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Legal Ethics

Suit Claims LegalZoom’s Document Prep Is Unauthorized Practice

Posted Feb 19, 2010 7:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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LegalZoom is facing a potential class action that claims the company is unlawfully charging consumers for the preparation of legal documents.

An amended class action petition (documents posted by IP Watchdog) filed in January seeks a refund of all fees paid to LegalZoom by Missouri consumers. The company is seeking to remove the suit to federal court, according to IP Watchdog.

The suit claims LegalZoom is engaged in the unlawful practice of law, and cites a cease-and-desist letter from the North Carolina State Bar’s Unauthorized Practice Committee.

According to the suit, LegalZoom’s website offers “a variety of customized legal services,” including wills, powers of attorney, and divorce pleadings. Customers go online, choose a document type, and fill out an online questionnaire used to generate a document.

Five law firms represent the plaintiffs. Lawyer Matthew Clement of Jefferson City, Mo., said his firm had sued on behalf of plaintiff Todd Janson when it learned of a separate suit in a different county with similar allegations. The plaintiffs then decided to join together. Janson paid $121.95 for a will from LegalZoom.

“We intend to pursue this vigorously, seek class action certification and see where it goes,” he told the ABA Journal.

Brian Liu, a lawyer who is co-founder and chairman of LegalZoom, spoke to the ABA Journal about the lawsuit for an article expected to be published in an upcoming issue of the magazine. “LegalZoom is aware of the Missouri lawsuit and is confident we have not violated any laws,” he said. “Class actions of this nature are common tactics of plaintiffs' attorneys. We intend to vigorously defend the plaintiffs' claims.”

Hat tip to Legal Ethics Forum.

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