When you need legal help for your business, there’s usually a lot at stake. Whether you need help setting up a business entity, need to resolve a partnership dispute, need a contract reviewed, or have another legal issue to address, it’s vital to get top-notch professional advice as soon as possible. That’s where online legal services can help.
With a few clicks of your mouse, you’ll find a variety of online legal services providers where you can access legal forms and resources, find a local attorney, or get help setting up a business. Read on for our picks of the best online legal services for small businesses, as well as some do’s and don’ts when hunting for legal help online for your business.
Best online legal service for standard legal help.
Our first recommendation for best online legal services is LegalZoom. Let’s look at what LegalZoom offers, their pricing, and their pros and cons.
What LegalZoom Offers
LegalZoom is one of the largest players among online legal services, with more than 4 million businesses and consumers using the site. They provide a range of services, including:
- Access to a network of vetted attorneys for legal advice and document review
- Business formation services
- Trademark registration, copyright application, and patent application
- Legal forms, articles, and other resources
While you can certainly use LegalZoom on a one-time basis (for example, downloading a specific legal form you need or setting up an LLC), they encourage you to sign up for a monthly legal plan called the Business Advisory Plan. This plan lets you tap into legal help whenever you need it.
When to Use LegalZoom
LegalZoom’s Business Advisory Plan is a great choice for businesses that don’t have legal help in-house but foresee needing regular legal assistance. For example, maybe you’re in the early stages of applying for a patent, are planning to raise venture capital, or are getting ready to hire your first few employees. In those cases, LegalZoom’s Business Advisory Plan can function like having your very own business attorney “on call.”
The LegalZoom plan includes unlimited 30-minute phone consultations with an attorney and unlimited access to legal forms. However, it goes beyond competitors by also offering unlimited document review by an attorney, an annual business evaluation (to ensure you’re in compliance with relevant laws), access to tax professionals, and one copyright registration per month at no additional cost (great for creative businesses, artists, musicians, and freelancers).
LLC – $79+ and govt filing fees; S-Corp or C-Corp – $149+ and govt filing fees; Nonprofit – $99+ and govt filing fees; LP or LLP – $149+ and govt filing fees
Single form – $14.95; Unlimited access to form library – $7.99 per month or included with Business Advisory Plan
Business Advisory Plan (for regular access to an attorney)
$31.25 per month for 1-year plan; $36 per month for 6-month plan
- Offers a huge variety of small business legal services, so they can be the “one-stop shop” for all your business’s legal needs. They’ve been around since 2001, so they can be trusted to deliver.
- Least expensive option for the business legal plan. This provides unlimited attorney phone consultations, document review, and legal forms. Tax advice, an annual business evaluation, and one copyright registration per month is also included in the plan, which competitors don’t offer.
- Longest money-back guarantee in the industry, at 60 days.
Best online legal service for forms.
Next on our list of the best online legal services providers for businesses is Rocket Lawyer, which is ideal for businesses that need access to a lot of legal forms.
What Rocket Lawyer Offers
Rocket Lawyer is another big player among online legal services providers. In terms of legal assistance, here is what they offer:
- Access to a network of vetted attorneys for legal advice and document review
- Business formation services
- Legal forms, articles, and other resources
For businesses needing regular legal help, Rocket Lawyer has a membership plan that’s similar to LegalZoom’s Business Advisory Plan, though it is a bit more expensive. For a monthly fee of $39.99, you can access an unlimited number of legal forms, obtain online legal advice, or consult on the phone with an attorney, and get your first business incorporation for free (you only have to pay required state filing fees).
When to Use Rocket Lawyer
Rocket Lawyer is a great option for businesses that use a lot of legal forms. They have an intuitive form builder that lets you easily customize a legal document for your business’s needs. As you’re building your form, you’ll see helpful pop-ups about the legal norms and rules in your state, which is key to making sure your forms are enforceable if you’re ever taken to court.
Rocket Lawyer Pricing
|Service||Rocket Lawyer Cost|
LLC – Starts at $99.99 plus government filing fees
Single form – $39.99 per document or unlimited form access included with Rocket Lawyer membership
Membership plan (for regular access to an attorney)
$39.99 per month (7-day free trial; cancel anytime)
Rocket Lawyer Pros
- Does an excellent job clarifying state laws in the form builder, so you can be confident that your legal documents comply with state requirements.
- Free seven-day trial of membership plan.
- Some great perks are included in the membership plan, including free business incorporation for new members and document defense. Document defense helps you enforce legal contracts.
Best online legal service for business formation.
Next up on our list of the best online legal services is Incfile—our top pick for those that need to form a business.
What Incfile Offers
Incfile is the least expensive online legal service for business formation. They even include Registered agent service free of charge for one year. A registered agent is someone who can accept legal correspondence on your business’s behalf. When you form a business, the state will require you to name a registered agent.
When to Use Incfile
Incfile is a great option if you need to quickly and easily start a new business. For less than LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer charge, Incfile will file all the formation paperwork for you and give you everything you need to get started.
- Least expensive online legal service for business formation.
- Best value if you need to form a business quickly. If you’re running up against a state filing deadline, it’s only an extra $50 on average to expedite your business filing with Incfile.
Best online legal service for finding a local lawyer.
If you need to find a local lawyer, LegalMatch is a great online legal services provider for you.
What LegalMatch Offers
LegalMatch is a service that helps you find local lawyers who can help you with your legal issue.
You simply submit a “case” on LegalMatch’s website, which will then distribute the request to pre-vetted attorneys in their network. After reviewing your case, typically within a few hours, lawyers matching your business’s location and the practice area you need help in will contact you by email or phone (however you specify).
You can then choose the right lawyer for you based on their hourly rate, reviews from previous clients, and the number of years of experience.
When to Use LegalMatch
LegalMatch is a great way to meet pre-vetted attorneys located near your business. There are lawyers available to help in all specialties, such as patents and trademarks, employment law, immigration, and more. Once you find a lawyer you like, you can arrange an appointment with them to further discuss your legal issue.
If you have a pretty straightforward and standardized legal issue, such as incorporating a business or creating a simple contract, then LegalMatch is not the fastest or cheapest option. For that, a service like Incfile or LegalZoom would be a better choice.
- Easy way to find a qualified local attorney.
- Able to see how other clients have rated attorneys before choosing.
- No fixed fee pricing for business formation or document review.
- No access to legal forms.
Best online legal service for complex legal needs.
If your legal needs are complex, we recommend UpCounsel as the best online legal service for you.
What UpCounsel Offers
UpCounsel is a business law marketplace. Businesses needing legal help post a “job” on the site and get proposals from multiple attorneys. They can then compare the proposals based on the attorney’s hourly rate, reviews from previous clients, number of years of experience, and areas of expertise, before hiring an attorney.
UpCounsel has a network of 5,000 business attorneys, many of whom formerly worked at top corporate law firms or Fortune 500 companies, including Google and Apple. They have, on average, 14 years of experience, so they can tackle complicated legal issues. For example, UpCounsel is a great choice if you need to create an investor agreement or apply for a patent or trademark.
When to Use UpCounsel
We recommend UpCounsel for complex legal problems. When you need legal advice, you simply post a job on UpCounsel and wait for attorneys to bid on it. You can then choose a lawyer based on their rate, reviews from previous clients, number of years of experience, and areas of expertise.
This is a great process when you’re facing a complicated legal issue and want to compare multiple bids, but it probably isn’t worth the trouble to go through this process for something quick and simple, like incorporating a business or creating a standard contract.
Pricing varies. Lawyers charge their own rates for all services and have their own fee structure.
- Costly for business formation (e.g. forming an LLC costs approximately $500—including all filing fees—on UpCounsel, but can be done for $250 to 300 on IncFile).
Best online legal service for startups.
For high-growth startups in need of online legal services, there’s Atrium. Let’s learn a bit more about them.
What Atrium Offers
Atrium is a law firm and technology company that was built to “reimagine the delivery of legal services through technology.” All of the lawyers who work for Atrium have experience working in-house at startups, and know the ins and outs of legal matters pertaining to startups. Specific types of legal assistance offered by Atrium include business formation services, employment and equity grants, mergers and acquisitions, and more. Atrium also has an online portal where clients and attorneys can work together in a secure environment.
When to Use Atrium
It helps to think of Atrium as a LegalZoom or Rocket Laywer for startups. With Atrium you can get legal document help, unlimited consultations, business formation services, and basically any other type of legal service you would need to run your startup.
Atrium offers subscription-style pricing and three levels of service:
- The Atrium Membership: Atrium’s basic level of service costs $500 per month and comes with a dedicated legal team and account manager, unlimited initial legal consultations and one hour each month for general legal advice from your attorney, access to the Atrium platform for legal document sharing and collaboration, access to business and legal playbooks, and access to the Atrium startup founder community.
- GC Core: This advanced level of membership costs $1,500 per month and is designed for businesses that have raised funding. With the GC Core membership, you’ll get everything included in the Atrium Membership plus up to six hours of legal advising from your attorney, routine board management and board document preparation, contract reviews, preparation and management of corporate and securities filings, and regular updates from your legal team.
- GC Growth: Finally there’s GC Growth, which is designed for startups entering a hyper-growth period. This subscription plan features quote-based pricing and gives your startup access to Atrium’s top-tier attorneys who will work on-site at your business to build your in-house legal team and kickstart cross-functional best practices.
- Much costlier than either LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer.
Best online legal service for free advice.
Our last recommendation for the best online legal services for small businesses is Avvo, which provides legal help at no cost whatsoever.
What Avvo Offers
Avvo is like the Yellow Pages for lawyers. Ninety-seven percent of attorneys in the United States have a profile in Avvo’s online legal directory. Each attorney’s profile contains reviews from past clients, number of years of experience, and areas of expertise.
Avvo has a free legal forum that works like Quora and Reddit. Post a legal question for free, and attorneys will post a response, often within a few hours.
When to Use Avvo
Avvo is an excellent starting point for just about any legal question because it’s free. Simply post your question online and wait for responses from lawyers. Most lawyers provide general information and advice. If you want to dig more in-depth or receive more personalized advice, you’ll need to pay each lawyer’s contracted rate. However, most lawyers on the site offer a free initial consultation.
Free to post a legal question.
- Largest online network of attorneys, with reviews.
- Active legal Q&A forum.
- Free legal forms are available for download.
- Not a cost-effective option if you need regular, ongoing legal help. For regular legal help, Rocket Lawyer or LegalZoom is a better option.
Other Online Legal Services to Consider
While those are our top picks for online legal services, there are other providers out there that can also be a good solution for your small business. Depending on your specific business situation, try one of these online legal services:
For self-help legal resources.
Legal website Nolo has a vast repository of articles about everyday legal topics written by attorneys. These can be accessed for free and serve as an excellent resource if you need to know general information. Articles cover a wide range of legal topics related to starting and operating a business.
For help with debt collection.
LegalShield lets you be proactive about legal help. For prices starting at $39 per month, you can get regular access to a lawyer and document review. One unique feature of LegalShield is they assist businesses with debt collection, one of the main issues impacting small business cash flow. If customers aren’t paying you, LegalShield can help you recover what’s owed to you.
Picking the Right Online Legal Service for You
With so many online legal services to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you?
It primarily depends on the type of legal issue you have. Some sites, like Incfile, are designed for a very specific purpose, such as business formation. Others, like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer, offer a range of legal services. Still others, such as UpCounsel and LegalMatch, will connect you to local lawyers to discuss more complicated legal problems.
Here’s a cheat sheet of which providers to opt for and when:
|What you need||Try…|
Set up an LLC, Corp, or Nonprofit
Incfile – it’s designed exclusively for business formation and is the least expensive option.
Create legal documents or obtain legal forms
LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer – both have big form libraries and form builders that let you create customized legal documents.
Regular legal advice or assistance from an attorney
LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer – both have membership plans that give you regular access to an attorney.
Attorney who can help with complex legal matters
UpCounsel or LegalMatch – both let you submit a legal question and will match you to an attorney who is qualified to assist you.
Is It Wise to Use Online Legal Services?
Millions of businesses and consumers use online legal services to research legal questions, create legal documents, or access legal forms. But, these services aren’t lawyers, and they are not a substitute for getting legal advice from an attorney. Laws change frequently, and none of these services guarantee that the information on their website is 100% accurate and up to date.
Many business owners just need a standard contract or want to quickly get their business set up. In these situations, online legal services are a no-brainer. They make it easy to do these things for a fraction of the cost of hiring an attorney. However, there are a couple of situations where it’s beneficial to go the old-fashioned route and hire a lawyer:
- Unique circumstances: Online legal services are great with standard boilerplate language. For example, almost all businesses use a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that contains identical language. However, if your situation has added complications, then it’s best to hire an attorney. For example, if you’re trying to raise investor money or trying to sell a portion of your business, your NDA may need special clauses that a lawyer should negotiate and draft.
- Threat of a lawsuit: Another situation where it makes sense to go with a lawyer is if you are in a highly litigious or risky situation. For instance, if a former business partner is threatening to sue you or you are in a copyright or trademark dispute with another business, you need an experienced lawyer who knows how to quickly address the situation.
To help you get the most out of an online legal service and prevent problems, here are additional do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Online Legal Services
- Do double check the licensure and credentials of any lawyer who is assisting you. Even if the lawyer comes pre-vetted by an online legal service, it never hurts to confirm. All states have bar associations where you can confirm that a lawyer’s license is in good standing.
- Do understand all the rates and fees that you will be charged by an online legal services provider and by an attorney. Things you assume are included may, in fact, be charged as add-ons. For example, most sites charge an additional fee for registered agent service. If you are working directly with an attorney, make sure you fully understand their fee structure and that the fee agreement is in writing.
- Do make sure the legal website you are using includes your state laws. Every state has slightly different laws for everything from business formation to employment contracts. If you don’t follow your state’s laws, your legal documents may not hold up in court. Good-quality online legal services will modify legal documents based on your state’s laws.
- Do understand that if you’re using an online legal service to find an attorney, the website has no control over the lawyer’s fees or the work that the lawyer does for you. Your relationship with the attorney shouldbe independent from the website.
- Don’t forget to check attorney ratings and reviews before choosing to work with a lawyer. Make sure the attorney has expertise in the area you need help with and that former clients have been happy with the attorney’s work.
- Don’t choose a lawyer or legal website based only on budget. While your budget will certainly limit your choices, you want to be sure you are using a reputable service. If legal work isn’t done properly, you could be subject to fines or litigation, and that’s something you definitely want to avoid.
Top Small Business Incorporation Guides
The Bottom Line
Now that you know everything there is to know about online legal services, the only question left for you to answer is what online legal service is best for your business? If you’re working on forming your business, a service like Incfile could come in handy. On the other hand, businesses in need of general legal advice may want to turn to LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer. Either way, you have the knowledge. Now you can make a confident decision.