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LegalZoom.com, NC State Bar In Legal Fight

LegalZoom.com and the North Carolina State Bar are headed to court. LegalZoom, which provides online legal documents and subscription legal services, has filed a lawsuit against the state bar over its refusal to register the company in North Carolina, the News & Observer reports. The state bar contends LegalZoom's services amount to the unauthorized practice of law. LegalZoom disagrees and wants a judge to rule that it can sell legal forms and register to sell prepaid legal services, the N&O's Craig Jarvis reports. The dispute goes back to 2003. In 2008, the state bar sent LegalZoom a cease-and-desist letter. LegalZoom responded to the bar's claims. The state bar, Jarvis reports, did not respond and didn't take any action: The issue was still unresolved in July 2010, when LegalZoom attempted to register in North Carolina for a new service: offering prepaid legal plans for individuals and small businesses. The service costs as little as $15 a month, for which customers can obtain legal advice over the telephone and other simple services from an attorney in their state. The Bar declined to register the company, saying it appeared the company was still doing business in a manner that violated the 2008 cease-and-desist letter. LegalZoom replied that the law doesn't give the Bar discretion not to register applicants or render legal opinions about them. LegalZoom also contends the cease-and-desist letter carries no weight without a judge's order. LegalZoom's lawsuit contends that the 2008 cease-and-desist letter and the attention it received has hurt the company's business.