Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?
And what does it have to do with LegalZoom?
When starting a business, entrepreneurs often ask me if what I think of Legalzoom. We lawyers have a mixed opinion of Legalzoom—some of us hate Legalzoom because it takes business away from us; some lawyers love it because Legalzoom clients end up need to fix costly mistakes—more costly than if they had hired a lawyer in the first place to figure out how to start a business! My opinion is that Legalzoom is just like a tomato.
As summer has drawn to a close so has the tomato season. At a recent cookout someone asked the question: “Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?”
One of our guests smugly declares a tomato is botanically a fruit because of its seeds. Not to be outdone, a lawyer friend countered that it’s a vegetable according to the U.S. Supreme Court. What??
As it turns out, both of our guests were correct.
The law, not science, considers a tomato a vegetable. Back in the 1880’s, our U.S. Congress passed a 10% import duty on whole veggies. The Nix, a family of importers, tried to bring tomatoes into New York from the West Indies. The collector at the NY Port charged them the 10% tariff, and the Nix family sued. They argued that tomatoes were fruits so the 10% duty on veggies didn’t apply to them. After a six-year battle in the courts, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled: “As an article of food on our tables, whether baked or boiled, or forming the basis of soup, they are used as a vegetable, as well when ripe as when green. This is the principal use to which they are put.”
Yes, our U.S. Supreme Court ruled tomatoes are vegetables because we don’t eat them for dessert!
The tomato was also considered a veggie in 1981 when the Reagan administration was searching for ways to cut school lunch costs. The USDA attempted to count ketchup, a glorious, goopy concoction of tomatoes, as one of the two servings of vegetables for a school lunch. Nutritionists and parents were probably as outraged as the Nix family.
So what does this have to do with LegalZoom?
LegalZoom can be a good tool to provide small business owners with legal forms and filings.
However, sometimes a new business owner using LegalZoom will assume the legal form they created means one thing, when it really means another. It can be perfectly logical (and correct!) that a tomato is a fruit to the business owner who does not know about this Supreme Court ruling! It just depends on your point of view. What you think a legal provision means can be completely different from what someone else believes.
What does this mean to you?
Problems in interpretation of a legal form don’t occur until the error is discovered or a dispute happens, sometimes years after the document is created. That’s when you need to hire a lawyer to go in and fix the problem/error or represent you in a legal dispute. More often than not, the cost of the “fix” is much more expensive than if you hired a lawyer in the beginning.
The Bottom Line:
The real value of hiring your own personal lawyer is NOT for in the creation of a fancy legal form. It’s in their knowledge, expertise, and ability to help you create and understand legal documents and their consequences.
Let Us Help You Understand
A successful business owner has a team of people to make his/her business grow and we want to be part of your team.
Keeping you informed about the law is one of our main goals. To further that goal, Dodge Legal Group, PC offers Free Legal Forums. The classes are FREE and give you an opportunity to get your legal questions answered in a group setting (as general legal information). We now are offering Free Legal Forum as a call-in class so you can get your questions answered on the phone and in the comfort of your own home! Join us on October 7th!
Contact Dodge Legal for more information.