There was a recent piece on 60 Minutes about the advances in artificial intelligence whereby computers have advanced to the point of being capable of learn and can react and respond to their environments. It is fascinating stuff, but it also reminds me of some bad science fiction movie where the machines wind up taking over and destroying man-kind.
We are, as a society, becoming more of a Do-It-Yourself group. Algorithms have been carefully designed where we can go online, input some data, and get the answers ourselves. We have all done that on WebMD at so me point in our lives. We feel ill; we go online, input our symptoms, and self diagnose. Voila! We’ve saved ourselves time and money by not having to visit a doctor. Heck, I bet if you Googled it, you could probably find a step-by-step on how to perform your own appendectomy. Who needs doctors?
The same is true in the legal world. There continues to be an expansion of do-it-yourself legal products that are available and marketed. Why pay a lawyer when for a low price you can get a fill-in-the-blank form that can handle your every need. Not sure what you need? Just walk through our easy-to-navigate algorithm and we’ll tell you what you need.
There are several problems with these products. One, you don’t actually ever speak with a lawyer. Two, lawyers are licensed by state. You don’t know if what you’re paying for is even valid in your state. Three, I’ve seen the end result of these products. Quite frankly, they are ripping you off. You’re buying the equivalent of a Rodex watch or a Gussi handbag. (Yeah, no such thing.)
I’ve seen wills done on these products that the buyer felt like they had achieved peace of mind for when their time comes, but will assuredly cause the very drama and heartache that the buyer hoped his heirs would avoid. Recently, I reviewed a divorce client’s Prenuptial Agreement purchased from one of these programs some years back. The only thing this document does is recite the laws on how property and debt is classified and divided and that spousal support may or may not be necessary based on the circumstances of the parties at the time of the divorce. Well, no kidding! These folks paid $100 to get this document and it is entirely worthless. It sets out no rights or responsibilities or deals with any of the hard questions for the divorce that Prenuptial Agreements are supposed to help with.
I know what you’re thinking. Here’s a lawyer complaining about his shrinking market share, how he shouldn’t have to adapt to the changing world around him. You could not be more wrong. We have and continue to change and adapt. You can hire a licensed attorney through our firm to do the very same things that you’re paying these online programs for at the same or lower cost and instead of some machine on some server out in some other state giving you some regurgitated standard document that does not actually effectuate anything and is really nothing but restating law, you have a real, live lawyer licensed in Georgia who is covered by malpractice insurance and who has a team of experienced, licensed, and equally covered attorneys to use as a resource in helping you actually obtain your desired goal. Or you can pay $100 and waste 10 pages of copy paper and some ink toner.
Your call. Accomplish what you set out to accomplish or blow your money on the next, great, feel good on-line product.
Vive la man!