It’s a pretty well settled principle that non-lawyers can’t give legal advice in Illinois. I think it makes sense to most people as you want to have some belief that the advice they are getting is for sure correct. It’s a way of protecting the public and also preventing false information from getting out there.
Legal Zoom is a heavily marketed company that I’ve always understood to be a place where you can try to print off legal forms to do things yourself. It was founded by one of OJ Simpson’s defense attorneys and I assume it’s successful with all of the money that it spends on advertising. Next to erectile dysfunction and daily fantasy games, it feels like Legal Zoom is the third most common advertiser.
They can sell legal forms even if much of what they sell can be downloaded for free on the internet. Apparently some of what they provide is the opportunity to have forms reviewed by a lawyer (which seems to defeat the whole purpose), but they also provide instructions on the forms themselves.
If those instructions are written by lawyers in the state that they apply to then they seem permissible. On the other hand, if there are any non lawyers who own legal zoom, they might be illegally receiving compensation for giving legal advice.
Whatever the situation is, the big problem I have with anyone relying on written advice is that it doesn’t consider your unique situation. This came up recently when a woman called me after downloading divorce forms from this site and reading about what to do with them. According to her they said that there is a two year waiting period to get divorced in Illinois if you have kids.
Technically what she read is correct. The problem is that she read it to mean that she can’t get divorced any time soon. What she didn’t read or didn’t understand was that the waiting period can be waived by both parties to allow for a quicker divorce. She also didn’t understand after reading their advice that the waiting period applied to divorces based on irreconcilable differences. She could plead something else and get divorced sooner even if her spouse didn’t want the divorce to happen.
Look, I’m in favor of anything that can make the legal system cheaper and more accessible for the general public. It’s one reason I created Funded Justice. But what I don’t like is when people get more confused or sold something that they don’t really need.
Legal Zoom needs to decide if it is or isn’t a law firm. If it is, it needs to start acting like one. If it’s not, then it needs to be really careful about the guidance it provides. They may be doing more harm than good. If you’d like to speak with one of our licensed attorneys, call us at (312) 346-5320 or fill out our contact form.