Q) I’m completing my 2L year at a top school and having trouble finding work. Or appropriate work, as in paid work that is actually law-related. I have a background in software development and want to use it somehow in my legal career but I’m actually not that interested in patent work, which is what everyone tells me to do.
Recently I came across LegalZoom and, to be honest, I thought it was one of the coolest things around. It serves the low-end client, has set prices for people, and from what I can tell delivers a decent product. Probably not the best product but likely good enough. And good enough seems to be the new standard for legal services for regular people, like people I know and grew up with.
What do you think of my prospects of developing an online business that delivers attorney-reviewed forms like LegalZoom? Every lawyer I talk to says it’s a waste of time and that it’s teetering on the edge of unauthorized practice of law. A lot of folks—law students and professors included—think I’m nuts and basically going to the dark side. Would I be wasting my time and my degree pursuing something like this?
A) Haters gonna hate. That’s my reaction to the whole online LegalZoom phenomenon. It’s amusing to hear the tired tirades against LegalZoom and the like. Typically it goes something like this: LegalZoom is a soulless corporation that cannot offer confidentiality and thinks all people fit into the same legal peg hole. Then, for emotional impact, they say it represents the end of lawyers and the legal profession as we know it because it is allowed to practice law without a license.
Bah, humbug. It works. And it works for a couple of reasons: 1) it’s inexpensive and efficient at a time when attorneys are too expensive and inefficient; and 2) it’s good enough. For millions of people. Lawyers just don’t like the idea of clients as consumers—which they are—and there is nothing wrong with that so long as you also recognize the limitations of delivering legal service via logic-based form generation (e.g., I wouldn’t go near criminal defense work, complex litigation, class actions, etc.).
As to your question. No, you are not wasting your time or your JD. You may actually have a leg up on the outfits that don’t have attorneys at the back end.
But you will be wasting your time and intellectual energy if you think working in BigLaw or some other more traditional legal job is what you “should” be doing. If you are pursuing something that you feel matches what you have to offer, find it interesting, and can possibly pay the bills with it, then all the power to you. Who cares if it resembles LegalZoom? Maybe you’ll actually create the right product mix where an attorney is involved in form choice, form creation, and form review. Y’know, practicing law. Imagine that. Hell, LegalZoom already captured the public sentiment in its slogan “Law That Just Makes Sense.” Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Haters gonna hate, Darth. Remember that when people keep telling you that you are going to the dark side. They are full of shit.