New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says his office has obtained a temporary restraining order that effectively suspends operations of Legal Docs By Me offices in Watertown and Syracuse. Schneiderman says the company was "regularly engaged in the unauthorized practice of law."
Legal Docs By Me CEO Derek Distenfield says his company is a low cost option that helps customers fill out standard legal forms. Distenfield says document preparers only fill out forms with information provided by the customers and the customer signs the form when it is complete.
Schneiderman says the temporary restraining order was granted on Wednesday by Supreme Court Justice James McClusky in Jefferson County but Distenfield said Thursday afternoon that he has not seen a copy and that he has not been served with any paperwork. Distenfield said that the offices remain open for the time being and his staff are focused on serving existing customers.
The Attorney General's office is specifically accusing Legal Docs By Me of giving legal advice to a client going through a divorce, failing to serve legal papers and offering to "draw up" buy-sell agreements and deeds. Distenfield has maintained that his document preparers only fill out standard forms and that they refer customers to attorneys if their needs are to complicated. Legal Docs By Me has compared itself to the online legal document preparation company Legalzoom but with brick and mortar office space.
A hearing on the case is scheduled for July 15th in Watertown.