Both LegalZoom and Nolo are online legal services with the goal of helping business owners through the paperwork and processes associated with starting a business. With either one of these services, you have access to legal experts who can handle what is sometimes the most difficult and time-consuming part of business ownership.
So, is LegalZoom or Nolo better for your business?
We’re here to help you find out. In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know to compare LegalZoom vs. Nolo and decide which legal service is right for your needs.
LegalZoom vs. Nolo: Comparison Chart
-Provides the necessary forms and documents to form your business, such as LLC
-Full of documents you’ll need throughout the duration of running your business, including business licenses and contract agreements
-Takes a more do-it-yourself approach to business legal matters and forms
-Offers software for accounting, human resources, and marketing
-Phone and email support from Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT;
weekends, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT
-Your assigned attorney should be available whenever you need them, but could be dependent on their schedule
-Email support from Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT
-Chosen attorney available by appointment based on their schedule
-Flat rate + state filing fees for business formation (depends on what you choose)
-Access to attorney pricing starts at $31.25 per month
-Each book, download, or software is priced individually, ranging in price from about $25 to $40
-Incorporation services will vary
Small business owners with little-to-no legal or business formation knowledge
Small business owners with a little more base knowledge who feel confident taking on legal forms and documents on their own
LegalZoom vs. Nolo: Services
With this overview in mind, let’s start by taking a look at how LegalZoom and Nolo compare in terms of the services they offer.
Overall, as you’ll see below, LegalZoom generally focuses on formation services, as well as assisting with other legal documents associated with starting and running your business. Nolo, on the other hand, is geared more toward legal resources, such as books and software, as well as helping you find a lawyer to work directly with your business.
LegalZoom is one of the most popular online legal services out there, and has helped over four million users, according to their website. Exploring their website will yield tons of information, services and documents that LegalZoom can assist you with. The most popular business services and forms offered at LegalZoom are:
- Doing business as (DBA) name/business name
- Business name availability check
- Business name reservation
- Trademark search
- Trademarking business name
- Federal and state tax ID
- Business licenses
- Intellectual property
- Workplace benefits
- Nondisclosure agreements
- Bill of sale
- Independent contractor agreement
- Consulting services agreement
This is not a comprehensive list of services—just the most popular ones that LegalZoom finds business owners utilizing. There are, of course, many others that are easily located on their website.
According to their website, Nolo’s mission is “to help consumers and small businesses find answers to their everyday legal and business questions.” They’ve been around since 1971, so it’s safe to say they’re accomplishing their mission. The company began with publishing do-it-yourself legal guides and grew into what Nolo is today.
Nolo provides users with a wealth of information ranging from legal articles, legal forms, online documents, books and ebooks, among many other resources. They can also help you create an LLC, corporation, or nonprofit. Here is just a small sampling of the small business resources you can get from Nolo:
- Tax books for your small business or nonprofit
- Business software to help run and grow your small business
- Custom legal documents and contracts
- Access to local lawyers for individual assistance
LegalZoom vs. Nolo: Pricing
When it comes to cost, LegalZoom and Nolo have very unique pricing structures. Whereas Nolo’s pricing is generally based on a per-book or per-software basis, LegalZoom’s prices their services into packages, which each have a handful of options.
The pricing structure at LegalZoom works a little differently than most other popular online legal services, including Nolo. Each service comes with its own package options and there are no flat memberships that cover a variety of offerings. The price of each document and service will vary depending on what it is and the state in which you live or operate.
To figure out all of LegalZoom’s pricing, therefore, you will need to click on your area of need, look up your state to calculate filing fees, and then you will be presented with various package options for that service or document.
For example, here is the pricing breakdown for forming an LLC in New York with LegalZoom:
LegalZoom LLC Pricing
$79 + $210 NY state filing fee
-New York name check and business filing
-Articles of organization
-LLC next steps guide
-Peace of mind review
-Lifetime customer support
-Financial account authorization letter
$329 + $210 NY state filing fee
-Everything included in Economy plus:
-Official certificates and seal
-LegalZoom VIP processing
$349 + $210 NY state filing fee
-Everything included in Economy and Standard, plus:
-Rush processing with Secretary of State
The only service that does come in packages across the board are the ones offering legal advice. The Legal Advantage Plus starts at $9.99 per month (but is geared toward individuals) and the Business Advisory Plan starts at $31.25 per month.
The pricing at Nolo works a little bit differently and can be confusing for new business owners, since most of what Nolo offers are physical or cloud-based resources like books and software, and these range in price from $25 to $40.
Nolo does offer a Business Forms Bundle, which claims to contain all the legal forms you’ll need to start and run your business—that bundle costs $79.99.
However, since Nolo does offer incorporating services, there are package options for this, but you really have to search for them, and then you have to look up the details by state. For example, to incorporate in New York, the pricing breaks down like this.
Nolo Incorporation Pricing
$99 + state fees
-Standard filing and shipping
-Customized corporate bylaws
Express Premiere Service
$299 + state fees
-Priority rush filing and shipping
-Personalized record kit and seal
-IRS application for EIN
LegalZoom vs. Nolo: Pros and Cons
If you’re trying to decide if LegalZoom or Nolo is better for your business’s needs, it can be helpful to compare the pros and cons of both legal services.
Here’s what you’ll want to keep in mind:
- Customers get sent copies of the documents that have been filed on their behalf
- No monthly membership, so you won’t have to worry about cancelling a free trial or unexpected charges on your credit card
- Free newsletter for tips and information
- Prices can be lower since you’re not paying for things you don’t need
- Mobile app available for iOS and Android
- Offers a 60-day satisfaction guarantee
- No downloads or edits allowed on any documents
- If you need a lot of legal documents, paying a-la-carte can really add up
- There could be significant upfront work on your part to evaluate state filing fees and seek out pricing for each individual document
- Some documents take longer than initially advertised
- Have to pay a subscription in order to have access to a business attorney for questions, concerns or general consultations
- Offers a more do-it-yourself approach, which is a positive for business owners who like to do things on their own with the backing of legal experts
- Free online lawyer search within the United States
- Free informational articles and guides
- Website is not easy to navigate and finding prices on services is also difficult, many links on the website take you to 404 error pages
- You will have to do a lot of research to figure out what documents and services you actually need
- Offers a more do-it-yourself approach, which can be a drawback for people who like to be taken through complex legal topics step-by-step
LegalZoom vs. Nolo: Customer Reviews
How do LegalZoom and Nolo compare in terms of online reviews? Let’s see what customers have to say about their experience with each of these legal services.
Between the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Consumer Affairs, there are hundreds of LegalZoom customer reviews to sift through. To help you form the most educated opinion of LegalZoom, therefore, we’ve boiled down the main advantages and pain points of LegalZoom according to business owners.
Let’s talk about the pain points first.
The lack of proper customer service was a big pain point for customers. Many mentioned it took hours to reach someone just to be put on hold or transferred around to a variety of people who couldn’t help with their problem.
Another issue customers had was how long it took to get their documents. Sometimes, it was taking 10 times longer than originally advertised to receive documents or filings. Since LegalZoom covers so many different areas of business, each one with its own package options, it seems there is much more room for error when it comes to accuracy and timeliness of documents.
Multiple people noted that their documents were filled out incorrectly, and that LegalZoom was telling them they needed to pay even more to remedy the issue. This did not sit well with customers.
Additionally, the registered agent service, something that is required by law for anyone operating a business, is a service LegalZoom offers, but customers noted that it isn’t clear that LegalZoom doesn’t have to be the registered agent, and therefore customers don’t know to opt out of that service, which leads to hefty charges.
However, there are always two sides to every coin, and customer reviews are no different. The customers who were able to get through to customer service reps in a timely manner, or even after some wait time, reported that the help they received was excellent. The representatives were empathetic to their issues and tried their best to help out where they could. The ease of the website was also a huge plus to business owners. Navigating it seemed to be straightforward to many customers.
Even though LegalZoom’s pricing differs from other online legal services, many reviewers pointed out that the price is very reasonable for what you get. Reviewers also appreciated that these complicated legal matters were taken off their hands and left to experts, allowing them to focus on other aspects of their business.
Many of the reviews that you will find online for Nolo are actually from attorneys who use their services for lead generation. The few customer reviews that are available on the BBB website note that Nolo was unable to find a local attorney available to assist them, and directed them to purchase resources to try and do it themselves.
A quick search outside of the BBB does produce quite a few more reviews, although many are still from business-, personal-, injury-, and bankruptcy attorneys who try to use Nolo to gain clients.
With this in mind, the main thing that reviewers mention is that the information offered in their books and other resources is very general, which is fine for some business owners, but not so much for others.
If you purchase software from Nolo, reviewers want you to know that there is no technical support for it, so if something goes wrong, you’ll have to figure it out on your own.
The positive customer reviews about Nolo, however, definitely outweigh the negatives. Nolo shines when it comes to the variety of products they offer and the price at which they’re offered.
Since they offer free legal informational guides and articles, you won’t have to put in any personal information to get a simple question answered. All in all, customers love the products offered by Nolo and how they’re able to complete legal documents on their own with confidence without paying for a lawyer.
The Bottom Line
Despite the initial similarities between these two legal services—they both offer incorporating services and provide ample resources for custom business documents and processes. In thoroughly comparing LegalZoom vs. Nolo, it seems these solutions are designed for different purposes.
LegalZoom aims to be a full service provider, where you, as the business owner, don’t have to really do anything in order to complete documents or file them with the appropriate agency. Nolo, on the other hand, has always been a do-it-yourself outlet, allowing users to purchase the guides and resources that they need to accomplish their business legal needs on their own.
Therefore, business owners with little-to-no experience in legal matters would benefit from LegalZoom, since they’re a more all-inclusive provider. On the other hand, a business owner who has some experience with business or legal matters might be more comfortable using Nolo and completing legal documents on their own.
Jennifer Post is a freelance writer who has covered business topics including marketing, franchising, cybersecurity, health insurance, and hiring and retaining employees. She has also written about various finance topics such as startup funding, business bank accounts, retirement plans, and health insurance. Jennifer has specialized experience in social media management and knows the ins and outs of marketing a business through most social media platforms.
After briefly studying law at Widener University’s Delaware Law School, she went on to continue her small business writing career using her new legal knowledge to create content helping small businesses understand legal matters such as taxes, hiring and firing practices, harassment, and other company culture matters. You can find her work on Business.com, Business News Daily, and How Stuff Works.