This is an update to a 07/02/2011 blog post “Compare An Internet Site With An Attorney’s Service To A Client.” In that post I discussed how a national online document provider company differed from the professional legal services provided to a client by an attorney. Essentially, these companies complete the basic forms required by most domestic relations courts based upon information the customer provides to them, then forwards those forms to the customer to use in his domestic relations court case.
The field of online legal services has a newer player entering the market. These are national companies which contract with local attorneys to provide legal services in your local domestic relations court, claiming to offer quality legal services for less.
Don't be fooled. You could end up paying much more than if you hired that same attorney by contracting with him/her directly. Essentially, you are simply adding an unnecessary middleman to the equation, thus increasing your costs. This is how the system works:
The online legal services company does contract with a local attorney, usually for a fixed price for a specified number of services to be supplied to “their customer.” Anything not covered in those “specified services” are subject to additional charges by the local attorney. Since most family law attorneys require a written contract with their clients, you now have TWO contracts for essentially the same legal problem. The terms and fees will probably be different for those extra services.
The online legal services company owes no fiduciary duty to you to act in your best interests, like the attorney does. It has no lawyer/client relationship with its “customer.” It is not licensed to practice law anywhere. In reality, it is little more than a referral service acting on commission; the commission being the difference it pays the local attorney and what you pay to the online legal services company.
What is insidious with this arrangement is that usually the “specified services” provided by the online legal services company either do not adequately cover what is required by your legal problem, thus entailing further charges under the local attorney's contract with you for those extra services, or the local attorney is not adequately compensated by the company on your behalf. When the latter happens, your local attorney may not represent you with the zeal you feel necessary, since the local attorney may only get reimbursed for a third of what those services actually cost!
This arrangement often results in two outcomes:
The client must do his/her homework! Google search for a local attorney. Visit their websites and read what they offer, their profiles, blogs, their reviews by former clients. Then arrange for a consultation with the prospects you have picked to see if you and they are a “good fit.”
The Wild West of Divorce Marketing
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