Thinking about making your business idea reality? Congrats! That’s exciting!
But what may not be so exciting is the next part — formalizing it. That means complying with all the legal requirements tied to making your business official. But what are they?
And do you need to dish out big money for an attorney to help you through the legal process? The answer is: not necessarily, but it depends.
If you’re looking to put your money into your business and not an attorney’s pocket, an online legal service might be just what your wallet welcomes.
In this article, we’ll touch on some general legal requirements for starting your own business and focus on what online legal service providers can do, the benefits they can offer, and the things you should consider when it comes to using them.
Let’s get started.
Before we dig into the online legal services side of things, let’s talk about why you may need those services in the first place.
You may be wondering about the legal requirements for starting a small business. And if getting a business license is one of them. This article on how to get a business license can help you with that.
Other legal-related questions running through your head might be:
In many cases, there may be forms to complete, applications to file, and information to be provided. It’s not always easy to know what you need, where to find it, and how to take care of it.
Your options for doing this? Pay a potentially pricey attorney to do it for you or do it yourself with the guidance of an online business legal resource — often for a lot less money.
We can help arm you with the information you need to make that important decision.
First, we’ll take a look at what online legal sites are and are not. Then we’ll look at what they do, the benefits they can offer, and the things you’ll want to consider when using one.
Online legal providers are typically not an exact replacement for established attorneys or law firms. If you read the legal disclaimers on their websites, they usually make this clear.
They also make it clear that the information you give them is not protected by attorney-client privilege.
With that said, not all online business and legal resources are the same.
For example, let’s say you need guidance deciding how to handle a complicated tax-related business issue. You might consider a provider who is able to connect you with a lawyer who understands legal and tax implications, can ask you all the pertinent questions, and ultimately can help you do the right thing.
On the other hand, let’s say the situation is more basic than that. For example, maybe you already know which business entity is right for you and all you need to do is submit the proper paperwork to make it official.
Many online business and legal resources make it easy and affordable to do that on your own by giving you access to the proper documentation.
In this way, the online business and legal resource can be a great do-it-yourself alternative, including:
According to upcounsel, the cost for a small business lawyer can range from $150 per hour for junior lawyers to over $1,000 per hour for senior partners at larger firms.
If you’re comfortable paying that, go for it. But to some, that’s a lot of moolah, especially for services that you might be able to navigate on your own with limited assistance.
A good question to ask yourself, then, is: Do I feel comfortable doing basic legal work with only limited guidance from an online business and legal resource?
If the answer is yes, then these resources may be right for you, but remember, whether you need in-person legal advice will largely depend on the complexity of your business or the legal issues you're facing.
Still unsure? Keep this in mind: Often, it may not take a legal mind to resolve basic business transactions, like setting up your business’ legal structure . It just takes due diligence with finding, filling out, signing, and filing the proper legal paperwork.
Let’s look closer at the types of services you can tap into so you can feel more comfortable making the best decision for your business.
Most online legal services operate one of two ways:
Purchase one-time legal services. For example, do you need a document? You pay for that document.
Pay a monthly amount in exchange for an outlined list of services.
Although most online legal resources provide the same standardized services, such as easy access to straightforward legal documents, there can be nuances.
Let’s look at a few.
We took a look at some of the more popular online business and legal services around:
Here’s what we found:
Although many business and legal resources are designed to make it simple, fast, and affordable to get the legal assistance you need right from your home, certain providers often have particular strengths:
LegalShield. Affordable and convenient service for most legal needs.
Avvo. Get answers to legal questions for free.
LegalZoom. Generate legally binding documents in minutes.
RocketLawyer. Fast legal help for complex matters.
Incfile. Business registration support filing and affordable ongoing legal support.
Now let’s dive a little deeper into what each of these providers does and the benefits they can offer you.
LegalShield serves both individual and small business needs. They offer affordable monthly plans and no long-term contracts.
Small business owners can choose from three membership tiers ranging from $49 to $169 per month. All plans include consultations and a 25% discount on hourly rates.
The hourly rates vary, depending on the number of documents you want reviewed and the amount of correspondence you need your attorney to send on your behalf.
They also offer live chat and emergency consultations.
If you have a simple legal question, Avvo is the place to get free advice from licensed attorneys.
Simply post your question online. In most cases, you’ll have an answer within 12 hours.
There is no cost for follow-up questions.
Just know your questions are public for anyone to see.
LLC filing. Copyright registration. Patent filing. If you’re looking to do things like this, you may want to consider LegalZoom.
They’re known for making the use of legal documents painless with simple forms and low prices starting at $29.
Most documents take only a few minutes to complete online and are made available for download or sent to you by mail.
Although many platforms offer comparable services to LegalZoom, the company really shines in customer service.
Phone support representatives are available 14 hours a day during the week and 9 hours a day on weekends.
Also, many documents include unlimited revisions. If you’re not happy with the final product, simply contact customer service within 60 days for a full refund.
If you need help filing a document with the appropriate legal authority, this service is available but comes at an additional cost.
For complex matters, Rocket Lawyer might be the best choice. They have on-call attorneys who can assist you in case your legal needs aren’t met by standard online services.
With Rocket Lawyer, you can choose to purchase services `a la carte or sign up for a monthly membership.
Memberships are $39.99 per month and include unlimited documents, answers to legal questions, and 30-minute consultations on new issues.
This can quickly pay for itself, as fees for nonmembers range from $39.99 for a single document to $59.99 for a 30-minute consultation.
Rocket Lawyer can be a great choice if you expect ongoing legal needs as you run your business.
Starting a business? Incfile specializes in business entity registration.
From choosing a type of legal entity to staying compliant, Incfile is well known for guiding startups through every stage of their growth.
They offer three packages: Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
Pricing varies, depending on your business entity and the state where you establish your business.
Online legal services should not be just affordable but also reliable and trustworthy. So when deciding which is right for you and your business needs, consider the following:
If you are a sole proprietor, you may not need to do more than complete a few forms. Fairly simple stuff that you can probably do on your own. However, if your business is an LLC or partnership, that can be a bit more complex. You may need help with the proper documentation, as well as some legal counsel from an attorney. The point is: Choose a site that’s right for you.
Many can be found here, but keep in mind that not all legal providers listed on this site serve small business needs.
When you visit each provider’s website, scroll down and read the fine print. Disclaimers make it clear who they are and who they’re not; what they can do and what they can’t do.
Overall, just keep in mind that business and legal resources are not law firms. Although they’re legitimate operations, they’re not representing your business or acting as your legal counsel, although some can help you find a lawyer who will.
Instead, they’re a resource that can guide you through certain legal requirements, such as preparing your own legal documents.
Online business and legal resources can help you with certain legal issues, but they can’t completely protect you from certain financial risks..
That’s why having business insurance is crucial. Without it, one accident or lawsuit could ring the death knell for your small business.
This article talks about a few legal mistakes that small businesses can easily make. When you read about them and consider that the average customer injury or damage claim is $30,000, the risks might feel frightening.
However, the right protection can reduce that fear. There are different types of insurance coverage, and two notable ones are:
General liability insurance. It can protect you in the event of third-party accidents, third-party property damage, or if a vendor or customer gets injured.
Imagine you’re a landscaper and a customer trips over a leaf blower left out in their yard, they sprain their ankle, and they sue you for their injuries.
With the right general liability coverage, court fees, the customer’s medical bills, and other associated costs could be covered (up to your policy’s limits).
Professional liability (PL) insurance. It can help protect you if a client claims that your professional services resulted in negligence.
For example, let’s say you own an accounting practice and an error in your math leaves your client with an unexpected and costly tax bill. They might decide to sue you for the cost of that mistake.
Your PL policy may cover any damages and legal costs that you might be ordered to pay as a result of that negligence.
Yes, I know what you may be thinking. Insurance is yet another thing to think about when starting your business.
But it’s usually smart to have your business insured, just like it’s smart to seek legal guidance. And just as many of the online legal providers make it easy and affordable to find what you need from a legal perspective, Simply Business does the same for insurance.
Quotes for general liability coverage from leading insurers can be as low as $19.58/month.*
Wondering how much your insurance might cost? Check out our online tool that helps you get free quotes in just minutes. Or if you want to talk to a helpful human (one of our licensed insurance agents), you can do that by calling 844-654-7272.
We work with leading insurers to find coverage for your business at an affordable price. And we make it easy to understand what you’re getting.
Starting your own business is exciting. But handling the legal side of things that may go with it? Maybe not so much.
That’s OK. Depending on the needs of your business, online resources can often help you get your business up and running quickly, easily, and affordably.
Legal services can help you handle legal matters. Simply Business can help you with insurance matters.
Which leaves you free to focus on what really matters — running your business.
*Monthly payment calculations (i) do not include initial premium down payment and (ii) may vary by state, insurance provider, and nature of your business. Averages based on January - March 2023 data of 10% of our total policies sold.
I went to college to be an accountant and graduated with a degree in creative writing. Words won out over numbers, but barely. All credit goes to my parents. Had they talked about anything other than banking at the dinner table growing up—and had they never bribed me with Pop-Tarts to read books, play with my Matchbox cars and quietly exercise my imagination—who knows where my left and right brain would be today.
Chris writes on a number of topics such as legal resources, small business taxes, and social media marketing.
This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer
*Harborway Insurance policies are underwritten by Spinnaker Insurance Company and reinsured by Munich Re, an A+ (Superior) rated insurance carrier by AM Best. Harborway Insurance is a brand name of Harborway Insurance Agency, LLC, a licensed insurance producer in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. California license #6004217.