I was driving home the other day when who do you think I heard shilling for LegalZoom: no other than Bill O'Reilly. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. LegalZoom does have a HUGE advertising budget and they use radio as one of their primary advertising mediums. I believe I have heard Denver's own Peter Boyles also personally advertises for Legal Zoom as well. BUT for Bill O'Reilly to shill for them, the self-anointed straight talker, seriously damages his credibility in my book.
Yeah, Bill will tell it to you straight without the spin UNLESS he is paid to spin then he will spin, spin, spin like a top! And LegalZoom is probably the most egregious purveyor of spin out there. Hey, that is not surprising, lawyers are some of the best spinners. Yes, Legal Zoom was founded by lawyers and they trumpet that fact, BUT lawyers do not work with Legal Zoom clients. See LegalZoom's own disclaimer statement
: "LegalZoom is not a law firm, and the employees of LegalZoom are not acting as your attorney. LegalZoom does not practice law and does not give legal advice."
No, the founding attorney owners of the zoom are just sitting back and taking your money without any of the heavy lifting.
Consider Robert Shapiro, part of the legal team that spun the events concerning Nicole Simpson's murder to gain a not guilty verdict for O.J. Simpson, he probably woke up one day and said to himself something like, "hmm, if I can convince a jury, despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary, that OJ didn't do, imagine what I could do with the American Public". And a Master Spin Machine was born. Actually, I suspect the idea for Legal Zoom didn't come from Shapiro but another founding attorney who brought in Shapiro because of his national notoriety.
So where is the spin? Well, let me lay it out for you as simply as possible. For any one of their legal document services, LegalZoom prominently tells you on their website how much you are going to save over using an attorney. For instance with preparing and filing a trademark, the Zoom will charge you $489 ($159 for their services and $325 for the Trademark Office filing fee) saving you $1285 over using an attorney according to them. And, of course, if you want a comprehensive trademark search that will add another $299 for a grand total of $788 saving you all told a whopping $2354 over using an attorney to perform the same process. Sounds good, right?
So here is the spin: First, the amount saved over going to an attorney is highly exaggerated. I don't doubt that many large national firms charge the amounts listed by LegalZoom for trademark services, BUT the individual entrepreneur who is the Zoom's customer is not likely to use a large national law firm but rather a sole practitioner or a small firm, like ours. Small firms rarely charge anything close to $3142 to search and file a trademark. Case in point, our standard fee for a trademark clearance search and the filing of a trademark application in a single international classification is $1250 including the filing fee. Still more than Legal Zoom's $788, but with us you get a boatload of LEGAL ADVICE.
Are you getting dizzy yet?
This brings me to Legal Zoom's second spin: they are comparing rotten tomatoes to ripe juicy apples. LegalZoom's document preparation services cannot be fairly compared to providing legal advice. Even they say in their fine print, "This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney." Wait, Wait, Wait! If LegalZoom's services are no substitute for an attorney than why are they comparing their pricing to that of attorneys? I will tell you why: they are spinning it. they know that only a fraction of customers are ever going to read the disclaimer and they are counting on it and they know people are going to be enticed by the huge, if not misleading, quoted savings amounts.
Hey Bill, things are looking a bit blurry over at the NO SPIN ZONE: do I see you rotating?
OK, one final spin and I will wrap up this monster post. Just take a look at this statement pulled directly from LegalZoom's Advantages web page
: "Did you know that 70% of those who try to complete their own legal documents make mistakes? With LegalZoom, you can rest assured, knowing that your documents are treated with the utmost care and attention. Before completing your order, LegalZoom will review the answers you provide on the questionnaire for consistency, completeness, spelling and grammar."
Sounds pretty good, right? After all, they review the answers for "consistency, completeness, spelling and grammar". Isn't that what a lawyer does when he reviews a document? Well, yes it is but we also review it for legal correctness, something the Zoom does not. We have seen a lot of Legal Zoom prepared documents in our office and guess what, nearly all have mistakes related to legal correctness. What does Legal Zoom say about all this? Let's read the LegalZoom disclaimer once again: "At no time do we review your answers for legal sufficiency".
Spin, Spin, Spin, Spin. O'Reilly, your looking a little flushed. Are your sure your OK? Maybe you want to get off this top and set things straight for the American public about LegalZoom. Or maybe not, so long as the big endorsement checks are coming in. So much for journalistic integrity!
Hey, if you want, send Bill an email telling him what you think about his endorsement of LegalZoom. Here is a handy link
. And Bill if you read this and want to talk, I am always available whether privately or on the air.
To read more LegalZoom commentary see my other post, here
Labels: general_interest, trademarks