- What is a “legal document preparation business”?
- What does “Legal Document Preparation” by a Non-Lawyer Mean? What is a “Legal Document Preparer?”
- Is It Legal? Is legal document preparation services by a non-lawyer the “Unauthorized Practice of Law?”
- How is this service different that LegalZoom and other online legal document Web Sites?
- Is this business hard to operate?
- I have heard about a franchise called WethePeople and discovered that it went bankrupt. How is the SmartLegalForms Platform different?
- Who created the SmartLegalForms automated legal forms and documents and platform?
- How much money can I make running a legal document preparation business?
- I am a lawyer. Can I purchase a subscription?
- Why a customer must register?
- How does a customer register?
- Completing Forms Online
- How are legal documents created?
- What happens when the customer’s document is reviewed and completed?
- Safety and Security of my data. Is Your Service Secure?
- Can I combine a legal document preparation business with other businesses such as a tax preparation business?
- How do I get paid?
- Can I open multiple offices?
- Are there any hidden costs or operating expense?
1. What is a Legal Document Preparation Business?
Legal Document Preparation is the creation of legal documents by a non-lawyer person or entity for consumers or small business for many of life’s events life’s events, including living wills or trusts, incorporations, divorces, powers of attorney, and many more, or common business transactions such as incorporation, organization of an LLC., employment agreements, share holder agreements, partnership agreements, leases, loan documents, non-disclosure agreements and other business documentation. The most well known legal document preparation business is LegalZoom.
2. What does Legal Document Preparation by a Non-Lawyer Mean?
You can assist a person in creating a legal form or legal document in most jurisdictions if don’t give legal advice and limit your role to making sure that all of the answers on the online questionnaire have been answered and that the answers are consistent. For example, no misspellings or incorrect dates. You can’t tell a customer what form to select or provide legal advice of any kind. For the difference between “legal advice” vs. “legal information” see here.
3. Is this legal?
In the states of Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada, you must register as a licensed legal document preparer to operate a legal document preparation business. Information on license requirements appears in the Resources section of this Web site.
There are no license requirements to become a legal document preparer in any other state. If you want to own and operate a legal document preparation business in other states, we provide a comprehensive online training program through our training division, The Legal Technician Training Institute. The program helps you understand the limits of your role as a legal document preparation business and everything you need to know to operate your own legal document preparation business.
4. How is this service different that LegalZoom and other online legal document Web Sites?
LegalZoom and other online legal document providers have no physical presence in the community or a retail location. This means that they are are serving only part of the market- the online customer. There are more many more customers who like the idea of meeting a with a service person in a retail setting. The SmartLegalForms Platform is designed so you can offer:
(1) an online legal document preparation service like LegalZoom through your Web Site; and
(2) an off-line legal preparation service through your office or retail location using our “Kiosk” application for your in office customers and clients.
5. Is this business hard to operate?
The ideal licensee is someone with a good business background and talent for exceptional service. If you have an existing retail location, such as an income tax preparation business, a financial planning business, or a mail service and notary center, a legal document preparation business is a natural add-on and a source of additional income.You need a legal background because you do not provide legal advice. You help customers help themselves in uncontested legal matters using standardized forms.
No inventory is required, and you don’t pay franchise fees or royalties.
Store fronts dedicated to just a legal document preparation business are about 1,000 square feet, and operated with one or two employees with daytime hours from 10am to 6pm, with some Saturday hours. It’s a good business opportunity for a husband and wife team, especially if one of them enjoys networking in the community to market the business.
6. I have heard about a franchise called WethePeople and discovered that it went bankrupt. How is the SmartLegalForms Platform different?
WethePeople was a franchise system started in the mid-1990s, before the Internet took off. The franchise was expensive, and the franchisor prepared all of the documents at their central headquarters for their franchisees, but charged a 25% document preparation fee. Turnaround time was slow resulting in franchisee and customer dissatisfaction. with no online presence or ability to sell services online, WethePeople became a casualty of the Internet. Here is a blog post we wrote in 2010, explaining the failure of WethePeople.
SmartLegalForms is different because:
- It is not a franchise and you don’t have the high front-end and high continuing fees characteristic of a franchise. SmartLegalForms offers you a long-term, and renewable license.
- You have your own online presence that integrates with your Web Site enabling you to compete with online companies such as LegalZoom.
- You can integrate SmartLegalForms into an existing business operation or retail location that operates under your own brand;
- You generate legal documents locally within your store, or anywhere you have a computer connected to the Internet. This means that you can turnaround documents to your customers almost instantly, or within a few hours, or with a reasonable time frame.
- These advantages enable you to maintain a high profit margin and excellent customer service.
7. Who created the SmartLegalForms automated legal forms and platform?
SmartLegalForms was founded in 1998 to provide low cost legal solutions over the Internet to consumers and small business. All of our legal forms and documents are reviewed by lawyers who are members of the bar in the state where the legal document services are sold. SmartLegalForms also offers a Web Service to over 200 law firms through its DirectLaw Web Service platform, The SmartLegalForms platform is based on the DirectLaw platform, except that it is designed for non-lawyer operators. Read More About SmartLegalForms.
back to top
8. How much money can I make running a legal document preparation business?
We can’t project how much money you’ll make running a legal document preparation business as it is a function of how much you spend on marketing and the kind of customer service you provide. Plan to spend at least 12% of gross revenues on online marketing to achieve a reasonable return. If you have a retail office and you market off-line in your community, you may find that your overall business will be more profitable and sustainable. The most effective legal document preparation businesses are those that have both an online presence and a retail “storefront” presence. Using our legal document automation technology, your business can be highly profitable because the cost of producing the legal form or legal document is minimal — the forms are generated automatically by our software.
back to top
9. I am a lawyer. Can I purchase a Subscription (Exclusive or Non-Exclusive)?
If you are a lawyer, you can subscribe our DirectLaw Web Service and or the SmartLegalForms Web Service. The DirectLaw Service requires that you bundle legal advice with legal forms and is designed to sell legal services online. Law firms subscribers to the DirectLaw Service can’t sell legal forms or legal document preparation services, as these services would be subject to the ancillary business rules exposing the law firm to additional liability.
Instead, the law firm or lawyer, can set up a separate Web Site to sell just legal forms or legal document preparation services using the SmartLegalforms Web Service.
10. Why do customers need to register?
To help safeguard all confidential customer information, customers must register and login to enter the MyLegalAffairs™ safe and secure customer portal. When a customer registers, they also click to accept an Agreement indicating that they understand your service is not a law firm and that you can give no legal advice.
11. How do my customers register?
They click the Save/Purchase button within the Web browser where they are assembling a document. Then they are prompted to register. Registration requires a name, telephone number, e-mail address, and mailing address to create a private username and password.
12. How does a customer complete forms online?
There is an easy to follow 3-Step Process.
- Register and Choose a Service – The customer chooses a document and enters their information in the online questionnaire. The customer can work on a questionnaire without registering. When the customer is ready to save their answers, they are asked to Register. When the customer is ready to submit their document, they can submit payment for the service. The customer registers with their name and e-mail address. (This creates an account for the customer and enables the customer to save their answers in the online questionnaire.)
- The customer may continue to access their secure MyLegalAffairs™ Page every time they login.
- The customer may purchase documents when ready by submitting their questionnaire online to your legal document preparation staff.
- Legal Document Assistant Review – Your staff reviews the answers to the questionnaire and the completed documents to make sure every question is answered. Documents are returned to the customer through their MyLegalAffairs™ account, ready for signature and execution, or when appropriate, filing in court. Documents may also be mailed directly to the customer or delivered in-person via your storefront.
13.Documents are created with the help of our intelligent document automation technology, which asks the customer easy-to-answer questions that tailor themselves to the customer’s circumstances.
Each question is accompanied with explanatory help prompts designed to provide the customer with information needed to answer the question correctly. Each interactive template is created by our Document Automation Team with the review and input of a lawyer who is a member of the Bar of the state where the documents or legal forms are used. The information the customer enters is stored securely online, allowing the customer to access and complete the questionnaire.
back to top.
14. What happens when the customer’s document is reviewed and completed?
The customer will receive an e-mail that the document is complete. The e-mail will tell the customer that the completed document can be accessed/downloaded in the customer’s MyLegalAffairs™ page. The finished document can be also be delivered to the customer within your store, or mailed to the customer.
15. Safety and Security of the Web Site. Is your Web Site secure?
We utilize the same level of protection and security used by banks and required by our national insurance company clients. Through our secure, state-of-the-art hosting facilities, our clients receive the highest data protection commercially available. We provide an integrated system that allows authorized parties in and keeps everyone else out through using:
- Firewalls to prevent unauthorized access;
- SSL encryption to keep documents secure;
- U.S. government-standard 128-bit AES encryption;
- Site certificates to verify server identities;
- Secure IDs to verify user identity;
- Windows security to keep network logins locked up;
- Intrusion protection against login attempt and unauthorized transmissions; and off-site data storage.
16. Can I combine a legal document preparation business with other businesses such as a tax preparation business?
Of course. The most successful storefront operations combine a legal document preparation business with other related business such as notary services, business services, tax preparation services, postal services, etc.
17. How do I get paid?
1. Online sales are processed through our credit card processing system, which is ChasePaymentech, one of the largest in the world. We deduct 2.8% which is the same fee that Chase charges our company. We make no money for processing your credit card charges. We direct deposit into your operating account the net proceeds of all sales, less any refunds, on a bi-weekly basis for all sales made during the prior two week period.
2. In-Store sales are processed through your cash register within the store. You may have to pay sales tax on these sales depending on the state in which you are located. You use the “Kiosk” application, which is a separate interface to process sales within your store. You can create additional non-document services using this interface and still process all sales within your own local cash register and/or local, in-store credit card processing system. We do not support in-store credit processing systems as most stores will have their own system.
One of the positive characteristics of this business is that you have no inventory, no receivables, and no collection problems.
18. Can I open multiple offices?
A subscription is good for only one office. Each additional office requires an additional subscription of $299 per month. A subscription enables three (3) staff members to access the platform. Each additional staff member over three in a single office requires an additional $50 per month.
19. Are there any hidden costs or operating expenses?
No. There are no hidden costs, and if you have an existing storefront office, you can limit the operating expenses to the low-cost advertising suggested in our marketing support materials. If you want us to develop a front-end Web site for you but many legal document preparation services already have a Web site easily integrated into our platform. (See Web Site Development).
You total costs are $299.00 a month for a Non-Exclusive License to the SmrtLegalForms Platform, or $270.00 a month if you subscribe for a 12 month period.
The exclusive Subscription License requires an additional payment of $7,500.00 which includes a customized Web Site and training for you staff. ( A $3,000 value),