The online legal document business is booming. Consumers are drawn to the perceived value of the online documents since they can get everything from a contract to a will to a lease, and even a divorce form for a fraction of the cost of visiting a lawyer. But should they?
While these online legal documents may seem to offer a compelling value, using them could cost you a lot more money down the road, be ineffective, and even, in some cases, cause problems in court. Following are some of the reasons one should avoid using online legal forms.
Selecting the Wrong Form
Many individuals fail to appreciate how nuanced the law truly is. Often lay-people will select forms to memorialize a transaction or agreement based on the name or title of the form. But selecting the wrong form may result in a completely different legal consequence than the one intended by the parties.
Not Knowing all Your Rights and Options
Most online legal documents are boilerplate and too simplistic. There are always unique circumstances in one’s situation that are not addressed by these forms.
Missing Important Language
Many of the most commonly used boilerplate (stock one-size-fits-all) legal forms omit crucial language. Many of the forms a) omit information required by the law to be in the document, b) fail to include required language, c) include an ambiguous or confusing statement, or worst of all d) all of the above.
Not Accounting for How State Laws and Regulations Differ
Most states have laws requiring specific language in forms and leaving out this language can result in unintended consequences for an individual or business. For example we have litigated several cases with a “non-compete” clause at issue; the online form agreements usually are not Colorado-specific and therefore the purchaser of the form spends way more money in court than if s/he had just hired an attorney to draft the clause in the first place
The Bottom Line
Put simply, a pre-printed internet form will not be tailored to your specific situation. There may be a necessary provision missing. Worse, there may be a provision that requires you to do something you did not want or intend to do. At a minimum, if you are going to use forms, have one of our lawyers review the form and talk about the impacts on your specific needs before you sign any legal document.