What is NOLO?


The Internet can provide a huge wealth of information to those who know where to look. One of the most popular things to search for online is legal advice, and there are hundreds of websites trying to tell you what to do in various legal situations.

Amidst an overabundance of services for specific legal situations or lawyers, Nolo is different.

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Image source: NOLO

What is Nolo? Nolo is a publishing company that specializes in legal content. Rather than try to tell you what to do or who to hire, Nolo’s goal is to provide you with the DIY tools you need to take matters into your own hands. The website wants to lessen the need to use lawyers for simple legal issues, saving you valuable time and money.

Of course, no online service can compare to a consultation with a lawyer, and lawyers should be involved in any complicated legal decisions. However, for less convoluted matters, the website Nolo (Nolo.com) wants to empower you to make sensible legal decisions on your own.

With this Nolo review, we aim to demonstrate the way that Nolo can help you by providing you with a comprehensive and balanced guide to its services. By examining the core principles of the business; evaluating the books, software, and services offered; and summarizing additional Nolo reviews, we hope to give you a complete understanding of the website and the ways that it can help you save time and money.

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“Nolo Contendere” – Law for All

One of the first questions you might ask yourself when learning about Nolo is, “What does Nolo mean?” The name of the company comes from the legal phrase nolo contendere, which translates to “no contest” or “I choose not to dispute”/“It will not be disputed” in Latin.

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Image source: Big Stock

It refers to the idea that by using the website’s materials and services, you can say nolo or nolo contendere to lawyers, since you are resolving the matter yourself. Lawyers were not pleased when the company ran the tagline, “Don’t feed the lawyers. Just say Nolo,” alongside its old company mascot, a shark wearing a tie and carrying a briefcase.

The current motto, “Law for All,” and the logo of judge’s scales tipped in the favor of the user are less comical variations on the same theme: putting legal power into the hands of the people, not just those specifically trained in law.



A Brief History of Nolo

Now that we’ve addressed the questions – what is Nolo and what does Nolo mean? – we can continue with a quick look at Nolo’s history.

Nolo was founded in 1971 in the unlikeliest of places: an attic. The founder, Ralph Warner, was frustrated when he could not find a publisher for his book, How to Do Your Own Divorce in California.

Warner, armed with a law degree from the University of California – Berkeley, had a vision of helping people resolve their own legal disputes without needing lawyers. In 1980, the company published its first DIY legal software for wills. For the past forty years, it has been expanding its legal products and updating its technology to remain a relevant leader in the online legal services market.

In 2011, Nolo.com was sold to Internet Brands, a media company. The site was then combined with a number of other legal services websites to create the Nolo Network, one of the largest online libraries for free legal advice.

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What Can Nolo Do For Me?

If you have been searching for Nolo.com reviews, then it is likely that you are looking for some kind of legal guidance. Nolo provides a number of different services that can be tailored to fit your budget and circumstances.

Nolo’s primary services are its books and software products. There are thousands of these DIY legal forms, books, eBooks, software, and online documents available for purchase. The website also has a database of free legal information.

Although the purpose of the site is to allow you to solve legal matters without the assistance of a lawyer, Nolo recognizes that some disputes are too complex to solve without professional assistance. Thus, in 2006, it created a lawyer directory to assist those in  search of a lawyer.

Nolo provides these three services (legal products, information, and the directory) in the hopes of allowing consumers to educate themselves and make smart legal decisions. Let’s explore the specifics of the services available.



Legal Products

Ever since Warner published his first book, Nolo has been committed to distributing high-quality legal materials for the layperson. Over the years, this endeavor has expanded to include thousands of books, eBooks, legal forms and documents, and software products.

On the site’s products page, there are thirty-two different legal categories, ranging from A to Z (more specifically, from Accidents & Injuries to Wills & Trusts). Nolo highlights its bestsellers, which include:

  • Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits
  • Legal Guide for Starting and Running a Small Business
  • Nolo’s Essential Guide to Divorce
  • Every Landlord’s Tax Deduction Guide
  • How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
  • Plan Your Estate

Clearly, the products cover a wide range of legal matters, ranging from benign to serious. Books are available in print and eBook form, and software can be downloaded directly or installed with a CD.

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Top Seller: Quicken WillMaker Plus 2016

The #1 bestselling product at the company is the Quicken WillMaker Plus 2016. As the most popular product, we will do a thorough Nolo WillMaker review.

The WillMaker Plus software allows you to create an estate plan with all of the necessary legal documents, including a will, health care directive, durable power of attorney, executor documents, final arrangements, and more.

Its interview format allows you to complete documents easily and at your own pace while an included legal manual can address any questions you might have. With the new version and regular updates, you can be sure that the software is up to modern standards. For example, a new update for 2016 includes a section on Digital Legacy. In addition, the download includes a free year’s subscription to the Nolo’s Online Living Trust Form, a $59.99 value.

How does the WillMaker software stack up in comparison to other options? According to LegalZoom.com, writing a will with the help of a lawyer can cost anywhere from $150–$600, with an average of $375. If there are any complications or revisions needed, you can be billed at an hourly rate for additional services. When you factor in the costs of other estate planning documents, the total fees can rise to $1,000–$1,500.

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Image source: NOLO

These high price tags are the driving force behind DIY legal aids like Nolo’s products. At a cost of $54.99, the Nolo WillMaker software is an inexpensive alternative to costly lawyer fees.

It seems to be reputable as well: TopTenReviews.com ranked it as the best Will Software of 2016. Two individuals at TrustPilot.com also specifically recommend the WillMaker in their Nolo reviews, commending its ease of use and comprehensive selection of documents.

However, this Nolo WillMaker review must be balanced, so we must mention that the software is not without some flaws. Since it is only offered as a download, the materials cannot be accessed online or with a mobile device. The company does not offer email or phone support (only social media), and the documents created are not valid in Louisiana, the US territories or Canada.

The largest disadvantage of WillMaker is that it is only supported for PCs, not Macs. There is an Online Will form available for Mac users (for $34.99), but there is no comprehensive estate planning available for any of the other forms.

If Mac users want access to all of the same forms included in the WillMaker software, they will have to spend much more. Just the Online Will and the Online Living Trust add up to $94.98, and that is excluding the 30+ other forms that the WillMaker program includes.

While PCs still have a larger market share, the increase in Apple’s quarterly growth in 2015 indicates that Nolo may alienate quite a few potential customers with its PC-only software and increased costs for Mac users.



The Nolo Review Continued: Free Legal Information

Beyond the products you can purchase, Nolo also offers a substantial collection of free legal information. The information falls under a few different categories: Articles & FAQs, Legal Updates, Calculators, Blogs, Dictionary, and Research. The company asserts that all information is up to date and accurate.

The Articles & FAQs section is divided into similar categories as the Products section mentioned above. Under each category, you can find dozens of articles pertaining to various legal situations.

As an example of the breadth of the information available, imagine you are looking for Medical Malpractice information. You first find the topic under “Accidents, Injuries, and Personal Injury Law.” Next, you are taken to a page with over thirty articles about various aspects of Medical Malpractice, including Q&A, links to blogs, state-by-state information, and a search option for local lawyers (more on that later).

The Legal Updates section details when major legal changes affect Nolo products. While these seem helpful, it is not clear how integrated they are with the rest of the website’s information.

The Calculators section provides a number of tools regarding decisions that intersect between the financial and legal sectors. The topics include Home Financing, Personal Financing, Investment, Retirement, and Leasing.

The Nolo Blog covers the most recent legal news. While the Legal Updates section only covers large, federal, legal matters, the blog seems to be updated regularly and includes all different kinds of legal news. Finally, the Legal Dictionary and Legal Research guide both aim to equip you for your journey into the world of law.

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When All Else Fails: Find a Lawyer

As we’ve mentioned before in our Nolo.com review, the information provided by Nolo does not replace legal advice or a consultation with a lawyer.

For legal matters that are not straightforward, getting in contact with a lawyer is your best option. An article in Forbes Personal Finance gives multiple reasons for contacting a lawyer, including criminal charges and complicated divorce proceedings. Once you have decided to contact a lawyer, Nolo wants to help you find the right one.

When you use Nolo’s Lawyer Directory, you are first prompted to choose the practice area you require, your state, and zip code. Depending on the area you chose, you may be asked some specific questions and offered the opportunity to get a free case evaluation.

To assist in your search, Nolo also publishes articles about hiring a lawyer. Having all of this information in one site is quite convenient when you are exploring new legal territory.

Another reason you might want to use a lawyer (in addition to Nolo’s services) is to review and finalize any documents you create with the site’s products. A local lawyer can make sure that all documents are compliant for where you live and the specifics of your personal situation. Since Nolo does not offer much customer support, some consultation with a lawyer could be invaluable.

An article in the New York Times from 2010 had a lawyer review multiple will-making programs, and Nolo’s WillMaker came out on top. However, she did note that while it seems sufficient for straightforward wills, consulting a lawyer would ensure that everything is completed properly.


Nolo Reviews and Customer Feedback

While there has been a brief mention of user feedback earlier in the article, we will now address more customer feedback from other Nolo.com reviews. During the research for this article, it was noticeable that Nolo reviews were written by two different kinds of users: laypeople and legal professionals.

Thus, it is worth taking into consideration the fact that some reviews and ratings are from lawyers who are using Nolo to try to get clients and not exclusively from people using the legal services.

On TrustPilot.com, Nolo has an average rating of 7.7/10 from 40 reviews. 75% of the ratings are a full five stars. Reviewers praise the ease of the products along with their comprehensive coverage. A few negative reviews comment on software glitches and difficulties with customer service.

Nolo is also accredited by the Better Business Bureau with a rating of A+ (the highest possible). This rating means that Nolo has demonstrated a commitment to solving customer complaints.

The only serious complaints in Nolo.com reviews come from lawyers who paid to have their business listed on the website. They complain that they pay a large fee and rarely get any good leads for cases since many people are looking for free or inexpensive legal advice. Of course, this is not relevant for people who are looking for legal services.



Is Using Nolo Right for Me?

Resolving legal matters and finding quality legal advice can be tricky, but we hope that this guide has helped you discover a potential new tool for you to use when it comes to legal decision-making.

As we have explained above, Nolo offers a wide range of services for people looking for legal information. Whether you are searching for free legal information, DIY products or a lawyer, Nolo can assist you as you navigate murky legal waters.

The main drawback of Nolo we have noticed is that some of its products are not Mac-compatible. It is worth reading the fine print on all products because some are not valid in certain states. It is also probably worthwhile to consult with a lawyer upon completing certain documents with Nolo products.

If the services offered are relevant to your legal needs, then Nolo can serve as an excellent resource to save you time and money. After reading this Nolo review, we hope that you have learned not only the answers to the questions, “What is Nolo?" and “What does Nolo mean?” but also how Nolo can help you prepare to make smart legal decisions.



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