AS IF THE 1995 O.J. Simpson trial wasn’t a wild enough ride, former Dream Team member Robert Shapiro has taken the dotcom plunge.
Shapiro recently cofounded LegalZoom.com, an online resource to help people draft simple legal documents when they don’t want to pay an attorney. LegalZoom can help anyone draft a living will, get a simple divorce or even put together uncomplicated estate-planning documents. More sophisticated customers may soon be able to use the site to assemble simple partnership agreements, draft leases or form small corporations.
The site will make money by charging a fee, ranging from $29 for living wills to about $300 for more complicated commercial documents, but Shapiro points out that this is a lot less than people would be paying lawyers to do the same thing. He stresses that LegalZoom does not furnish legal advice and is not meant to replace lawyers or law firms. “We are not encouraging people not to use lawyers, and we’re not in any way suggesting we’re a substitute,” he says. “But for those people who feel comfortable preparing their own documents, we’ll act as a document preparations service.”
LegalZoom’s fellows in online legal services provision include Legaldocs.com, where you can construct legal documents, and LawSmart.com, where you can download forms and templates (though LegalZoom seems to be more comprehensive). Other online services will find you a lawyer or settle small claims online.
Shapiro is not intimidated by the economic downturn and its resulting dotcom carnage. “The Internet is here to stay,” he says. “The fact that dotcommerce may have had some terrible problems?especially with certain kinds of business enterprises?doesn’t concern us, because the basis for our business is being able to serve our customers without costly overhead…. We’ve exceeded expectations since we started and more than doubled our customer base every month.”