Carolyn Elefant of My Shingle has an interesting post about the Illinois Bar Assocation's position on legal-document preparers: "If We Can't Beat Them, Let's Compete With Them!"
In Carolyn's view, rather than trying to shut down the legal-document preparers altogether, lawyers should try to "persuade clients that the value that attorneys can add to living wills and bankruptcy petitions and uncontested divorces justify the added cost." In her post, Carolyn offers some ways that lawyers could do a better job of competing with these services.
It's a very interesting post, but something bothers me. Carolyn admits that shoddy legal work performed by document-preparation services is a "significant problem." She also says that the FTC has fined We The People for "deceptive advertising practices." That's enough for me to say "shut 'em down." I've had clients in my own practice come to me with legal problems caused by document-preparation (and similar) services--in particular, one very large and costly one that couldn't be undone. Arbitration clauses and forum-selection clauses make some of these companies very hard to sue. It's often much harder than suing a lawyer. (My personal experience, by the way, did not involve We The People.)
In summary, Carolyn's argument is persuasive, but it didn't change my mind. If legal-document preparers are deceiving and misleading the public, which I think many of them are, it's reason enough for me to think that it's often a good thing when lawyers have a monopoly on legal services.