'Legal Zoom Plus' Attorney's business plan reflects clients' frugality

By Tom Gantert

Legal News

While many in the field of law are adapting to the new technologies, Jackson Attorney Anthony Donoho is building his practice around it.

With an education and background focused on technology, Donoho said he'd like to concentrate his new practice on what he calls "smart law", which he described as anything to do with the Internet and new technologies.

He said 90 percent of people don't know what "smart law" is, and envisions some clients who would have trademark or copyright infringement concerns.

Donoho, 51, a 2012 graduate of Cooley Law School, is creating a website (www.nerd@ law.com) which, when fully operational, will allow potential clients to request assistance through Skype or email.

For instance, the client could request information and documents online. Donoho would answer, do research if necessary and make the information available through a secure website.

"It's kind of like Legal Zoom-plus," Donoho said. "We go a step further and question them what their vision is for the end product. We just don't leave them hanging out in the wind and deciding on their own if they are picking the right product."

"Our business model provides a client legal documents customized for their particular legal needs, along with a very descriptive guide to assist them in taking the documents through the legal system," Donoho said. "We charge a flat one-time fee for the service, but we are there to provide greater hand-holding at a traditional hourly rate should the client so desire. We are a full-service law firm, but market to the lower income clients who are not likely to be able to afford the traditional fee schedule found at most law firms."

Eventually, Donoho expects that two out of every three clients will contact him through the Internet while the other clients will come via word of mouth.

Since he started in June of 2012, Donoho said he's gotten several clients through friends and family and has done work ranging from divorces to work for collection agencies.

Even early in life, Donoho had a knack for using his lawyer skills.

After he graduated from Vandercook Lake High School in Jackson, Donoho joined the Air Force.

He said that when he and some of his fellow service men were subjected to an inspection, they were forced to open their private, locked lockers. Illegal contraband was discovered and they were jailed.

Donoho later told the captain that such a search was illegal.

"He (the captain) read the regulations," Donoho said. "And with no smile on his face, he agreed with me. And from that time on, I got all the crappy details."

They also started calling him "The Lawyer."

After his military service, Donoho was laid off from a computer manufacturing job in Saline in 1991. He then started working for the U.S. Postal Service. But he wanted to eventually get a college degree. While working at the post office, he went to Baker College in Jackson and earned a bachelor's degree in computer information systems in 2006. To go along with that degree, he started Byte-Wise Computers in Jackson.

"I put myself in the nerd category," Donoho joked.

However, he found that many of the computers programming jobs were being outsourced to other countries. That led him to going to law school, something that had always interested him.

The transition to a career in the legal profession came due partly to his work as a union steward with the U.S. Postal Office.

"Since I had been doing legal work as a union steward for the past 15 years, law school seemed like a logical move," Donoho said.

He estimated he filed hundreds of grievances and won several hundred thousands of dollars for co-workers as a union steward. And he matched that experience with his college degree.

"Going on to law school was kind of a ''Hey, why not just keep on going,'' kind of thing," he said.

Donoho worked the midnight shift for 22 years for the U.S. Postal Service while also going to school. When he graduated from Cooley Law School's Lansing campus in January of 2012, Donoho retired from the U.S. Postal Service.

In took Donoho 10 years to complete his bachelor's degree and get his law degree while also working that full-time job.

"Hard does not do it justice," he said of his years in law school. "Excruciating is closer to the feeling. Each day was just putting one foot in front of the other."

Published: Thu, Apr 18, 2013

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