August 12, 2019: American Bar Association Adopts NYSBA-Advanced Resolution on Best Practice Guidelines for Online Legal Document Providers

The American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates today approved a resolution creating the ABA Best Practice Guidelines for Online Legal Document Providers and urges online legal document providers to adhere to these guidelines.

The resolution was proposed to the ABA by the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) and the New York County Lawyers Association (NYCLA), following months of discussion among a workgroup led by Ronald Minkoff and immediate past NYSBA president Michael Miller. The workgroup included 30 people representing 23 different ABA entities, bar groups, industry members, consumer groups, academics and others.  

“Online legal documents provide cost savings and convenience for individuals and small businesses of limited means, and thus play a valuable role in promoting access to justice,” said NYSBA President Hank Greenberg. “In adopting these best practice guidelines, the ABA has advanced the goals of improved access to justice, consumer protection, and support for innovative legal service delivery models.

“We are pleased that the American Bar Association supported this important resolution and urge all online legal document providers to follow these best practice guidelines,” Greenberg added.

Online legal document providers, or OLPs, have become a worldwide multi-billion-dollar industry that has helped millions of people gain access to the legal services they needed and could not otherwise afford. The documents provided can assist with wills, real estate transactions, litigation and more. 

However, there have been no established guidelines for OLPs to follow when they deliver their services to the public. For years, the legal profession was unsure how to address this issue until NYSBA and NYCLA took the lead. In 2017, NYCLA issued a report that concluded OLPs should be regulated by either the courts or the government. That report was later endorsed by NYSBA’s House of Delegates in November 2017. Following concerns from the ABA regarding regulating the industry, NYSBA, NYCLA and the ABA created the working group to create best practice guidelines.

The guidelines include the following:

  • OLPs should provide their customers with clear, plain language instructions as to how to complete their forms and the appropriate uses for each form. 
  • The forms that providers offer to their customers should be valid in the intended jurisdiction.
  • Providers should keep forms up-to-date and promptly account for material changes in the law.
  • OLPs should notify customers of the terms and conditions of their relationship and customers should have to consent, such as by clicking on an “accept” button, to those terms and conditions.
  • Providers should notify customers that the information they provide is not covered by attorney-client privilege or work product protection.

President Greenberg also spoke today at the ABA House of Delegates meeting in support of a resolution, subsequently adopted by the ABA, urging Congress and state, local, territorial, and tribal legislatures to enact legislation and appropriate adequate funding to ensure equal access to justice for Americans living in rural communities by assuring proper broadband access is provided throughout the United States.  

Greenberg said, “In the year 2019, broadband access should be a civil right. Internet access is an indispensable element to closing the justice gap in rural areas in New York and across the nation.”

NYSBA announced last month the creation of the Task Force on Rural Justice to examine the state of rural law practice in New York.

Click here to read the ABA’s resolution regarding OLPs, the guidelines and accompanying report.

About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, NYSBA has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.

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Contact: Christian Nolan 
cnolan@nysba.org
518-487-5536