How to Shop for Your Name Change Forms
1) Know Who You are Dealing With
The Name Change Law Center is operated by SmartLegalForms, Inc., a legal services company based in Baltimore, Maryland and Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. We have been in business since 1997 and have operated a network of smart legal form web sites during this entire period, serving tens of thousands of consumers. We also provide a service to law firms to enable them to offer online legal services and automated legal documents. SmartLegalForms is a private company that is owned and operated by attorneys.
The President and founder of SmartLegalForms is Richard S. Granat, who is also the Managing Partner of Granat Legal Services, one of the nation's first virtual law firms. Mr. Granat presently Co-Chair of the ELawyering Task Force of the Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association, which has developed standards and guidelines for legal information web sites. He also serves on the Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services of the ABA, and recently was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Bar Association for Innovation in the Delivery of Legal Services. Mr. Granat helped create the paralegal profession in the United States, and was the President of the Philadelphia Institute for Paralegal Training, the nation's first paralegal educational institution. Mr. Granat is a nationally known expert on name change law and lead the development team which created the legal forms available on this web site.
2) Know the Difference Between Self-Prepared Legal Forms and Legal Document Preparation Services. Here's the Truth:
Many legal form web sites obscure the difference between "legal forms" and "legal document preparation." When you purchase a "legal form", what you get is a blank legal form that hopefully includes detailed instructions on how to use it. Some sites, such as LegalZoom, offer what is called a "legal document preparation service", and often charge much more for the same legal form. However, you should be aware that a legal document preparation company (a non-law firm) CANNOT give legal advice of any kind. The only thing a paralegal or document preparer can do is make sure that you spelled your name right and that you answered all of the questions. We know from our experience that a trained paralegal can be very valuable. Unfortunately, in the United States, a paralegal or any non-lawyer for that matter, cannot provide legal advice of any kind. If they do, it is considered the unauthorized practice of law.
Therefore, your best value is to purchase legal forms only. Legal form preparation web sites that don't make this clear are misrepresenting what they offer because they are taking advantage of the average consumer's lack of knowledge. We know some consumers take comfort in knowing that a real person is involved in the review and preparation of the forms, but the reality is that a non-lawyer cannot change the forms in any way or give legal advice. Because there is demand for a paralegal document preparation service, we also offer this service, but at a lower price than any other provider on the Internet.
Our pricing is lower than comparable document preparation web sites because our Rapidocs document automation technology makes it easy for us to complete the forms quickly. We like earning these higher fees and they give us a higher profit margin, but we want you to know that it is in your best interest to purchase legal forms only. As a company we are not comfortable charging you a higher fee for a service that does not have much incremental value.
The value is in the accuracy of the forms, not in the so called "professional review" of a paralegal. However, if you like the comfort of communicating with a person, then be our guest.
3) Know the Difference between a Legal Forms Service and Services Provided by an Attorney.
It is not accurate when a web site claims that you can save thousands of dollars by not using an attorney. When you purchase services from an attorney, you get legal advice and law firm accountability. To compare these services in the same sentence is like comparing a horse to a cow - they are different animals. Moreover, the statement is a misrepresentation and violates the American Bar Association's standards for legal information web sites. We know from our experience that many people can represent themselves in a name change. On the other other, there are some situations where you will need legal advice and the assistance of attorney. For example, if you are trying to change the name of a child, and the other biological parent cannot be found.
4) Does the Company Comply with the American Bar Association Standards for Legal Information Web Sites?
The ABA Standard require that a web site publish certain kinds of critical information, such as the identity of the publisher, the source of the legal information, and when the legal information was last updated. We comply with the American Bar Association's "Best Practice Guidelines for Legal Information Web Sites." Look for this sign of compliance before your purchase services from any legal web site, whether it is a law firm site, or a legal forms web site.
5) Look For "Unbundled" Legal Services offered by an Attorney as an Alternative to DIY Legal Forms.
There is a new breed of lawyer who is interested in serving people for everyday legal problems at a rate they can afford. These attorneys offer what are called "Unbundled Legal Services" which are legal services bundled together with legal advice for a flat fee -- often a fee which is the same that you would pay from a legal forms company. Our company, through our DirectLaw division, has recruited a unique, nationwide network of attorneys who provide "unbundled" legal services online and at an affordable, fixed price. You can purchase legal advice from this network on a per call basis, or purchase your name change forms bundled with legal advice. You can search for an attorney in your state by clicking here.
6) Can I Try Before I Buy? Is My Purchase 100% Guaranteed?
Yes, we are so confident in the accuracy of our legal forms that we enable you to see what you are getting before you buy it. We also offer a 100% court approval guarantee.
If for any reason your forms are not accepted by the court in your state, we will give you a full refund. However, please understand that the legal documents offered from our family of web sites are intended to be prepared and filed within thirty (30) days. Changes in laws/guidelines can make older documents obsolete or unacceptable for courts. These types of changes can be adopted by courts at any time. As such, your prepared documents must be filed within thirty (30) days from the date of e-mail delivery. If for any reason your prepared forms are rejected, and you did not file your documents within this time frame, there will be no refunds.
We regularly track changes and update our forms accordingly to make sure that what we publish is the best it can be. Our legal forms must be accurate because lawyers also use them. In addition to tracking changes in the law, we take feedback from customers, lawyers, and court personnel very seriously.
7) What if Revisions are Needed?
In line with our thirty (30) day filing policy, revisions to documents can
only be made within thirty (30) days from the document e-mail delivery date.
If your court requires minor amendments to be made to your documents, we will do
this work at no charge.
Our guarantee is valid for thirty (30) days from the e-mail delivery date of your documents -- and longer if your action is still pending after this timeframe, provided you filed within the thirty (30) days.
8) Does the Site Provide Excellent Customer Service?
We never leave you hanging. Our superb customer service team will answer your questions with courtesy and respect within 24-48 hours. Our normal business hours are Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 pm EST. You can reach us by telephone, e-mail, or through our dedicated support web site. Please understand, however, that we cannot provide answers to questions that require legal advice.
9) How Secure is the Site? What are the Privacy Safeguards?
We do not store any of your credit card information. All credit card transactions are processed through a third-party secure gateway, and none of your financial information is kept or accessible by NameChangeLaw.com. We are a member of the Better Business Bureau, and our site is protected by the GeoTrust digital certificate. The Name Change Law Center is hosted at the same industrial strength hosting facility that we use for our law firm clients.
We will never sell or use your e-mail address for any other purpose, except to communicate with you about the service your purchased. We apply the same security and privacy standard to your account as we do for our law firm clients. No other name change legal form web site can make this claim, because no other legal form company in this market also works directly with law firms.
10) Some Extras You Should Look For in a Name Change Forms Web Site.
The Fastest Turnaround in the Industry. If you purchased self-prepared forms they are available immediately. There is no waiting period. If you purchase our legal document preparation service, we are also able to complete and deliver your forms within 24 hours. Our document automation technology gives us the ability to do this.
Free Document Storage. You can store copies of your documents in your secure and private MyLegalAffairs space as long as you wish for no additional charge.