There is a great temptation to use non-attorney legal services. I won’t name any, but you can find them on the Internet if you want to look. It is important to keep in mind that these services, while costing less than many attorneys, are limited in their scope. Many of these websites have detailed guidelines for a user to complete. Theoretically, these guidelines should result in a satisfactory agreement. However, good legal product is the result of extensive knowledge on the part of the lawyer of the needs of the client and extensive communication on the part of the client with the attorney.

There are often details which may not come out in an online checklist which may be critical or material to the client. In a recent situation, I was approached by a new client who wanted to terminate his membership in a limited liability company with his other member. Both parties owned fifty percent of the membership interest in the limited liability company. They had arranged for their original operating agreement to be prepared by an online non-attorney legal service. The operating agreement contained no provision for a buyout on the part of either member.

As a result, the only option for the client to get out of the agreement (because the relationship between the two members had deteriorated to the point where they were calling each other names) was for my client to unilaterally withdraw from the LLC. As matters turned out, the other member approached an attorney who proposed a buyout agreement. The result was a satisfactory sale of one of the member’s interests. However, this would not have happened if the two members had not approached outside counsel.

The underlying problem with using non-attorney online legal services is that each person is a unique individual with a unique set of legal requirements. If you have a business organization, for instance, in which you are the only member and will only always be the only member, you may not need an extensive or detailed business agreement. However, every other partner, member or shareholder which you bring into the organization brings their own set of legal requirements with them and it is not unusual for problems to snowball.

If you really feel comfortable with your online non-attorney legal service, make sure you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the webpage and read the disclaimer. If after reading the disclaimer, you are comfortable, then feel free to use the service, but make sure you keep the business card of an outside attorney handy.