How many of us championing greater access to legal success have tried LegalZoom? Not as our primary means to legal services, but to learn what can work in increasing access to legal services?

This afternoon I received the below email from LegalZoom:

It’s National Make-A-Will Month—let’s do this!

National Make-A-Will Month is almost over. We know you want to look out for your family—and we want to help you take care of your planning with a just-added, special 10% discount on an Estate Plan. Independent attorneys are available to answer your questions and guide you through the process.

Remember, even if you don’t have all the information to complete your Estate Plan, get the savings now, and then finish when you’re ready.

Isn’t it time you finally cross “making a will” off your list?

Use discount code PROTECT18.

The email wasn’t an ad.

I am a member of LegalZoom – or better put, my company, LexBlog is. We paid $216 a few months ago for a “Business Advisory Plan 6 Month Membership.”

A few different reasons we joined.

  1. We were looking for an attorney to look at the terms of service on some of our sites. Fairly standard stuff, but we wanted to look at updating some things. I found it tough to find a lawyer with niche expertise and much, much harder to find a lawyer who would give us a flat rate. One lawyer sent me a fee agreement that spelled out little more than the hourly rates of a list of lawyers as measured by years practicing, not expertise. Our offer to pay an annual subscription fee set by the law firm for three years for terms of service related work, no matter whether we use them or not in the last two years, was totally blown off.
  2. We have a general counsel who is in private practice and we use specialists on other matters – a litigation matter and a privacy/security are two matters where we hired a specialist. But there are routine matters such as minutes and bylaws which LegalZoom had forms by state which we could just complete and store and not bother our general counsel to who we pay a flat annual fee. It’s not the type of stuff he wants to do and it may be easier to just do such work internally so it’s readily available and easy to update as needed.
  3. Most importantly I am a vocal advocate of increasing access to legal services. How can it be done? And particularly, how can it be done through the use of qualified lawyers. Having drawn, then $200 million in funding (now $700 million) and having probably the best known brand in the law, I needed to know as best I could what LegalZoom was all about. Why do they have 3 million members? Why do they have a net promoter score (NPS) that trails Apple, Amazon and Zappos by a bit, but blows away that of law firms?

Though I have spent time bouncing around LegalZoom’s member site and offerings, I’ll confess we have not used the LegalZoom member services yet. Our failure to do so on items like corporate minutes and the like is more out of our lawyer just doing them already, more than any inadequacies of LegalZoom.

The email I received made wonder how many of us in the legal industry are LegalZoom members.

How could you be working on or talking about the issue of access to legal services without knowing intimately what is making LegalZoom work for so many people? Lawyers, bar leaders, law professors and entrepreneurs – how many of you have used LegalZoom?

Those of us leading companies know all too well that we need to know as best we can what the competition is doing. What is attracting people to them? What are they doing better? What could we learn from them?

No question LegalZoom is a competitor on the legal services front, especially in the minds of their customers.

LegalZoom, not saying they are ideal, is doing something right to attract so many users, so much in revenue and so much in funding. There has to be something to be learned from them if you’re an advocate of increasing access to legal services.

What forms could be used? How could those forms be used in SaaS based solutions? How do we keep the forms current? Where does the lawyer step into the process after a user has done the work the lawyer doesn’t want to do? How do you build a network of independent lawyers who make more annually in a network like LegalZoom’s than they made in their existing law firm?

This is just some of what we could learn. Maybe bar associations and law firms could see ways to use services from LegalZoom to generate more work for lawyers – and make lawyers more accessible to the public. I don’t know.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that LegalZoom can or should replace lawyers. I lead a company whose mission it is to increase access to legal services – via trusted and authoritative lawyers serving inviduals and corporations.

I just know less and less people are using lawyers. Not just because of cost, but because of a lack of trust of lawyers and the inefficiencies for all in lawyers not using the technology and innovation we’ve become accustomed to in the delivery of other services.

It behooves us to look at LegalZoom and what it’s doing for both the consumers of legal services and lawyers.

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