LegalZoom advertises itself as a cheaper alternative to an attorney. This causes a number of people to skip professional advice because they are lured by the lower costs and believe the document LegalZoom creates will be just as effective as one created by an attorney. Having heard about LegalZoom, I visited its website today.
At first glance, the LegalZoom site looked like it provided case-specific advice regarding immigration. If I was not an immigration attorney, I might have trusted that the site was providing me with accurate and current information. But after reviewing LegalZoom’s website copy, I noticed obvious mistakes.
Immigration laws change
Immigration laws are not static. They constantly change because of new case law and statutes. This makes immigration law very complex. And lawyers keep up with these changes to best advise their clients. LegalZoom does not ask the right questions, and can cause unneeded delays and expenses.
The first mistake I noticed concerned LegalZoom’s process to lead an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen to file separately the I-130 and I-485. This at least cost the people more money and takes more time. But if the child were about to turn 21 the results could be devastating.
The instructions also provide incorrect information on when and where to complete the affidavit of support. LegalZoom does not appear to have the capability to prepare the affidavit of support, a required document.
Details matter in immigration
Now you may think that I am blowing these little mistakes out of proportion. The system allows you to complete the forms online so what is the big deal if wait a little longer or pay a few dollars more to immigration? First it is your time and money, and you are paying to have it done right.
But if LegalZoom is not accurate about these two issues, what else has it missed? How can anyone who uses LegalZoom trust that the legal document he or she creates will do what it is supposed to do?
LegalZoom does not provide legal advice
LegalZoom does not purport to give legal advice. In fact, LegalZoom specifically states that in its disclaimer. “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”
Do-it-yourself immigration is risky
The problem is that the documents LegalZoom creates could be completely ineffective or worse hurt you and your family members.
People who use LegalZoom and other do-it-yourself immigration kits end up with a false sense of security. They create documents they believe will address their immigration needs. But with immigration forms, they are unlikely to discover their mistakes until it is too late.
Why? Because the mistakes will not become evident until after they are before an immigration officer or have received a denial. And the people left to deal with the mistakes are usually the people you were trying to protect.
You and you’re loved-ones deserve the advice of a lawyer who considers the facts of your particular situation. You deserve legal advice that is correct, complete and up-to-date. LegalZoom by its own admission does not provide that.
The bottom line
The money you save now could be spent many times over after you file to address legal issues about which you were not even aware.
Attorneys don’t simply fill in forms. Rather, we use the knowledge we have acquired during our many years of schooling and practice to advise you on the best way to protect your family, and reside legally in the United States.
You’re loved-ones are worth it. Wouldn’t you agree?