It was founded in an attic in 1971 by Ralph Warner (who received his bachelor's degree from Princeton University in 1963 and his degree in law from the Boalt School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley) and family law attorney Ed Sherman. The company published Sherman's first book, How to Do Your Own Divorce in California after they discovered that other publishers wouldn't (fearing prosecution for practicing law without a law licence). As of 2006 Warner remains with the company, having stepped down as its President in 2004. Sherman later founded his own legal publishing business (Nolo Press Occidental), a separate company from Nolo.com.
The company's name is derived from the legal phrase Nolo contendere, meaning "it will not be disputed" or "I choose not to dispute". The word "nolo" itself could be taken to mean "I will not", "I choose not", or "I would prefer not to". The company recommends getting professional legal help for disputable or difficult matters.
The company's logo shows the scales of justice tilted (in the favor of the reader). Some older Nolo publications feature their unofficial mascot, a shark depicted wearing a necktie and carrying a briefcase, showing the company's fondness for poking fun at their fellow members of the legal profession. This mascot is often accompanied by the motto "Don't feed the lawyers. Just say Nolo" .
The Nolo shark officially retired in 2006 on the company’s 35th anniversary.
In 2006, Nolo launched their lawyer directory, which operates on the principle that both participating lawyers and consumers are better served by a relatively short list of qualified attorneys under each category (business law, real estate, etc.), with lots of information for side-by-side comparisons.
Publication of Nolo's first book, How to Do Your Own Divorce in California, was condemned by the Sacramento Bar Association, leading to a huge increase in its sales.
In 1997 the Texas Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee (a committee of the Texas Supreme Court) opened investigations on Nolo and similar publishers, inquiring as to whether their publications constituted the practicing law without a licence. Saying the investigation was "the first step toward widespread state censorship" , Nolo sued, seeking a declaratory judgment that its publications were legal; it was joined in the action by the American Association of Law Libraries and the Texas Library Association. In response, the Texas Legislature enacted HR 1507, which expressly exempted websites and textbooks from accusations of practicing law without a license, providing they "clearly and conspicuously state that the products are not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.. In the light of this, the court committee dropped its contest of Nolo's suit.
Self-Lawyering with Nolo.com: This Site Offers the Layperson Concise, Everyday Legal Information. (Database Review)
Feb 01, 2002; You've heard the saying that the lawyer who defends himself has a fool for a client. Then, if you try to act as your own lawyer,...