Best Online Legal Services for Businesses in 2020

Last Updated on January 28, 2020

Priyanka Prakash, JD

Senior Staff Writer at Fundera
Priyanka Prakash is a senior staff writer at Fundera, specializing in small business finance, credit, law, and insurance. She has a law degree from the University of Washington and a bachelor's degree from U.C. Berkeley in communications and political science. Priyanka's work has been featured in Inc., Fast Company, CNBC, and other top publications. Prior to joining Fundera, Priyanka was managing editor at a small business resource site and in-house counsel at a Y Combinator tech startup.
Editorial Note: Fundera exists to help you make better business decisions. That’s why we make sure our editorial integrity isn’t influenced by our own business. The opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations in this article are those of our editorial team alone.

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.

Top Legal Guides for Small Business Owners

Best Online Legal Service for Startups: Atrium

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 Pricing

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.

Atrium Pros

  • Receive legal assistance tailored to startups from legal experts who have years of experience in the technology world.
  • Online platform that makes it easy to manage legal documents and access legal advice.

Atrium Cons

  • Much costlier than either LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer.

Best Online Legal Service for Free Advice: Avvo

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.

Avvo Pricing

Free to post a legal question.

Avvo Pros

  • Largest online network of attorneys, with reviews.
  • Active legal Q&A forum.
  • Free legal forms are available for download.

Avvo Cons

  • 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:

Self-Help Legal Resources: Nolo

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.

Help With Debt Collection: LegalShield

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.

Online Legal Services: Picking the Right One 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Using Online Legal Services to Help Your Business

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.

Top Small Business Incorporation Guides

Priyanka Prakash, JD

Senior Staff Writer at Fundera
Priyanka Prakash is a senior staff writer at Fundera, specializing in small business finance, credit, law, and insurance. She has a law degree from the University of Washington and a bachelor's degree from U.C. Berkeley in communications and political science. Priyanka's work has been featured in Inc., Fast Company, CNBC, and other top publications. Prior to joining Fundera, Priyanka was managing editor at a small business resource site and in-house counsel at a Y Combinator tech startup.