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Excellent Self-help Legal Resources

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  #1  
Old 04-22-2001, 10:54 PM
DesElms DesElms is offline
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I've been poking around this area quite a bit this afternoon and in most of the threads I keep reading questions from persons whom I think could be helped by what I'm about to write. And since this is the section of this forum where legal information is discussed, this seemed like the right place to put it.

Not too awfully long ago I was the MIS Manager of Nolo Press (www.nolo.com) -- the world's oldest and largest provider of self-help legal information, forms, books and software. Having worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the folks who create the authoritative legal content for Nolo's web site and who write and/or edit its books, and knowing the quality of their work, I can tell you that, based on some of the questions I've seen asked in various places around this forum, Nolo would be an excellent general legal resource for many of you.

This is not a SPAM. I'm a *former* employee of Nolo, with absolutely no financial interest. (Heck, I didn't even exercise my stock options while I was there!)

I'm just trying to point folks around here toward what I personally know to be up-to-date, accurate and reliable self-help legal resources that I think some of you might find useful.

In no particular order, here are some links I figure might interest a few of you:

Nolo's Internet Law Center
http://www.nolo.com/category/ilaw_home.html

Nolo's Small Business Law Center
http://www.nolo.com/category/sb_home.html

Nolo's Employment Law Center
http://www.nolo.com/category/emp_home.html

Nolo's Trademark & Copyright Law Center
http://www.nolo.com/category/tc_home.html

Nolo's Independent Contractor Law Center
http://www.nolo.com/category/ic_home.html

Nolo's Lawsuits & Mediation Law Center
http://www.nolo.com/category/cm_home.html

Nolo's Taxes & Audits Law Center
http://www.nolo.com/category/tax_home.html

Nolo's Debts & Bankruptcy Law Center
http://www.nolo.com/category/dc_home.html

Nolo's Online Legal Encyclopedia
http://www.nolo.com/encyclopedia/

Nolo's Online Legal Dictionary
http://www.nolo.com/dictionary/wordindex.cfm

Nolo's Statutes & Cases (Research) Area
http://www.nolo.com/research/index.html

And, if you pay attention to the links scattered around the site, you should easily be able to see where you can download all sort of books, forms and software, too -- including a nice little piece of Windows software (and its companion book) that will help take the mystery out of forming an LLC. (I noticed several forum areas asking about LLC's, so I figure that might be a good one for a few of you to take a look at.)

Just tryin' to be helpful.


Gregg L. DesElms



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  #2  
Old 04-22-2001, 11:46 PM
SI-Chris SI-Chris is offline
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That's great information... thanks for posting it!

  #3  
Old 04-23-2001, 09:28 AM
Jaiem Jaiem is offline
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OTOH, there is the saying "He who represents himself has a fool for a client."

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  #4  
Old 04-23-2001, 09:57 AM
projo projo is offline
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And he that plays the game without knowing the rules?
Hi

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  #5  
Old 04-23-2001, 04:47 PM
DesElms DesElms is offline
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I don't want to appear defensive, here -- especially since I'm not even an employee of Nolo anymore. But you've stumbled onto one of Nolo's big sensitive areas. And I confess that, employee or not, I share some of Nolo's viewpoints regarding the law and the rights of individuals to become expert in areas of it that are important to them and then, knowing the risks, to do their own legal work so long as it is terribly routine and uncomplicated and they are able to do it right.

So I want to at least clarify this point:

Nolo's self-help resources are aimed primarily at two audiences:

1. Those who need to create legal documents that are so standard or boilerplate that it would be a waste of money to have an attorney do it when a person who just took the time to read-up on the issues and/or answer a bunch of questions in a piece of software could create said document himself or herself.

2. Those who fully intend to hire an attorney, but who would like to know a little something about the law before engaging one.

Every syllable of Nolo's content is written and edited by licensed attorneys. Nolo categorically agrees with the "fool for a client" thing in many cases, and is usually the very first to recommend that one hire an attorney if truly needed -- or even if there is any doubt!

They write, on their site: "To help people handle their own everyday legal matters -- or learn enough about them to make working with a lawyer a more satisfying experience -- we publish reliable, plain-English books, software, forms and this website."

That having been said, I confess it is true that Jake (Nolo's owner and an attorney himself who was, when he started Nolo 30 years ago, a ponytailed Berkeley radical railing against the system) definitely feels that our legal system suffers from a bit of tyranny at the hands of the attorney establishment. On Nolo's site, and with Jake's wholehearted approval, are the words: "Everybody knows that lawyers charge too much and explain too little about what they're doing. What many people don't know (although they may suspect it) is that in many instances, lawyers are simply unnecessary. We believe the legal system is in serious need of repairs to make it simpler, fairer and more accessible to ordinary people, and we're working toward those ends. But as long as the system is more attuned to the lawyers than the public, Nolo will keep guiding people through it. "

BOTTOM LINE: While Nolo's books, software, articles and forms may, be reasonably relied upon (perhaps even solely) for many routine legal matters, it is defintely best and safest to use them only as guidance and as a source of basic background knowledge to help you prepare for a more efficient and rewarding encounter with an attorney. I know the authors and editors at Nolo, and I think, to a person, they would agree that you need to go with what's most comfortable for you and will accomplish your goals cost-effectively and in a manner that will do no harm. When it comes to matters of law, an educated consumer is a smart consumer -- and maybe even one who could produce his or her own routine legal document if he or she really does the research and is very careful. But to play it safe, one definitely should, after reading-up on things first, see a good lawyer when it really gets down to the meat of things.

The links I gave earlier simply help people learn where they may obtain both free and for-sale resources so they can do some of that reading.


Gregg DesElms

  #6  
Old 08-31-2001, 05:39 PM
chintz chintz is offline
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DesElms (Gregg)

If you are still around...

Do you have any insight as to what the status was on NOLO's books being banned in Texas because they were "practicing law without a license"?

Ludicrous, I know, but there you have the Texas Judiciary system in a nutshell.... Good ol'e boy nepotisim.

I have been a fan of NOLO Press since the late 70's (?)

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  #7  
Old 08-31-2001, 07:38 PM
DesElms DesElms is offline
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Nolo vs Texas

chintz,

Nolo effectively won that case in September of 1999 when the Texas Supreme Court's Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee sent Nolo a letter stating it was dropping its case:

Cause No. 99-03252

Nolo Press/Folk Law, Inc. et al,

v.

the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee;
in the 201st District Court of Travis County, Texas

The case was dropped after Texas passed H(ouse) B(ill) 1507 in the Spring of that year, and it was signed into law in June 1999. HB 1507 specifically excluded self-help legal products such as those which Nolo produces from being consider the "unauthorized practice of law" in the State of Texas. HB 1507 was obviously passed because of the very existence of the litigation and the bad press it was getting in your state.

Of course, in the face of that new law, the Committee realized it no longer had a case, hence its deciding to drop same.

However, if you read all of the various pieces of information regarding the case -- actual filings, articles, and letters of support from various parties around the country -- it's pretty clear that, even if HB 1507 had not been passed, Nolo would almost certainly have won anyway had the case ever had the chance to completely play itself out.

Nolo celebrated its victory, of course. Nolo's marketing slogan (on mugs, t-shirts, etc.) has always been "Law for All!" One of the posters Nolo created after the case was settled included a revised version of its slogan, "Law for All... Even in Texas!" I had the poster on the wall in my office when I was there.

Personally, I just shook my head when Texas decided to pursue the matter. It was just ludicrous! "Only in Texas..." I muttered to myself.

Read more about Nolo's well-deserved victory over Texas's Supreme Court's Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee, as well as see the impressive list of persons and organizations that stepped forward in support of Nolo, at:

http://www.nolo.com/texas

Hope that answers your question.


Gregg L. DesElms

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