By Doug Isenberg
If you could pay several hundred dollars (or even less) for something that often costs thousands of dollars, should you do so? The answer, of course, is, “it depends.” It depends on whether the items are truly comparable — or, is one merely a cheaper imitation of the other?
This is true not only when shopping for consumer goods and services, but also for legal services — even (and, perhaps, especially) in the area of domain name disputes, including the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).
Domain Name Wire, a popular blog for domainers, recently wrote about a $499 service from a company called Domain Skate. The service — on sale “for a limited time” for only $399 — is advertised as a “proprietary web application to prepare and file your own UDRP complaint, quickly and hassle-free.”
While the service may sound appealing, Domain Name Wire issued this caution: “The ideal customer for DomainSkate is someone who hasn’t filed a UDRP before. Which is exactly the type of company that needs a lawyer, since they’re less likely to understand the requirements of winning a case.”
True, many services that once required a lawyer are now being offered by companies online via automated processes. As a law professor just pointed out in The Wall Street Journal, companies such as LegalZoom and RocketLawyer represent “the most significant recent dislocation in the practice of law.”
Some legal services — like drafting incorporation documents or a basic will — may be well-suited to computer-generated documents. But the UDRP is an arbitration process with plenty of nuances.
While a form UDRP filing may work some of the time, it’s also possible to create more problems than it solves. In previous UDRP cases apparently involving form documents, panels have criticized “the apparent carelessness” of the parties; called a complaint “poorly drafted and difficult to read“; and ruled against a party on a critical issue after it ignored “a second opportunity” to respond to an order.
Although many UDRP cases raise similar issues, the facts of every case obviously are different. Plus, many issues can arise after a complaint has been filed — issues that no form generator can address. For example, a change in the registrant’s identity post-filing may require an amendment, with additional research on the newly identified entity. A request to change the language of the proceeding may require an interpretation of the relevant precedent. A response of any kind may raise the possibility of a supplemental filing, based on the issues set forth in the response. An offer to settle must be evaluated on numerous factors. And the list goes on.
Only a human being — ideally, one with significant relevant experience — can make the judgments necessary to handle all of these issues.
When shopping for domain name legal services, like anything else, let the buyer beware.