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UpCounsel Review 2019: Pros, Cons, and Best Alternatives

Priyanka Prakash

Senior Staff Writer at Fundera
Priyanka is a senior staff writer at Fundera, reporting on all things small business. She also collects, analyzes, and reports on data to help business owners make better decisions. Previously managing editor at Fit Small Business, she's also a licensed attorney who served as general counsel at a Y Combinator startup. Priyanka's writing has been featured in Inc., CNBC, and other top tier publications. When she isn't writing, Priyanka loves to explore NYC with her husband and daughter.

What Is UpCounsel?

UpCounsel is a legal marketplace and lawyer matching service for small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs. You can post a legal job on their website and within a few hours, get detailed proposals from multiple business attorneys located near your business.

After comparing the proposals based on price, the lawyer’s experience, and previous client reviews, you can schedule free consultations and hire the attorney you’d like to work with. Lawyers negotiate and charge their own rates, and UpCounsel adds a small fee of their own.  

Businesses that use UpCounsel typically save 60% compared to a law firm. There’s no obligation to hire someone, so you’re free to walk away if you don’t like any of the proposals. You can also access free legal forms on UpCounsel.

UpCounsel Pricing

Each attorney on the UpCounsel network is free to negotiate their own rate and fee structure with the client. Some charge an hourly rate, and others charge a fixed fee for a specific project. On top of the lawyer’s rate there’s a 5% UpCounsel fee that helps maintain the platform.

However, here’s an estimate of what different attorneys in UpCounsel’s network charge for different business legal services:

Service UpCounsel estimated cost*
Form an LLC
$500 (including filing fees)
Form a corporation
$1,000 (including filing fees)
Contract/document review
$125 to $250 per hour
File for a patent
$1,200 to $3,200
File for a trademark
$645 (1 class, including filing fees)
Immigration/employer-sponsored visas
Starts at $2,750
HR and employment law
Starts at $200 per hour
Securities and finance
Starts at $200 per hour
General counsel for day to day legal matters
$225 to $350 per hour

*UpCounsel adds a 5% maintenance fee on top of the lawyer’s rate.

As you can see from the prices shown above, UpCounsel attorneys charge a fairly wide range of fees. Lawyers may bill at an hourly rate or charge a fixed fee for common projects and transactions.

The cost will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • How experienced the lawyer is
  • The complexity of your legal issue or case
  • How quickly you need the work to be done
  • Your business’s location (e.g. lawyers in New York charge more than lawyers in Idaho)

When a lawyer is finished with a job, they will submit an invoice on UpCounsel. In some situations, the lawyer may ask for a deposit or portion of the fee to be paid upfront. The good thing is that there won’t be surprises about the cost. You’ll get a detailed breakdown of each lawyer’s fee structure and billing preferences in their initial proposal. So if a lawyer sounds too expensive, you can choose to hire someone else.

You may be wondering what that last item on the list, general counsel for day-to-day legal matters, means. That’s for small businesses that don’t have an in-house lawyer or legal department but want ready access to a lawyer. UpCounsel attorneys can serve as your general counsel, assisting with day-to-day legal matters and providing regular legal advice.

UpCounsel Pros

Highly Experienced, Top-tier Attorneys

The biggest advantage of using UpCounsel is that they have experienced, skilled lawyers on their platform. On average, attorneys on the platform have 14 years of experience. Many come from a career in big law firms or as in-house lawyers at leading companies like Google, Apple, and Hewlett Packard. With this kind of experience under their belts, most of these lawyers are ready to tackle even the most challenging cases. UpCounsel has profiles on each attorney, as well, so you can see ratings from past clients and reviews of their recent work.

Free Legal Forms and Resources

If you’re not ready to hire a lawyer just yet but are digging around for some information, then UpCounsel can still be a good legal resource for you. They have attorney-reviewed legal forms, sample documents, and articles to help you get started—all available for free. These resources span almost every legal topic that a startup or business could be interested in, from intellectual property to employment law to startup law.

UpCounsel Con

Expensive

One downside to using UpCounsel is that it is more expensive than other sites for a similar set of services. For example, forming an LLC through UpCounsel is estimated at around $500 including filing fees. By comparison, an LLC can be formed on LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer for around $300 including filing fees. Similarly, a provisional patent application costs under $1,000 on LegalZoom, but it’s estimated at $1,200 on UpCounsel. Although UpCounsel is more expensive, that’s also the price you pay to have a more experienced lawyer represent you.

upcounsel reviews

UpCounsel Customer Service

UpCounsel has email support only, which can be accessed on their contact page. They do not offer phone support.

Summary of UpCounsel Online Reviews

There aren’t many online reviews of UpCounsel, but those reviews that are available are generally positive.

Positive UpCounsel Reviews

The main thing people like about UpCounsel is how talented the attorneys are, even though their prices are much lower than a traditional law firm. Slightly larger businesses also loved the outside general counsel option because it gives them an “on-call” attorney at a fraction of standard law firm rates.

Negative UpCounsel Reviews

The main complaint that some people had is that the lawyers weren’t very responsive. It sometimes took several hours to hear back from UpCounsel attorneys.  

UpCounsel Competitors and Alternatives

UpCounsel is one of the few legal marketplaces that caters just to small businesses, and they have a big network of highly experienced, vetted attorneys. However, for basic legal help, there are several other sites that are a better value.  

Here are some of the leading alternatives to UpCounsel:

Best UpCounsel Alternative for Regular Legal Help: LegalZoom

If you’d like access to a lawyer regularly, then you can opt for UpCounsel’s outside general counsel, but that can get expensive if the lawyer charges a high hourly rate. If you need an “on-call” lawyer, then a less expensive option may be to enroll in a business legal plan.

LegalZoom offers a business legal plan for $31.25 per month that gives you access to unlimited legal forms, short phone sessions with a lawyer, and document review. This may be a better value if you’re a fairly small business and need help with basic legal matters from time to time.  

Best UpCounsel Alternative for Legal Forms: Rocket Lawyer

Standard legal forms are available for free download on UpCounsel, but you cannot customize them for your small business’s needs. Rocket Lawyer, on the other hand, is great for building custom legal forms, such as nondisclosure agreements, supplier agreements, partnership agreements, and dozens more. They have an intuitive form builder that asks you a series of questions as you build each legal form.

The questions are customized based on the type of form and where your business is located. These customizations are important for making sure that your forms hold up in court since laws differ in each state and even small bits of contractual language can make a big difference. So, if your primary goal is to create legal documents, head over to Rocket Lawyer.

Best UpCounsel Alternative for Business Formation: IncFile

All UpCounsel lawyers negotiate and charge their own rates, but the estimate for forming an LLC is $500 including filing fees, and the estimate for forming a corporation is $1,000. That is quite steep compared to some other online legal services. IncFile is the most affordable option. They charge just $49 plus filing fees to draft formation paperwork and file it on your behalf.

The difference is that with IncFile, a lawyer may not be doing all the work for you. Non-lawyers can draft formation paperwork, which is riskier than having a lawyer help you from start to finish. It could result in delays or even errors. However, if you have a straightforward business formation, it might not be worth paying a lot for it.

Bottom Line

UpCounsel is an active on-demand marketplace for business lawyers and business legal services. It’s a great choice if you have a complex case or if you’d like to find an experienced lawyer to be your go-to attorney. Rates tend to be higher on UpCounsel than other legal platforms, but you’re also getting to work with a group of highly experienced, top-tier attorneys. These lawyers can be great partners as your business grows to the next level.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Priyanka Prakash

Senior Staff Writer at Fundera
Priyanka is a senior staff writer at Fundera, reporting on all things small business. She also collects, analyzes, and reports on data to help business owners make better decisions. Previously managing editor at Fit Small Business, she's also a licensed attorney who served as general counsel at a Y Combinator startup. Priyanka's writing has been featured in Inc., CNBC, and other top tier publications. When she isn't writing, Priyanka loves to explore NYC with her husband and daughter.

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