Zooming to disaster

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Any amount of time listening to a radio, watching television or searching for business law websites will lead you to an advertisement for Legal Zoom. A cursory review of Legal Zoom’s website may be enough to tell you how it differs from a real lawyer who provides real legal advice. The disclaimer on the bottom of the website states:

Communications between you and LegalZoom are protected by our Privacy Policy but not by the attorney-client privilege or as work product. LegalZoom provides access to independent attorneys and self-help services at your specific direction. We are not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. We cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies

So the question becomes, when you are looking to start, grow or protect a business, would you utilize the services of a company that essentially disclaims any ability to provide you with legal services?  Further review of the Legal Zoom website will tell you that for $23.99 per month you can have access to a “real” attorney. For that fixed fee, you will get, “… unlimited 30-minute consultations on new business and personal legal matters for one low monthly rate.”  When I first started practicing law, I received the sage advice concerning legal fees, “You get what you pay for.”

I understand: You have a new or small business; you are concerned about your expenses and you want to have profits, not just legal expenses. However, your legal advice should not be based upon 30-minute consultations on new business for $23.99 per month. I do not believe you would entrust the medical care of a loved one on such a basis. If you think your commitment to your business is any less substantial than to that of the health of a loved one, you should reconsider your choice to be a business owner.

Your relationship with your lawyer should be one based upon confidence and trust. In fact, your lawyer owes you a “fiduciary duty.”  What that means in plain English is: A fiduciary is someone who has undertaken to act for and on behalf of another in a particular matter in circumstances which give rise to a relationship of trust and confidence. At Gordon Law, we take the fiduciary relationship quite seriously. It means we put your representation above all other matters. It means you can trust in the work we provide and have confidence we will perform ethically and to the highest professional standards.

When looking for a lawyer, a business should, of course, take price into account. However, you should ask, “What am I getting for that price?” You should know the skill and reputation of the lawyer who is representing your business. If it is your first time looking for a lawyer, you may feel at a loss to determine how a lawyer’s skills and reputation are measured. We recommend you look to the most reliable source available: Martindale-Hubble. The Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ help you, the consumer of legal services, identify, evaluate and select the appropriate lawyer for your legal issue. Peer Review Ratings identify lawyers with the highest ethical standards and professional ability.  Martindale-Hubble describes its ratings system as follows:

Legal Ability ratings are based on performance in five key areas, rated on a scale of one to five (with one being the lowest and five being the highest). These areas are:

  • Legal Knowledge – Lawyer’s familiarity with the laws in his or her specific area of practice(s)
  • Analytical Capabilities – Lawyer’s creativity in analyzing legal issues and applying technical knowledge
  • Judgment – Lawyer’s demonstration of the salient factors that drive the outcome of a given case or issue
  • Communication Ability – Lawyer’s capability to communicate persuasively and credibly
  • Legal Experience – Lawyer’s degree of experience in his or her specific area of practice(s)

After lawyers have been evaluated on their legal ability, they will receive one of three ratings:

  • AV Preeminent® (4.5-5.0) – AV Preeminent is a significant rating accomplishment, a testament to the fact that a lawyer’s peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence.
  • BV Distinguished® (3.0-4.4) – BV Distinguished is an excellent rating for a lawyer with some experience. A widely respected mark of achievement, it differentiates a lawyer from his or her competition.
  • Rated (1.0-2.9) – The Peer Review Rated designation demonstrates the lawyer has met the Very High criteria of General Ethical Standing.

Gordon Law has proudly achieved a 4.9 out of 5.0 to hold an AV Preeminent rating.  Clearly, with Legal Zoom or any similar marketing ploy, you have no idea whether the attorney assigned to you has any degree of legal knowledge, analytical capabilities, judgment, communication ability and/or legal experience.

Even beyond ratings or metrics, it is important to build a relationship with your lawyer. You need to be able to have an open dialogue with your attorney and the confidence that your lawyer understands your goals and is helping you fulfill those goals. You simply cannot develop that type of relationship in thirty minutes. Is your lawyer simply responding to your questions, or is your lawyer developing strategies to solve the current problem and prevent future problems?

The truth is, you do not ever want to involve your lawyer. However, don’t you want to know that when you need a lawyer the person on the other end of the phone has the skills, abilities and desires to get you where you need to be? Zooming toward disaster does nothing but make the disaster occur more quickly.

 

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