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RALEIGH, N.C., June 4, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Frustrated by the North Carolina State Bar's continued efforts to limit competition and restrict North Carolinians' access to affordable legal help, LegalZoom has sued the State Bar for violating the Federal Sherman Antitrust Act. In its lawsuit, filed on June 3rd, LegalZoom recounts the State Bar's long history of anticompetitive conduct and seeks recovery of over $10,500,000 in damages. It also seeks a court order forcing the State Bar to register LegalZoom's prepaid legal services plans so that those plans may be sold in North Carolina.
"The North Carolina State Bar continues to engage in unauthorized and anticompetitive conduct that seeks to enrich its members – lawyers in private practice in North Carolina – at the expense of North Carolinians," said Ken Friedman, Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs for LegalZoom. "This isn't the first time a North Carolina state board has been sued for engaging in anticompetitive, monopolistic behavior. Just this year, the United States Supreme Court held that the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners was prohibited in engaging in behavior modeled after the North Carolina State Bar. The era of state agencies illegally stifling competition in North Carolina needs to end," added Friedman.
The lawsuit alleges that the State Bar has prevented LegalZoom from selling its two prepaid legal services plans to North Carolina customers by refusing to "register" the plans in the state. Registration is a simple, ministerial task. The North Carolina Legislature took away the State Bar's power to regulate legal services plans in 1991, but the State Bar continues to exclude plans from sale in North Carolina by refusing to "accept" plans unless they satisfy the State Bar's manufactured criteria. The State Bar claims that LegalZoom's plans do not meet these arbitrary criteria, even though the Bar quickly registered other, similar prepaid legal services plans without objection.
This lawsuit follows multiple attempts by the North Carolina State Bar to undermine LegalZoom's operations in the State of North Carolina, including previous efforts to suppress LegalZoom's sale of its legal document services. "LegalZoom's goal is to ensure that everyone has access to the benefits and protection of the law," said Friedman. "It's a shame that, yet again, we are forced to ask a court to stop the North Carolina State Bar from trying to prevent the sale of services that would benefit North Carolinians, and would expand their access to affordable legal help. It is particularly frustrating that the State Bar is excluding LegalZoom's prepaid legal services plans from registration and sale in North Carolina, because the plans would provide customers with efficient and affordable access to legal advice from licensed North Carolina lawyers."
LegalZoom's plans are available in 42 states, with several more set to launch this year, and LegalZoom customers have scheduled over 200,000 legal plan attorney consultations. The rest of LegalZoom's business continues to operate in all 50 states, including the State of North Carolina.
LegalZoom is the nation's leading provider of quality online legal solutions for families and small businesses. Founded 14 years ago by attorneys with experience at some of the top law firms in the country, LegalZoom has helped over two million Americans become protected with binding legal documents. Although LegalZoom is not a law firm, it can help people access an attorney through its legal plans. The company has offices in Austin, TX, Glendale, CA, Mountain View, CA, and Melton Mowbray, UK. For more information, visit www.legalzoom.com.
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