document prep stores walk a fine line

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There is an interesting article in the St. Petersburg Times this morning about non-lawyer stores that provide help with filling in standard legal forms, at a price much lower than an attorney’s charge.  “DIY stores walk fine line between law help, outlaw: They can offer document prep but not advice,” March 19, 2007.  I was quoted because I’m a contributor to shlep.  I believe that competent consumers can benefit from unbundling some legal services; that is, hire an attorney for part of a task, such as legal advice and drafting of a Small Claims Statement of Claim, but attendance at hearings by yourself.

The document preparation services are more dangerous, because they carry the risk of non-lawyers giving advice, and because it is often not possible for a layman to determine when a standard form won’t do. The Internet is making it easier for consumers and document preparation services to perform some legal tasks. Lawyers need to use technology to show consumers when a lawyer’s advice is beneficial, and we need to use technology to make our advice cost effective, if we are going to compete. 

2 Comments

  1. david giacalone

    March 19, 2007 @ 1:18 pm

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    Hi, Rick. I sure hope self-helpers will use unbundling for cases that are more complicated than most Small Claims matters — especially since small claims courts are usually set up to make it easy to navigate without a lawyer. I also wish that bar associations would do a better job of letting the public know court forms exist and helping to construct instructions for using those forms.

  2. shlep: the Self-Help Law ExPress » Blog Archive » the Florida Bar and you the people

    March 19, 2007 @ 6:25 pm

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    […]    Earlier today, Rick Georges posted about a newspaper article that focused on the recent opening of several We the People document preparation stores in the Tampa Bay area.  See “DIY stores walk fine line between law help, outlaw: They can offer document prep but not advice,” St. Petersburg Times, by Carrie Weiner, March 19, 2007.  For my money, you can get a more well-rounded picture of We the People USA by reading two additional articles:  ”Moving In on New York Lawyers” (New York Times, Feb. 15, 2004; discussed at f/k/a); and “First Kill the Lawyers… … on the price for basic legal paperwork” (Money/CNN.com, April, 1, 2004). […]

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