LegalZoom agrees to limits on its marketing to avoid confusing consumers

lawyer looking at docs
lawyer looking at docs

Celebrity Attorney Robert Shapiro's company LegalZoom sells legal documents such as wills, living trusts and even divorce papers online. The problem, says the Washington Attorney General, is that consumers could mistakenly believe that they're also getting legal advice.

Under an agreement reached with the attorney general's office, LegalZoom can continue to sell these forms online, but it can't compare its costs to those charged by attorneys unless it discloses that its services are not the same as going to an attorney.

The agreement, which finds no wrongdoing on the part of LegalZoom, also prohibits the company from practicing law, selling consumers' personal information or misrepresenting the pros and cons of any estate distribution document.

Washington's Consumer Protection Chief Doug Walsh, who worked on the case, told Consumer Ally that some consumers seek out online services because they're reluctant to visit an attorney.

"I think the problem is that consumers generally don't have legal training, so they're looking for legal help or advice and maybe they're a little intimidated of going to an attorney," Walsh said. "Maybe they've had a bad experience with an attorney ... so there's a temptation to find a way to get their legal services needs met."

But the danger is that the documents consumers end up paying for may not be tailored to them, Walsh said.