No matter the kind of business you run, having legal counsel is critical to your business. From helping you choose the right kind of business entity to draw up contracts and even protecting your intellectual property, the right legal counsel will ensure the health of your business.
Legal counsel is not always cheap and for most online entrepreneurs, bloggers, or self-employed individuals, keeping a lawyer on a retainer may not be financially feasible.
This is where online legal services come in. In fact, some reports show that online legal services account for part of the increased use of alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) compared to traditional law firms.
Online legal services often provide you with a selection of services from which you can pick and choose what exactly you need done at an affordable price. You can pay just for one document or a group of documents to be done.
Today, there are a number of online legal service providers who offer almost all kinds of legal services online. We’ll review the top ten based on their unique services, customer support and price range.
Let’s get started!
What are the Best Online Legal Services?
Hiring lawyers, keeping one on a retainer or having an in-house legal team can be expensive, especially for new business owners, start-ups, and solopreneurs. That’s why online legal services are game-changers.
The best online legal services provide the right kind of legal solution for your legal problems at just the right price. So always keep your legal needs in mind before paying for any service.
Some of these platforms simply connect you with an attorney while others provide you with a comprehensive bouquet of legal services to choose from to meet all your needs.
Let’s check out the best online legal services!
Best Choice for Fast Business Formation Processing and Small Business Support.
With almost 4,000+ reviews and an excellent rating on TrustPilot, ZenBusiness simplifies and speeds up the entire process of registering and forming a business entity at a low cost.
Simply choose your filing package and the additional required business services like expedited filing, registered agent, tax compliance or Employee Identification Name(EIN) or Tax ID. They then deliver all your business documents digitally within your personalized dashboard.
A standout service includes help with your New York Publication if you’re looking to do business in New York. The New York State Limited Liability Law requires you to publish a notice in two separate newspapers to do business in New York.
ZenBusiness helps out with getting your publications done right and getting all other requirements right so you can legally do business in New York.
Apart from Business formation services, ZenBusiness can also help you with an operating template agreement to outline how your business runs as well as help with filing annual reports and staying compliant with the state.
ZenBusiness currently has three pricing plans that all cover filing, registered agent name and operating agreements.
The Starter Plan gives you standard filing speed and 100% accuracy guarantee.
The Pro Plan comes with expedited filing, EIN and banking resolution.
The Premium Plan gives you domain name registration and website, worry-free compliance and a business email.
- Comprehensive business filing and formation services.
- Ongoing LLC support and maintenance to keep your business in good standing with the state.
- Simplified and easy to follow filing process.
- Turnaround times for filing may not be fixed.
Get started with Zen Business today.
2. Rocket Lawyer.
Best Legal App For Legal Document Creation and Review.
In terms of accessibility, it almost doesn’t get better than Rocket Lawyer. This online legal service was founded to make legal-related paperwork and document creation easy for anyone to do. They also make it easy to find an attorney fast.
Whether you are an individual or a small business, Rocket Lawyer will connect you with a lawyer in minutes. The best part is you get access to legal expertise for a fixed low cost or if your legal needs are regular, you can pay a monthly recurring cost.
Their unique Document Defense®️ feature works together with the company’s form builder to boost compliance on contracts etc.
For example, if the other party doesn’t comply with the contracts or disputes its validity, an attorney will stand in for you and issue a demand letter on your behalf which will help get the other party to comply.
Some of the legal services Rocket Lawyer offers include;
- Setting up your business as either an LLC, corporation or nonprofit
- custom business documents like NDAs, contractor agreements and business contracts done
- Custom personal documents like last will and testament, living will, divorce settlements too.
- Legal review of documents and contracts
- On-call attorneys for phone-in legal sessions
- Secure document signatures and notarizations.
To use the Rocket Lawyer service, you have two options, you can subscribe to their monthly billing/ membership offer for $39.99 or pay per service option.
With their premium membership, you have access to a free 30-minute consultation with a lawyer on every new case, up to 40% discount when you hire a Rocket Lawyer as an attorney, free custom documents and free incorporation filing for new users.
Other service prices range from $39.99 per custom documentation to $59.99 for a 30-minute consultation with a lawyer to $149.99 for their registered agent service.
- On-call Attorney service in all legal specialties.
- Online consultations with a lawyer available.
- Custom legal document builder with secure document encryption.
- Responsive customer service.
- 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Mobile app available.
- Membership fee is on the high side compared to others.
- A la carte services can quickly add.
Try out Rocket Lawyer free for 7 days here.
Best Online Legal Service For Business Formation, Taxes and Compliance.
If you’re confused about which legal entity your business needs to take, but are not looking to pay a lot in legal fees, Incfile is your answer. Incfile’s specialty is establishing your business as a legal entity.
Incfile was founded in 2004 and has since served over 250,000 businesses, helping get their businesses formed and providing tax support. It has got great reviews with an A+ rating with almost 5-stars on the Better Business Bureau.
In terms of services, Incfile helps you with paperwork for your corporation, LLC, and nonprofit organization. Apart from paperwork they can also help you check if your company name of choice is available or if you operate with a trade name, file with a fictitious business name.
Need a registered agent to receive legal documents for your corporation or LLC? Incfile’s registered agent service is the perfect complement to their business set up service.
Apart from registering your business, Incfile also offers tax professional services. You’ll be set up with a tax professional who will help you prepare and file your taxes, reducing the risk of errors and increasing your tax returns.
Other services include ;
- EIN/Tax ID Number
- Business License search
- Business Accounting
- File S corp Tax election
Incfile’s pricing varies based on the kind of business entity you are forming and the state you are forming it in.
Prices usually range between $0 – $299 depending on which of their plans you choose. Their Gold plan is the most popular as it gives you an EIN number. IRS Form and free business tax consultation.
Filing tax returns may cost you anywhere between $299 for personal tax and $599 for business tax.
- Responsive customer care.
- No added fees apart from state filing fee on basic plan.
- Free registered agent service for one year.
- Business tax consultation and filing service available.
- No custom legal forms.
- No direct access to an attorney/legal counsel.
If you’re looking to register your business entity and get set up with zero hassle, sign up for Incfile’s service now.
Best Online Legal Forum and Directory for Legal Advice and Finding Attorneys.
Sometimes all you need is legal advice from a professional and nothing more. In this case, Avvo is your perfect solution. Founded in 2006 by an attorney, Avvo has grown to become one of the largest online directories for lawyers and direct-to-lawyer Q&As.
The site has an active forum where you can quickly post any legal question and get it answered within hours by any of the lawyers on the platform. To date, millions of questions and answers have been posted in their forum.
Another thing that makes Avvo unique is its rating system for individual attorneys in different specialities. Over 97% of US attorneys have an Avvo profile so if you’re looking for an attorney for both small business or personal cases, a quick search on Avvo will give you great options.
Avvo doesn’t offer any other legal services apart from its directory and Q&A forum.
However, both are free to use, making it a good starting point if you have any important questions that need answering. Advice given on the Q&A forum is however not intended to replace professional legal counsel.
- Free question and answer forum
- Free directory of reviewed attorneys in many specialties
- Free access to legal forms
- No added legal services
Ask a free question on Avvo today.
Best Marketplace for Finding Qualified and Affordable Attorneys.
For those looking to hire lawyers qualified to handle their unique case on their budget, UpCounsel does just that. It is a legal marketplace where you can find the right kind of attorney to handle your case after interviewing the attorney to make sure they are a good fit.
Designed to work much like how freelance marketplaces work, UpCounsel lets you post your job/ request online and wait for proposals from qualified attorneys who think they can handle your case.
After you receive the proposals, you can review and reach out to your best candidates for a free consultation, risk-free. You are not obligated to hire any applicants and the entire consultation process is free.
Apart from its attorney marketplace, UpCounsel also offers document management including unlimited document storage, electronic signatures, and version tracking. You also get time tracking and invoice management too.
In terms of pricing, it’s 100% free to post a job on UpCounsel and review proposals but the platform may charge a small percentage on the final price of awarded contracts. Since you determine how much you choose to pay for a job, you get more flexibility in terms of budget.
- Free to post a job
- Free consultations before hiring
- Possible to find attorneys in the same city/ location as you
- Highly experienced and top-level attorneys on the platform
- Free document management, legal forms, and collaboration tools
- Long response time for attorneys
- Only support via email
Find your next attorney on UpCounsel today!
Best All-Round Option for Affordable Personal and Business Legal Needs.
With an impressive track record of 500,000+ lawyer-client consultations and 4 million+ customers, LegalZoom is your one-stop-shop for all your personal and small business legal needs.
The platform has been around since 2001 and provides affordable, fixed-rate billing for all kinds of legal solutions. LegalZoom aims to provide top-tier legal services to small businesses and individuals who can’t afford full legal services or have an in-house attorney.
Some of their services include;
- Custom legal forms and documents with signatures
- Business entity formation and registration
- Trademark, copyright, and intellectual property rights protection
- One-on-one attorney consultation and document review
- Estate planning, living trusts, wills, and testaments
- Business tax consultation
In terms of pricing, LegalZoom offers a la carte pricing on most of their services. For example, to register an LLC or an Employee Identification number (EIN) will cost you $79.
You can also sign up for their monthly prepaid legal services plans.
There are two options, the business advisory plan which starts from $31.25/month and gives you unlimited downloads from their legal form library, 30 minute free consultations on new legal issues and document review.
And the legal advantage plan for those who need legal help concerning personal issues like settlements, employee terminations issues, divorce etc for a low monthly fee of $9.99/month.
- 60-day money-back guarantee.
- Comprehensive legal plans for both businesses and individuals.
- Tax professionals included in business plans for no extra fee.
- Unresponsive customer service.
- Business formation/registration fees could be cheaper.
Get started with LegalZoom today!
Best Online 100% Free LLC Setup Service Software.
IncAuthority will do a Business Name Check within your state, with the free LLC or Corporation.
You are guaranteed never to miss a legal notice, as IncAuthority will be your Registered Agent for a year.
A digital copy of your start-up documents will be easily accessible in the online client portal, delivered, and stored for you.
IncAuthority’s Preparation and Filing feature allow you to prepare entity formation documents and submit them to the state.
Prepare and file the S-Election document Form 2553 with the optional IRS.
IncAuthority Support staff will answer any questions you have via email or phone.
IncAuthority will help you build business credit, get business funding, and create a professional website.
IncAuthority offers a free LLC registration, and you’ll only need to pay the mandatory Secretary of State Fees.
The advantages of an easy-to-use powerful business structure include
- The most useful liability protection, in comparison to any other business structure, frees your personal assets of debt risk
- Incorporating comes with a multitude of tax benefits, while LLC and Corporations are entitled by law to many tax deductions not allowed to individuals
- Unparalleled ease of use
Incorporating with IncAuthority, means you are separating your personal and business assets to prevent your savings, home, retirement, and other personal assets from being compromised in a lawsuit against your business.
Once you have the LLC structure set up, there won’t be a need for any continuous maintenance.
- Asset protection
- Tax advantages
- Ability to raise capital
- Build tax flexibility, credibility, and name protection by Incorporating
- Manage LLCs without limitations on members’ amount and location
- Courts uphold the mutual owners’ agreement on running the company
- There’s no law requiring amendments, resolutions, meeting minutes, or annual board meetings with LLC
- Save thousands of dollars yearly with self-employment tax savings
- Adding new partners and selling interest in the entity to someone else is easy within an LLC structure
- LLCs have fewer restrictions on many administrative items compared to other business structures
- Owners can choose between multi or single-member LLC
- LLC can be member-managed, manager-managed, and other management varieties are included as well
- Federal Trademark, Revocable Living Trust, Business Credit, Website and Marketing Package, Business Funding, and Business Plan fall under additional services
- Only available to privately-owned companies
- You can lose pass-through tax treatment
- Possibility of state-imposed income tax
Contact one of the IncAuthority’s start-up specialists and get started with a free LLC today.
Best Platform For Finding Pre-Vetted and Highly Reviewed Local Attorneys.
Like some of its competitors, LegalMatch allows you to find lawyers with the expertise either by specialty or by state to help you solve your legal matters. It has been around since 1991 and has connected over 3 million customers to lawyers.
The main difference is unlike other platforms, LegalMatch charges the attorneys a small fee for helping them find business leads instead of a fee on the contract price. This keeps the service free while helping clients use the platform for free.
To find a match, you simply fill out a form online with details of your legal issue and submit. LegalMatch then forwards it to pre-vetted local attorneys with the kind of experience you need. Then interested lawyers will reach out to you via email with their profile, rates and background.
Since LegalMatch doesn’t charge you for their services, how much you pay depends on the complexity of your case, your business location, how long your matter will take to get resolved and the lawyer’s level of experience.
If your issue is simple e.g drafting a basic business agreement, you could choose newly licensed lawyers for a cheaper rate. If it’s more complicated like a class action lawsuit, you may need a more experienced attorney and that will cost you more.
The platform will give you an estimate however as you fill your request form. Once interested attorneys get in touch, you will know the specifics about consultation fees, payments etc.
- Free matching service.
- Reduces time spent in finding qualified legal help.
- Provides attorneys across many specialties and experience levels.
- Satisfaction guarantee through in-house dispute resolution and arbitration payouts.
- Limited scope of legal services.
- Attorneys who initially respond may be unresponsive after a while.
Join LegalMatch for FREE and find the right attorney for you!
Best Self-Help, Legal Information and Legal Material Directory.
As one of the earliest online legal service providers, Nolo gets over a million visitors to its website monthly and has become the go-to choice for trusted legal information and materials.
Nolo was started in 1971 by two attorneys and today is part of 10+ other business and legal websites including LawFirms.com and AllLaw.com. The aim of the site is to make it easy for everyone to access legal information and understand it in simple terms without jargon.
What makes Nolo unique is its self-help approach to providing legal resources at budget-friendly prices. While other providers may require you to post a question or get in touch with an attorney, Nolo has a vast collection of informational, easy-to-read articles for free.
Simply log on to their website and search for your topic of choice and you’ll find a lot of useful content.
They also have the option of purchasing ebooks or other materials if you are looking for more in-depth information about a particular subject. For example, you could get a simple ebook on creating your LLC for as little as $19.99.
Apart from providing free legal content, Nolo also helps you get in touch with a local lawyer using their platform, which is useful if you need legal counsel concerning complex matters.
Like most other online legal services, you can also create custom legal forms and contracts on the website. You can buy the forms individually if you’re looking to use them just one-time or occasionally.
If on the other hand you tend to use the same forms repeatedly or need to print and download them multiple times, e.g NDAs or letters of agreement, it is worth paying for an annual subscription. Annual subscriptions range between $30 – $44 per year.
Nolo also offers business formation services and has a native solution for setting up an LLC especially for small businesses. But if you want to register a corporation or non-profit, your registration will be handled by one of their partners to whom they outsource such processes to.
Nolo’s article base is free to use and access, however in order to purchase material or connect with an attorney, you’ll need to create an account.
- Large free library of attorney-authored legal articles and ebooks.
- Free search for local attorneys.
- Software and documents to simplify legal operations.
- Insightful materials for do-it-yourself legal cases.
- Customer service is not always responsive.
Get started with Nolo for FREE today.
Best Subscription Service for Customized Legal Document Creation.
While other legal services may offer limited legal forms and custom documents, LawDepot specializes in offering you a vast library of legal forms and documents at affordable rates.
This makes it a favorite amongst both practising attorneys and anyone who needs a legal document done quickly.
LawDepot offers legal documents that cover nearly all possible legal matters including
personal matters like child consent and divorce, to business matters like sales contracts and licenses, and even real estate issues including tenant eviction.
The platform is simple, no-frills, and easy to navigate with archives arranged both alphabetically and in a case by case matter. Your forms can be ready in as little as 10 – 15 minutes.
The best part is it’s completely free to sign up and you get a 7-day trial to download and use documents for free, after which you pay a monthly subscription of $33 to keep using the platform.
- 7-day free trial.
- User-friendly and easy to navigate.
- Vast library covering almost every legal matter.
- No attorney services or consultations available.
- Pricing plans are expensive for just legal document creation.
LawDepot offers a free 7-day trial so you can explore their vast legal document library and find the right documents for you. Get started here.
Best Subscription-Based Online Legal Service for Individuals and Businesses.
Sometimes you may need more than just a one-time attorney consultation or a phone call to answer questions. If you’re looking for an online legal service that gives you an in-house legal department and representation, the LegalShield is your answer.
Like Nolo, LegalShield has been around for a good long while(since 1972) and is available in all 50 states in the US. There are 900+ attorneys and 39 law firms, all pre-vetted and registered under the service, offering a whopping 22 years of legal experience on average.
So you’re guaranteed to find the right legal representation and counsel when you need it. What makes LegalShield unique compared to its counterparts is the fact that you get ongoing legal representation and counsel on a wide range of issues at a great fixed monthly rate.
Traditional law firms often charge high hourly rates and fees to represent your business and provide legal counsel making it cost-prohibitive to start-ups and individuals.
LegalShield solves this problem by providing plans that include discounted rates on hourly charges, member-only perks and document reviews all at a fixed monthly price.
Other services include
- debt collection assistance
- trial defense for business
- general and specific legal consultations
- business correspondence and calls on your company’s behalf.
If you’re yet to form your business entity, their standalone service, Launch, is designed especially for business formation needs and gives you unlimited attorney consultation while you set-up your business.
For businesses, LegalShield offers three pricing plans based on the number of employees you have. All plans include unlimited minutes and matters, three designated consultations per year and 25% off hourly rates.
For businesses of 10 employees or less, plans start from $39/month, with 20 letters and calls for business correspondence per year. You also get 20 document reviews per year as well.
For 50 employees or less, the plan bills at $89/month, and for 100 employees or less the plan bills at $149/month. Both plans give you up to 75 hours of trial for business defense with a minimum of 15 hours of pre-trial work.
Personal legal coverage plans start from $24.95 billed monthly.
If you work from home or run a home-based business, their home business supplement plan gives you great legal support for only $9.95/month. You’ll get help with taxes too.
- Varied plans for all kinds of legal needs.
- Unlimited phone consultation on business topics and one hour of legal research assistance.
- Debt collection letters and assistance.
- Up to 15% discounts in select partner stores with membership.
- Trial defense service available.
- Business correspondence and letters on your company’s behalf.
- Member Bill of Rights available so you know the quality of work to expect.
- Legal Document review service included in most plans.
- Mobile app available.
- Customer service is not always responsive.
- No free trial or money-back guarantee.
Sign up for a personal or business plan on LegalShield here.
What is an Online Legal Service?
An online legal service is an online service that provides solutions to any personal or business-related legal issues or facilitates connection with an attorney to provide you with legal counsel on such issues.
As such online legal services may help you by providing information and support regarding how to set up or form your business entity. Some even do the registration for you and provide registered agent services to receive correspondence on behalf of your business.
Other online legal services only provide a library of legal forms and documents to help with creating and customizing your legal documents.
These libraries are especially useful for those with some experience in legal matters or looking for information to give them clarity regarding a legal matter.
Another variation of online legal service is where you fill out a questionnaire about your specific legal case and post online for interested attorneys to reach out to you with proposals and quotes. Usually, these platforms may also make room for consultations.
Since online legal services come in many forms and offer different kinds of services, it’s good to have a fair idea of what you need done before subscribing to a particular service. If you need to find a local attorney, there are online services that can help you find a top-rated, local one fast.
Also be mindful that information on some of these platforms is not meant to replace legal counsel/advice unless otherwise specified.
Types of Online Legal Services
When it comes to legal matters, the scope is wide. Your needs may be as simple as filling out some legal forms or perhaps, knowing which kind of form to fill or even as complex as a lawsuit that can potentially drag for months on end.
Based on this, a number of online legal services have evolved to fit a particular need, which only increases the appeal of getting legal help online. Apart from the fact that it saves you time and money, you also have a variety of options to choose from.
Hence whether or not you need virtual assistance or a simple library to go through, your legal needs can be met by one of the following types of online legal services.
Lawyer Directories/Referral Services.
Some people may have reservations about online legal services because they feel it’s impersonal and you may not be able to get proper legal counsel for your issues. The lawyer directory type of legal service solves this problem.
This model gives you access to both legal consultation (paid or free) and counsel where necessary via a virtual call or sometimes an in-person meet up. Just like how referrals work, the platform refers you to attorneys based on your preferences.
Depending on the platform, it may host the profiles of several attorneys either by specialty, location, experience and customer ratings. These lawyers may not necessarily work in a standard law-firm or independent law practice but offer their services online at a fee.
The fee may be fixed, negotiable or billed as part of a monthly subscription plan. Some even include discounts on certain kinds of cases.
Popular online legal service providers like LegalShield and LegalZoom give you the option of paying a small monthly fee so you can have access to their lawyer marketplace and other perks like free consultation.
Other marketplaces exist solely to help connect potential clients to attorneys. You may post your unique case and interested attorneys with the right experience set will send in their proposals with price quotes. Then you choose that based on your budget and the best fit for the job.
Legal Forms and Custom Document Service.
Legal paperwork can be confusing. It’s hard to know what exactly fits your exact needs and is even tougher to customize forms especially if you don’t have a legal background.
If you don’t have the budget to hire an attorney to create these documents for you, you could benefit from an online legal form and document service. These services offer you a database of popular legal forms and documents in a wide range of categories.
The documents may be arranged alphabetically or based on the subject they fall under making it easy to find forms or documents that potentially cover what you are looking for. You can pay per download or subscribe monthly for repeated access if you use the same forms often.
If you’re unsure which one is right for you, some platforms allow you to ask a professional lawyer about which ones are relevant to your needs. RocketLawyer for example allows you to talk to a professional in advance so you know what exactly to choose.
Some platforms also offer documentation as a standalone service in addition to their other services, for example, LegalZoom. Usually, in such cases, the cost per document maybe a little more than on a site that deals solely in legal documentation.
Assuming you already have some legal knowledge or experience in legal matters, legal guide type online services are a good place to begin. These offer useful insights, articles and information to help you operate within the law.
Depending on the kind of legal issue you’re facing, you can find information on a large range of topics covering business, employment and even family matters. Some guides offer just articles and allow you to post open questions to a forum to be answered by an attorney.
Others may give you the option to access legal forms as well as ebooks, articles, case studies etc. This way you can start reading on your own to get a sense of direction on what to do and then further decide the kind of legal counsel you need.
A good example of such a service is Nolo, where you have free access to a library of books, legal articles, guides, software and if need be, connect with a local attorney. Basically, it is a self-help legal platform that will help you decide the way forward.
Multi-Specialty Online Legal Services/ Combination Legal Services.
This type of online legal service often is supposed to be a one-stop-shop for all your legal needs. Be it business formation, filing annual reports or taxes, registered agent service, combination legal services usually offer a little bit of everything.
For example, if you’re looking to register your business or set up a corporation at the same time draw up operations agreements and contract agreements, a multi-specialty service can get both done for you, either for a one-time fee or a recurring monthly fee.
Some also offer free 30-minute attorney consultations for any new legal matter and even a registered agent service for free, alongside customizing legal forms and documents. Electronic signatures may also be included with the document service.
Hence if you need other legal services, you won’t have to go looking elsewhere as almost all major business and personal legal needs will be covered on the website. LegalZoom and RocketLawyer both offer different variations of comprehensive online legal services.
Such comprehensive online legal services are a great alternative to having a full in-house legal department on payroll, or attorney on a retainer. You’ll be able to get most of your small business or personal legal issues attended to without hassle.
Types of Online Legal Documents, Forms, and Contracts.
All legal matters involve paperwork. Because there’s the need to provide concrete evidence at any point in time when a dispute or disagreement needs settling, legal documents provide a standard format of recording information that is accepted by courts and by arbitrators.
Legal documents(sometimes called legal instruments) can be explained as formal, written documents that can be directly traced to its author and formally records or outlines an act, contractual duty, right/privilege or obligation that is binding on all the parties involved.
It also acts as evidence to the agreement, process or act mentioned in it and is usually authenticated with a signature by the author alone or all other parties involved along with witnesses where necessary.
Apart from the signatures and formal records, a document is only considered legal and tenable in court if it follows all the laws of the jurisdiction in which it was issued and has been consequently filed.
Since legal issues cover almost all aspects of our lives so there are legal documents equally designed for personal and business legal matters. Here are a few basic legal document types that you are most likely to come across.
These are one of the most popular types of legal documents, especially in the business space. It is the preferred option for formalizing business deals and agreements between business partners, contractors and employees etc.
Contracts are simply legal documents written or created when two or more parties willingly go into an agreement that is binding and mandatory. It may outline specific deliverables, scope of work, timelines and the duration of the agreement, payable sums etc.
Usually contracts are signed by all parties involved (with or without witnesses) and have a time-stamp for recordkeeping purposes. Once the document is signed by all who are involved it becomes legal and binding on them to do whatever was agreed upon.
Popular contract forms used include
- Business/Contractor agreements are agreements signed by two or more parties who are agreeing to exchange either products, services or even property (usually intellectual property). This kind of document lets you spell out all the details in terms of time, quotas for products or services. It also usually includes a clause that lets both seek redress if either party fails to honour their end of the bargain
- Partnership agreements are especially useful when two individuals decide to go into partnership and start a venture. It outlines how much liability is involved and who bears what responsibility.
- Letters of agreement used to outline and put into writing terms you have agreed upon with another party. The main difference between other contracts and letters of the agreement is that contracts are used more in relation to exchanges of goods or services for cash, whereas letters of agreement are broader and can cover more intangibles. All contracts can be classified as letters of agreement, but not all letters of agreement can be called contracts since they may not be legally enforceable.
- Tenancy Agreements are a type of contract usually between someone leasing a property to another person, usually housing. It outlines the terms on which the lessee is hosting the lessor and for how long.
- License Agreements are especially useful when it comes to intellectual property. This kind of contract outlines who is allowed to use their intellectual property, the terms, and if there are any royalties involved.
- Non-Disclosure Agreements(NDAs) are used especially when a party is trying to protect the confidentiality or secrecy of a particular piece of information they are about to share. They are especially useful for preserving trade secrets and maintaining a competitive advantage.
- Indemnity Agreement is a contract in which one party agrees to “hold harmless” the other party for possible damages that would result from an agreement. It absolves the other party from any liability or potential legal issues arising out of their transaction.
- Non-compete Agreement is a kind of contract where an employee agrees not to enter into any kind of competitive venture after the employment period is over. These agreements also ensure the employee doesn’t reveal any trade secrets or proprietary information to any other party during or after employment. The contracts may further specify how long after an employee should avoid working with the competition after their employment contract ends.
The basic outline of a contract involves specifying the terms of the offer, the names and roles of the parties involved, the subject matter and legal consequences if the terms of the contract are breached.
Trusts are legal documents which let you or a third party hold and direct some kind of assets on behalf of a beneficiary. The one who holds or controls the assets is called the trustee and the one who gives the assets to the trustee is called the trustor.
There are two main types of trusts. Revocable trusts allow the creator of the trust to change the trust details or change the trustee. Irrevocable trusts move all the assets mentioned to the care of the trustee and control can not be changed
The assets in question here could be funds, real estate, shares, stocks or business ownership. Trusts may seem like the preserve of the wealthy but anyone can use a trust. It gives you more choice in terms of controlling your assets, avoiding taxes or passing them to your children.
Trusts can also be used to determine how assets should be used by the beneficiary. Again they are a good way to protect your assets from creditors, loss through divorce settlements and direct where they should go in the event of the beneficiary’s death.
Finally, they provide a quick way to discreetly pass on property and assets without having to trigger long court proceedings and public spectacle, where the judge gets the final say of who gets what.
A will is a legal document that states how you’d like your property and assets to be shared or distributed and the care of any minor children after your demise.
Not having a will typically leave decisions about your estate and property in the hands of judges or state officials which more often than not leads to tensions, strife, and scandal over who gets what. Usually, it ends in long-drawn legal battles.
Anyone can prepare a valid will for themselves, but in order to avoid any potential for contention, it’s good to have the document witnessed and notarized by an attorney to decrease the chances of it being successfully challenged later.
An attorney who specializes in trusts and estates will have the needed skills and experience to help you create a will that is most likely to be executed to the latter.
4. Power of Attorney.
This is an important legal document that may be used both in the business and personal space.
It establishes a legal relationship between two parties, called a principal and the agent where the principal tasks the agent to act in the principal’s interest within an outlined framework.
Business-wise, it could be to manage the principal’s properties, affairs and any mentioned assets in her/his best business and financial interests and in line with what the individual wants.
Personally, it can be used in instances where the principal is medically unfit to make any decisions regarding their treatment, thus the agent can be tasked to approve(or disapprove) certain medical procedures or treatments in the interest of the person’s health.
A power of attorney is useful when you may for any reason, be unavailable to take critical decisions regarding your business or personal matters for a while.
It gives you peace of mind knowing you entrusted your matters into the right hands and have given the right framework or ground rules for the person to take decisions on your behalf.
These are written statements under oath that attest to how accurate or truthful something is. They are equivalent to the sworn statement a witness makes on the witness stand.
This document is usually signed by the one making the statement and another person who is legally authorized to administer such oaths such as a notary public, some court or government officials.
If later found to be untrue, the one who wrote the affidavit (called the affiant) can be punished as it is considered a criminal offence. Thus it’s important to pay attention to the fine print to be sure it is 100% true and free of any ambiguities.
Affidavits are can be used in many different situations;
- Court affidavits are used when a witness can’t be there in person for a motion or trial, court affidavits are used to show the person is formally in support of a motion or can’t appear in court.
- Financial affidavits are used especially when it comes to declaring assets and verifying any other financial information relating to the affiant. This is used in loan applications, planning estates, by public officials and even in divorce settlements.
- Affidavits of Lost Documents are used by the affiant to establish the document really existed and so any undertaking that pertains to it will be followed through. This may also be used especially if you lose some form of ID and can’t get one right away.
- Affidavit of Identity Theft are used to prove to financial or government institutions that you have been a victim of identity theft.
- Affidavit of Heirship which is used to prove that someone is the heir to a title or property especially if there was no will and testament at the time of the person’s passing. This also saves all parties involved from having to go to court to settle such issues.
Basically anything that needs a sworn statement to back its authenticity can have an affidavit.
A deed is a signed legal document that grants its holder specific rights to an asset. These rights may be conditional and require that the holder meets a number of conditions or may not have such conditions at all.
Deeds are the legal document of choice when it comes to transferring ownership of assets like land, houses, and automobiles. They are used to transfer a title, which is the legal document that proves ownership of an asset to its new owner.
For a deed to be considered fully effective and binding, it must be filed in the public records by the government official in charge of maintaining such records. Its signing may also need witnesses based on the state’s laws and requires notarization.
Without notarization and entry into public records, a deed may be classified as imperfect. This means though the document and title transfer are considered valid, any legal challenge will require further paperwork and settlement with the state.
How to Choose the Best Online Legal Service for Your Business?
Whether you’re a solopreneur, blogger or growing business, you are likely to run into the occasional legal challenge that will need some expert help.
The good news is, online legal services have made it easy to solve basic legal issues without necessarily hiring an attorney.
Nonetheless, you’ll still need to consider a few key factors when choosing an online legal service. Aside from your budget, you’ll need to consider things like how complex the issue is and how long it may take to resolve it.
It is clear that not all online legal services solve the same kind of problems.
So, once you understand the exact kind of problem you are dealing with, you can narrow down the best legal service for your situation.
1. Consider Privacy and Confidentiality.
Ideally, in-person consultation with an attorney affords you attorney-client privilege which assures you of confidentiality.
However, if your consultation is done online, you may not always be guaranteed 100% privacy.
If you feel strongly or have concerns about confidentiality online, you can opt for an online legal service that will simply connect you with a local attorney so you can have an in-person consultation.
Conversely, you can choose to keep out sensitive information and screen the kind of matters you share on forum boards or in questionnaires so you are sure your information is safe.
If you happen to be having a video or phone consultation with an attorney, you can verify from them if attorney client-privileges apply and any clauses that indemnify the operator in case your information leaks.
Most of these websites do not specifically protect information put on public boards since it is assumed that the content is for the public domain.
2. Have a Flexible Budget with Limits.
One of the biggest reasons why online legal services are very appealing is because of how affordable they are. You now have a wide variety of options to choose from at different price points with different payment options.
This means regardless of what your budget is, with a little research and budget flexibility, you are sure to find something that will work perfectly for your unique situation.
Depending on how frequently you will be using the legal service, you can choose either a recurring monthly subscription or a one-time fee for as and when you need the service.
Recurring subscriptions include a fixed number of attorney consultations, document and form requests. Whereas a simple task like drafting an employee contract may need a one-time fee.
Hence if you need to have an attorney on call, ongoing subscriptions may be a good option. But if you get a case that needs more complex legal expertise like criminal defense at a trial, you’ll most likely incur extra fees.
You can also purchase a single document or have a brief session with an attorney and pay only for that service.
Choose free websites if you’re simply looking to find a local attorney to work with. However, the website has no control over the lawyer’s fees or the work that the lawyer does for you so negotiate wisely.
3. Consider The Kind of Service You Need.
Different kinds of legal matters demand varying levels of expertise and skill. Some platforms offer comprehensive legal services while others deal with only one kind of legal issue.
Thus, it’s good to have an idea of what you need so you can choose what’s right for you.
Do you want to create personal legal documents or access some legal information regarding a situation at home?
In this case, a service that provides a library of documents and legal materials may be all you need, since your needs are not complicated.
On the flip side, if you’re looking to get your business paperwork done and stay compliant with your state’s laws, you can opt for a service that specializes in business filing and tax compliance.
While these sites may be more affordable, you will not get as much in-depth information as you would have if you had paid for consultation with a lawyer.
If you are changing your business structure, being sued or need to stand for a trial, then choose a free service that shows attorney ratings and specialties like Avvo to connect you with a local attorney. Then negotiate your fees with the person.
4. Look Into Document Storage.
Creating and modifying legal documents is a popular service with most online legal services. Thus you should consider how these documents will be stored and how secure they will be.
The most popular way to store documents online is cloud storage which makes it easy for anyone to access their documents from anywhere. Look into multiple user accounts or proxy accounts for situations where you may not be able to access your documents yourself.
Some platforms only allow you to download and print your documents, which security-wise is a good thing because there is no risk of them being accessed wrongly or your information being stolen.
If the service provider stores your documents, it is worth considering how secure your data will be with the service provider where applicable. Enquire about the platform’s security protocols, encryption and contingency plan to keep your information out of the wrong hands.
5. Know Who is Providing The Service.
Sometimes legal documents can be worked on without an actual attorney getting involved. This may or may not be a good thing. Make sure you know full well who is handling your paperwork and their level of expertise.
A referral site/lawyer directory will connect you with a licensed and sometimes well-reviewed attorney in your state, which guarantees you that you’re getting the best legal help.
Lawyers who publish their profiles in these directories are usually held to high standards to help maintain the site’s reputation.
In other instances, the service provider may have customer service reps handling some of your legal matters.
While the background of the reps will differ from company to company, most companies make sure they are at least capable of handling some basic legal issues.
If for some reason you feel your matter is not being handled well, request to be directed to an attorney.
6. Know Your Attorney’s Credentials.
Picking an attorney to represent you can be difficult and that’s why lawyer directories or platforms exist. They help make the selection process easier. However, you need to know how the platform itself is screening, rating, and recommending these lawyers for you.
Make sure the platform you use connects you to attorneys who are licensed to practice in your locale and are in good standing with the bar. Visit the bar association’s website locally to confirm any recommendations.
Also check that the person’s specialty matches the case you want handled. This where the service platform can come in handy as they show snippets of an attorney’s past case profile. Go through the person’s profile to be sure they have experience handling a case like yours.
Finally, go through customer reviews to see how your attorney relates to and handles clients. Is the person responsive and timely? Check to see if the platform has outlined the expected level of service from their attorneys.
Online Legal Service FAQ
Online legal services could potentially save you or your business thousands of dollars annually in legal fees. They also save you time and provide quick solutions to basic legal issues like custom documentation and contracts.
You may occasionally experience situations where you’d need an attorney, such as in mediation or a trial. However, a large chunk of small business legal needs can be handled for a fraction of the price through an online legal service.
Online legal services work by providing solutions to either a specific kind of legal problem, a variety of legal matters, helping you find an attorney, or creating a library of legal information to give you direction on your legal issues.
Most offer help with legal documentation or helping you register and form a business entity. Others provide a network of vetted and well-reviewed attorneys for you to connect with while some also provide a one-stop solution to a variety of legal matters.
The kind of service offered depends on the kind of platform you choose.
To start a business, it is necessary to first choose the kind of business entity you want to form, which is either an LLC (Limited Liability Company) or a corporation. Speak with an attorney to find which structure will best suit your business.
After choosing your business structure you’ll require the following documents.
An Employee Identification Number (EIN) is your federal tax ID which is necessary for filing taxes, hiring and paying employees and also opening a business bank account.
Business Entity Registration is necessary to show that your business has been duly registered with your state as either an LLC, Sole Proprietorship or Corporation. You must file a business registration with the secretary of state or county registrar.
Licenses/Business Operating Permits may also be required depending on the industry you operate in. Businesses like restaurants, bars and med spas may require unique licenses to operate.
It’s also a good idea to open a business bank account especially to make it easier when it comes to doing taxes and builds trust with clients.
Other documents you may need depending on the kind of business you want to start to include partnership agreements, ownership agreements, and buy/sell agreements between partners.
Ready to consult with a Lawyer Online?
Now you know the different kinds of online legal services available and how a majority of the platforms operate. The most important thing is to always consider your unique legal needs.
- Are you setting up or registering a business entity? Then Incfile is your best choice.
- Perhaps you need custom legal documents or a quick consultation with an attorney. In this case, RocketLawyer or Nolo will be a great choice.
- If your small business needs ongoing legal support and representation at a great price LegalShield and LegalZoom both offer very competitive prices and services.
- Finally, if you simply want to connect with an experienced and highly reviewed local attorney, Avvo can get you set up for free.
Now you can confidently choose an online legal service knowing that will handle all your legal matters.