No matter how much people like to do things themselves, there are always going to be some things that are better left to the professionals. Medical diagnosis and legal counsel both top the list – partaking in either of those activities without proper credentials can carry some pretty stiff penalties.
We the People, a store that offers “legal self-help,” apparently hasn’t learned that fact yet. It’s a simple enough business model; self-help has proven immensely profitable in everything from psychology to home repair. People who need simple legal work performed for them might like to do it themselves also. Apparently this includes people in Tampa, where We the People will be opening a store next month.
The first problem with We the People’s business idea is that it could very easily be shown to be illegal. In fact, We the People has had legal action taken against it by the Federal Trade Commission, the Florida State Bar, the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Justice and many others in the past few years. The second problem with a legal self-help business is that legal counsel isn’t something non-professionals should be doing themselves.
According to the Tampa Tribune, the We the People franchise in Tampa, which will be located on North Dale Mabry highway, “Will serve people with very basic legal needs and will tell anyone with legal questions to seek the advice of a lawyer.” Even this could essentially be illegal, however. Lori Holcomb of the Florida State Bar association told the Tribune that the company is actually prohibited from being anything more than a typing service. If the company gives any legal advice at all to customers – including such basic questions as what forms to choose – it constitutes practicing law without a license.
This bad idea will go away on its own – We the People faces legal trouble not just regarding its product, but also its failure to tell investors about legal action taken against it – but that might take time. In the interim, customers might face a great deal of trouble.
Lawyers and officials from Bar Associations warn that such services do not save money, and often cost more money than legitimate legal aid because the legal paperwork has to be fixed by professionals. Inheritors of estates find themselves in expensive messes due to the fact that the wills of their loved ones are not in proper order. Lawsuits fail because of avoidable technicalities.
We the People is not only a company in trouble, it’s a business without a viable product. The shoddy service it does offer is dangerous and bordering on illegal at worst; at best, We the People could leave you, the people, with more problems than you had in the first place.