Whether you’re starting a new business or running a small one, you need to have the most cost-effective methods at hand to help your company grow as smoothly as possible. Every dollar counts at the start of a new venture, and it’s crucial to find ways to cut some costs that may seem necessary. Legal matters don't seem like they would offer many opportunities for this, but it turns out you don’t need to keep an expensive lawyer on retainer just in case. Unless you’re going to court, choosing online legal services over a brick-and-mortar law firm can be very profitable, or at least a cost-effective means of doing legal grunt work. Let’s take a look at some of the companies on the market and how they can aid you in your entrepreneurial endeavors.
- Legal form specialists
- Flexible pricing options
- Affordable subscription
- Excellent general legal services
- Online legal consultation
- Experienced lawyers
- LLC establishment
- Free services
- Great for startups
- Massive library of legal forms
- Plenty of additional services
- Great user reviews
What are online legal services?
Online legal services are a cost-effective way to get through personal and business matters without having to hire an expensive lawyer from a brick-and-mortar firm. The main advantage of using these services is that they bypass many of the costs associated with lawyers, thus presenting an excellent solution for new companies. Take note that if your business should come across some severe legal hurdles, it would be smarter to turn to a business lawyer instead. After all, one of the problems with online legal services is that they aren’t well-equipped to take on complex legal matters – instead, they serve a different purpose.
Online legal services take a more standardized approach to legal issues to address general and administrative affairs. This includes creating and filing legal forms, helping you start your business, writing legal letters, and conducting calls. Some do offer in-depth legal consultations and can even represent you in court, but think carefully before choosing them for such purposes: Local specialist firms can generally provide better and more personalized aid in these cases.
However, for straightforward matters, the best online legal services for businesses provide more than enough value. Our mission at SmallBizGenius is to offer proven solutions for small and new firms. As such, we believe online legal services can greatly aid in cutting through much of the small-business red tape without breaking the bank. Read through our methodology below to see what we look for when reviewing these services.
Any legal matter requires serious consideration. After all, the stakes are high when choosing where to get your legal advice, and any mistake can land you in hot water. Thus, even the best legal services online are appropriately investigated and reviewed before being added to our list.
As with any service, the first thing to think about is your needs: Are you looking to open a startup and just want the legal forms to be created or looked over by professionals? Then yes, an online legal service could likely be majorly beneficial to you. You’ll probably save some money, too, since you won’t be hiring a specialized lawyer. Legal forms for starting a company aren’t particularly complex and don’t require great expertise - in other words, seeking legal services online for such tasks is very appropriate.
Likewise, if you need help putting together standard business contracts or could use some day-to-day legal advice, choosing an online legal service is recommended. Consider what they offer: Many of them are subscription-based, so you’ll be allocated a certain amount of legal help each month. If you own a business that is likely to handle multiple small contracts or NDAs, make sure to ascertain how many of those you’re entitled to each month. Many top online legal services provide a given number of contracts to each client on a monthly basis, which could be suitable for your firm.
However, some circumstances call for dedicated professional help, i.e., hiring a lawyer. If your business contracts or NDAs contain clauses that could lead to future legal issues, then we recommend using a lawyer instead of one of these companies. The same advice goes if someone is threatening to sue you, as these companies rarely cover trials and pre-trial prep. Some online legal services offer to represent you in court but think carefully before taking them up on that. Given the potential consequences of losing a case, only the best will suffice in serious legal matters, and a proper law firm is your best bet.
Frequency of Use
Take into account how often you’ll be using the service. Many are subscription-based for those who need regular help. Suppose you just need it to take on the odd-legal form or help start your business and aren’t in the market for online attorney virtual legal services. In that case, it’s best to opt for a service that offers well-priced one-off arrangements and doesn’t tie you down with an unnecessary subscription.
You also need to consider the size of your business and how that interacts with the online legal service you choose. If you have yet to form your enterprise, entities with expertise in forming LLCs are what you need. Many of them advertise these services as their primary selling point, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding one.
As a rule, offers of free online legal services should be avoided. Solving legal issues is essential, and any services offered free of charge are likely to be subpar. Instead, a paid option is advised if you’re trying to do serious business. Don’t be disheartened, though - paid online legal services are still substantially cheaper than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. And while they may not go into great depth, they will get the basics right.
Of course, since these services are geared towards standardized procedures, you shouldn’t be paying exorbitant prices. Compare prices between small-business legal services and see what extras the expensive ones are offering. If those extras aren’t vital to your needs, the ones on the cheaper end of the spectrum should be just fine. However, a suspiciously low price can be cause for concern - you could fall into the same trap as those who go for the free options and end up with subpar legal services. As mentioned before, if you only need a one-off task to be completed, don’t opt for a subscription-based service, and instead, choose a single-use deal.
Pay keen attention to online legal services reviews to see how they fare with dealing with customers. Of course, with an online legal service, you won’t get anywhere near the level of interaction or customer support that you would with a professional lawyer. That’s part of why lawyers are so expensive - they have to dedicate so much personal time to your case.
The opposite applies to online legal services: They are catch-all companies specializing in legal contracts for thousands of businesses and individuals, so you can’t expect them to pay attention to every little detail for you.
Nevertheless, as a paying customer, you should expect a decent degree of support with small-business legal services. If you need a more in-depth consultation regarding the contracts they’re making for you, some companies do offer this for an extra charge. On the other hand, if a mistake or misunderstanding has occurred, you should be able to contact them promptly and get a relevant answer. Be sure to look into the official level of customer interaction the service offers, and compare it to customer reviews to avoid getting yourself into a serious pickle, considering that this is a legal service you’re receiving.
Best Online Legal Services
- Rocket Lawyer
Online Legal Services: Reviews
- ⦿ Great legal consultation service
- ⦿ Excellent subscription benefits
- ⦿ 40% off discounts on lawyer services
With every organization comes paperwork, and depending on your field of work, this can either be an acute or a chronic matter. If you regularly issue contracts to clients or have to fill out NDAs consistently, your need for legal know-how is more of the persistent variety. Luckily, you need look no further than Rocket Lawyer – a company specializing in legal forms.
There’s a host of forms for you to choose from: Rocket Lawyer is one of the most reputable online legal services for covering all standard business documents. With a subscription plan, you’ll gain access to hundreds of form types. They are easy to create, and you can also receive online signatures for faster agreements. If you want regular access to legal documents, we recommend taking on the subscription for $39.99 a month. This is the same price as the charge per document for non-members, so if you figure that you’ll require an average of more than one legal document a month, this is hard to beat.
Members are also eligible for attorney access, an exclusive offer even among the best online lawyer services. Any legal questions that you have can be passed on to a lawyer for a personalized answer on your issue. On top of that, you’ll be able to have 30-minute phone calls for legal consultation on any arising matters. If it takes longer than that, the lawyer’s rates will apply, but they’ll be discounted by 40% percent. Members who wish to have Rocket Lawyer as their registered agent will receive a 25% on the $149.99 annual fee, another great perk for those in need of regular legal aid.
Rocket Lawyer is an online legal services platform prioritizing quick access and clarity, and its clean interface is in line with these principles. A mobile app where you can process your legal forms and conduct other relevant business on the move is also part of the deal.
Members also get the best pricing on Rocket Lawyer. On the other hand, one-off tasks can be quite pricey compared to the competition. For example, forming an LLC with Rocket Lawyer costs $99.99 if you are a non-member, which is relatively expensive for an online legal services company. However, if you have a monthly subscription, this service comes free of charge, on top of any additional legal paperwork that your new business may encounter.
- ⦿ Superb legal letters
- ⦿ Retained lawyer option
- ⦿ 24-hour emergency hotline
Of the companies that we reviewed, LegalShield is the most established and boasts extensive experience, having made a name for itself in the pre-internet days of the 1970s. LegalShield started as a pre-paid legal service, delivering aid to people taken to court for motor accidents. Since then, LegalShield has grown its assortment of online legal services to include options for all sorts of business and personal legal matters.
LegalShield is a subscription-based service, so we don’t recommend choosing it if you just need one or two things done. It has a one-off business Launch package that takes care of opening a business and offers three months of consultation thereafter for $145. This is pricier than getting an LLC with the competition. Still, the extended consultation period does lend strength to the plan, even though it’s not useful for personal online legal services. They’ll start to bill you monthly after the three months, but you can cancel beforehand or at any later time.
However, if you’re looking to set your business up with a proper online legal consultation service, then a subscription to LegalShield is an excellent option. LegalShield has three different plans, depending on the size of your business. One for companies with less than ten employees ($39/m), less than 50 employees ($89/m), and one for those with less than 100 employees ($149/m) – one of the best online legal services made for a small business.
The only feature missing from the lowest-tier offer is court defense in the case of a trial. Seventy-five hours of trial appearances per year, as well as some pre-trial work, are included in all upper-tiered packages, however. Apart from that, they have the same features, while the price difference is a matter of scale. For instance, you’ll receive 20 legal letters per year on the lowest package, rising to 30 and 40 respectively on the more expensive ones, with a limit of 6 letters per month. A follow-up letter and call is also provided for each matter. The biggest strength of this legal services online portal are legal letters, available on all tiers.
You get unlimited legal consultancy services on various affairs, which does beat most of the competition: Usually, the offer includes 30 minutes per matter before further charges apply. On top of that, you’ll receive three 30-minute designated consultations a year, document reviews, and debt-collection letters. When you put all this together, LegalShield offers a great package deal.
The customer service is nothing to sneeze at, either, as is expected from one of the best legal consultancy services online. They have live chat, phone, and email support available. And if you’re in a legal emergency, there is a 24-hour hotline available, so you can reach a lawyer if you’re in a bind. This is another testament to LegalShield’s serious approach to its customers’ needs.
An interesting added feature is the inclusion of members’ perks that grant you discounts for a variety of companies. There are over 500 brands associated with them, including Skechers, Verizon, and Hewlett-Packard. Though the member packages may seem pricey, this arrangement allows you to save some money for your business and in your personal life. On the whole, LegalShield offers affordable online lawyer retainer services and has some great bonuses. It’s not a terrific one-off legal service but if you need regular assistance, then consider LegalShield.
- ⦿ Free registered agent for a year
- ⦿ Paid packages for admin tasks
- ⦿ Great for essential legal services
Formed in 2004, IncFile is not as established or well-known as some of the other companies listed here. However, getting a business up and running often goes together with a low budget, and many online legal firms could be out of your price range. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be determined to make things work.
We previously mentioned that you should be wary of or even altogether avoid free online legal services, but IncFile is one company that deserves a review. Although not all of its services are free, they can help you form your LLC for no charge. You’ll only need to pay the state fee, but this applies to other legal services that help you start your business as well.
Our research often found that one-off legal services tend to be pricey to persuade you to get a subscription. Not IncFile! It specializes in starting new firms, so it’s an excellent option to consider if you don’t believe you’ll need legal help once your business has been formed and deserves a spot among our best online legal services reviews.
They have three packages, depending on how much help you figure you’ll need to get incorporated. The Silver package is the most basic and is also the free option. IncFile will create and fill out the forms for creating your organization, let you perform name searches, and they’ll be your registered agent for free for the first year. This may seem very basic, but remember that you’re getting all that for no charge. A particularly remarkable aspect of this package is the representation offer for the first year. Some of the other best–rated online legal services websites charge upward of $100 for the same thing, meaning you’ll likely save over $200 by opening your business via IncFile – a frugal choice for a new business. From the second year onward, IncFile will start charging you $119 per year, and even this is still a competitive price.
The Gold package costs $149 on top of the state fee. You’ll receive the same services listed in the Silver package, as well as some extras: An EIN business tax number, IRS form 2553, express shipping, unlimited customer support, a business bank account, and tax consultation, amongst other things. This is an excellent bundle of features that we feel matches the price, making IncFile one of the top online legal services for startups.
The upgrades don’t stop there. You can double the price to get the Platinum package for $299. Being a Platinum member means expedited filing, business contract templates, a domain name, and a business email, on top of everything covered by the Gold package. The paid packages are comprehensive. While you can technically do most of the legwork yourself for little to no monetary cost, you would waste valuable time that could otherwise be spent on growing your business.
You may find IncFile lacking in some areas if you compare it to online legal services that charge more: For instance, no legal consultations are available. Still, IncFile was designed to be an agile service that gets your business started, not a full-on law firm. However, one area it undoubtedly drops the ball in is customer service. While this aspect may not be as significant, since IncFile is not a legal consultation service, this is still a drawback.
To summarize, IncFile is excellent for opening a business for a low price, but you’ll need to look elsewhere for proper legal support.
- ⦿ Free registered agent for a year
- ⦿ Paid packages for admin tasks
- ⦿ Great for essential legal services
LegalNature exemplifies what the best online legal services should be. They help both individuals and businesses quickly and easily access crucial legal forms. Their vast array of solutions can help you with filing documents for personal and professional purposes, as well as handle EIN applications, certificates of good standing, registered agent services, and more.
LegalNature was launched in 2010 by a three-person founding team. While the company isn’t a veteran by most standards, a decade in the business still implies enough savvy to maintain success. Before we delve deeper into what kind of online legal services LegalNature can provide, let’s take a look at those they can’t: This company does not offer any sort of legal consulting or legal advice. If you’re in need of services closer to those offered by a ‘traditional’ lawyer, some of the other companies on this list should be able to help you out.
LegalNature mainly focuses on providing access to its vast legal form library. The platform also relies on client self-service instead of providing personalized counsel and guidance like the larger players in the online legal services industry. The documents available are divided into three main categories: Family & Personal Matters, Business, and Real Estate.
The first category includes living wills, healthcare, power of attorney, prenuptial agreements and divorce documents, cease and desist letters, bankruptcy worksheets, and more.
In the Business category, you’ll find business forming forms, as well as the various documents required for the smooth daily running of any company. If you’re there to form your business, LegalNature’s intuitive interface walks you through every step, prompting you to fill in the required information. Unlike some online legal service providers, LegalNature actually reviews all the documents and files them for you, saving you a lot of trouble. Additionally, they offer many forms useful for HR departments, such as NDAs, contracts, and others.
We were pretty impressed by the sheer amount of documents available in the Real Estate category, as well. This section covers forms frequently utilized by landlords, such as various lease agreements and eviction notices. Besides that, everything from invoices, loan agreements, deeds of trust, to documents for completing legal copyright services fits in this category as well.
All in all, practically any legal document you might need can be found here, both for your business and for you as an individual. Not all forms will get the full-service attention business forming gets, however. For smaller matters, LegalNature will forward the download link for the document to your email, and the filing is up to you. Thankfully, LegalNature’s online dashboard is straightforward to use, and all forms are fully customizable. The site also features a trove of legal information for each state, so most people should find what they need, even if they can’t hire online legal research services.
There are two pricing plans: The monthly fee is $38.95, while the annual cost is only $84. Either grants you unlimited access to all documents, but specific services – e.g., a registered agent – are enlisted separately. Individual documents can be purchased for less, but services like business forming are charged extra.
All things considered, LegalNature is a flexible legal company that aims to streamline all filing processes and alleviate any legal hassle.
The answer to this question depends on how much and what type of support you require. Having reviewed some of the field’s leading players, we believe that the strongest candidates for this title lie with both LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer. They both have a wide range of features available to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. The primary purpose of both companies is helping startups get past much of the red tape of getting a business up and running, as well as continuing to aid with legal affairs afterward, so it’s only fair to say they’ve both been providing the best online legal services in 2021.
Yes, there are online lawyers that you can talk to for free. Bear in mind that free services often come with strings attached, and the lawyer’s word may not be very trustworthy, considering that they’re not getting paid for it. That’s not to say it can’t turn out well, but remember that a paid service will get you better results. It is worth going for but remember that a paid service will get you better results.
LegalNature and Rocket Lawyer were our top picks for the best online legal services. Both of them offer great one-off and subscription services, making them one-stop shops for all of your small business needs. Not only that, but they will also set you up with experienced lawyers with expertise in the laws of your state, should you need them.