The Legal Docs By Me offices in Watertown and Syracuse have a simple slogan - "no lawyers, save money." CEO Derek Distenfield says his company helps customers fill out standard downloaded legal forms for New York State. Filing for divorce or incorporating as an LLC costs just $399 at Legal Docs By Me.
"Legal Docs By Me helps you represent your self. We prepare the forms based on the information customers provide," said Distenfield in an interview Wednesday night.
The New York State Attorney Generalissued a cease and desist order to Legal Docs By Me this week. In a media release, he accused them of illegally practicing law. Since then both the Watertown office and an office on North Salina Street in Syracuse have stayed open and seeing customers.
"The cease and desist order, according to our counsel, states that you should stop the unlicensed practice of law which is nothing we have ever started. We are not attorneys, we do not give advice," said Distenfield.
Deanna Nelson from the Attorney General's office says an ongoing investigation has led them to believe Legal Docs By Me has been doing more than just preparing documents.
"The consequences of practicing law without knowing what you are doing can really harm consumers so this was something we felt merited some intervention," said Nelson.
Distenfield says document preparers for Legal Docs By Me do not sign any legal paperwork and only customers do that. Distenfield noted that the templates he uses can only handle simple matters such as uncontested divorces.
"We refer people to attorneys every day. we do not prepare difficult documents, that is just not something we can do. We do not litigate on someone's behalf," said Distenfield.
The attorney general wants access to business records from Legal Docs By Me. The two sides are scheduled to be in State Supreme court on June 5th for a hearing on the issue.