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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.
Fortunately, getting legal help can be as easy as a few clicks of your mouse. There are several online legal services 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 service for 2019, as well as some do’s and don’ts when hunting for legal help online for your business.
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:
While you can certainly use LegalZoom on a one-time basis (for example, downloading a specific legal form you need once 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.
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 and artists, musicians, and freelancers).
Rocket Lawyer is another big player among legal websites. They offer the following legal services:
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 $39.95, 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).
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.
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.
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/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.
Pricing varies. Lawyers charge their own rates for all services and have their own fee structure.
IncFile is a destination site for starting a business. You can use IncFile to easily and quickly form an LLC, nonprofit, C-Corporation, or S-Corporation.
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.
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.
Starts at $49 plus government filing fees to form a business. There is an extra charge for related documents, such as corporation bylaws ($30) or an LLC operating agreement ($40). Registered Agent Service is included for one year at no additional cost, after which it costs $99 per year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nolo has a big 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. These cover a wide range of legal topics related to starting and operating a business.
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. LegalShield is unique in assisting 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.
With so many law websites 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:
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 setup. 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 situations where it’s beneficial to go the old fashioned route and hire a lawyer:
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.