LegalZoom provides a way for consumers and small businesses to take care of their legal needs. The company, founded in 2001, says more than 2 million customers have created their own legal documents online.
LegalZoom customers can start a business like an LLC or corporation, or create personalized living trusts, powers of attorney, wills and divorce papers via the LegalZoom website and also have access to a network of independent attorneys.
The Glendale, Calif.-based company, which employs more than 600 people, delayed plans last August for an IPO expected to raise as much as $96 million. The company is also testing international waters: Last fall LegalZoom announced a deal with QualitySolicitors, a network of independent U.K. law firms.
The quick bio
Before arriving at one of the nation's leading companies for online DIY legal services in 2003, Charles "Chas" Rampenthal, 45, had a full résumé. By the age of 21, the Santa Ana, Calif., native who grew up in St. Louis says he had become the youngest winged naval aviator in the nation. After a tour flying the P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft, he finished his undergraduate degree in economics and math studies at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 1994. He earned a Navy Achievement Medal for combat flight operations during the first Iraq war.
After graduating from University of Southern California School of Law in 1998, he began his legal career at the now-defunct Thelen as an associate in construction and corporate litigation. In 2000, he joined the now-defunct Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault in Boston as a corporate law associate specializing in private companies, M&A, private equity and public company compliance. In 2002, he left to form his own firm dedicated to serving small companies and then joined LegalZoom a year later as general counsel, adding the title of corporate secretary in 2007.
From 2007 to 2009, Rampenthal served as the host of "Legally Bound," a weekly legal call-in advice talk show on two Los Angeles radio stations.
Rampenthal's job at LegalZoom indicates a thorough comfort with consumers having the upper hand in the legal process, though he's watched much of the legal profession express dismay at this reversal.
"My father started a small construction business, and he used the lawyer in town who wasn't necessarily a small-business expert, but it was all he knewand what he could afford. For the average family in the U.S., which has about $50,000 in disposable income, it's tough to afford even a few hours of a lawyer's time," says Rampenthal.
On the profession and its view of LegalZoom, he is pragmatic. "There are always people who are going to be haters. You saw it in the travel, car sales and tax prep industries. People who are complacent don't like to see change, but consumers continue to push to do business virtually. That's going to be the case with the law as well. Lawyers who realize this and adapt are going to be ahead of the curve."
He heard about the LegalZoom opening through an ad. "The company was initially looking for a part-time GC. This was mid-2003, so a lot of the fly-by-night Internet companies had already disappeared," says Rampenthal.