Why using LegalZoom for your Game Dev needs can be a raw deal
One of the big issues in the legal field these days is the need for attorneys to differentiate ourselves from some of the other legal options that exist for consumers. Often, these alternatives are less expensive that the services that we provide as attorneys. I’d like to offer my opinion on the subject here in this post. I know that I, of course, have a vested interest in the outcome, but I hope you’ll listen to what I have to say.
Do you (or they) really know what you need?
LegalZoom is kind of a one-stop shop for all of a person’s basic legal needs. In the game development field, many of the services I provide can also be purchased from their site. In some ways, it’s easier; I make you sign a fee agreement and send it back, among other preliminary matters, while LegalZoom allows you to do everything with the click of a button.
However, one big advantage to having a real live attorney to talk with and ask questions is that you don’t always know what you need.
Forming a business entity? Well, you can read a bunch of posts on the Internet or on the LZ site(even on my blog), but that’s not always a substitute for a consultation with an attorney. The attorney can ask questions to draw out exactly what your goals and specific situation are and recommend the appropriate service for you to meet those needs.
Additionally, the attorney may have supplemental business and other advice gathered from working with other clients in a similar situation. They may be able to recommend better, faster ways to do things, legal or otherwise, that may be more cost effective.
Lastly, the attorney can often provide a “big picture” for the client; what legal services are needed right away and what can be expected down the line as success or failure happens.
Delivering value for your dollar:
While on the surface, it seems that you will be getting a big value by going with LegalZoom over a real-life attorney, that may not be the case. I can’t answer for other attorneys, as their fees and fee structures may vary wildly, but let’s look at something like a basic trademark registration.
LZ charges $169 and I charge $695.
Wow, what a difference, huh?
Well, LegalZoom’s fee doesn’t include the registration fee, which can be as much as $325. Mine does.
So now we’re at $494 for LZ and $695 for me. Where’s that other $201 going?
LZ only does an exact match trademark name search that only looks at active marks, only on the Federal trademark database. This, in my opinion, is not even the bare minimum that needs to be done. My fee, on the other hand, includes a search of the proposed name, sound-alikes, plurals and anything else that I can think of, within reason.
That more comprehensive search (known as a “knock-out” search) really is the bare minimum that you should do before moving forward with a registration. Just searching the exact match search runs a huge risk of missing tons of potential infringement and legal trouble down the line.
Not only that, but my fee includes a few calls, both a free consultation and one to discuss the results of the knock-out search. We can talk over any potential red flags and determine whether to make changes or move forward. None of this is included in the LZ service, as far as I know. You’re on your own.
Being on your own isn’t fun. That’s how people get into trouble, legally speaking. It takes experience to analyze potentially conflicting marks and come up with better solutions. Wouldn’t you rather spend your time creating games?
How can you afford this?
So, an attorney charges a bit more than LegalZoom. I won’t deny that. However, many attorneys are open to alternative fee arrangements. These can range from monthly payments to royalties or equity, depending on the particular circumstances of the project. Besides putting it on your credit card or taking out a loan, I don’t think LegalZoom allows the same options.
Whether you’re just starting out on your game development journey or a veteran in the industry, why not take advantage of a free consultation with a game lawyer? In the meantime, check out my free gamedev legal eBook here. It will run you through many of the big legal issues facing a game developer, whether you’re working on mobile, consoles or even board games.