legal services in a convenient and affordable way while providing attorney access to support their work. We do that.

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