Low-cost alternatives to hiring an attorney
All businesses require legal advice or advocacy at times, if only to help with standard tasks such as checking contracts or drawing up documents. However, not every business can afford to call on an attorney every time it might need one, so learning about the potential options for affordable legal assistance for businesses on a budget is a great alternative.
Let's take a look at the best affordable legal advice channels online and outline other ways you can find legal advice without spending a fortune.
Online resources for simple tasks
For simple, straightforward legal tasks, there are a few different online platforms that allow you to do things like create and download contracts, access and buy standard legal documents and other business paperwork, and get answers directly from qualified lawyers online. While larger and more complex tasks generally fall well outside of the remit of what remote online legal services are able to offer, for common or simple tasks or those involving the creation of legal documents for businesses, online services often offer an easy solution for those on a budget.
Below are the three most widely used online resources for simple legal tasks, and the type of assistance they can provide.
RocketLawyer.com is perhaps the best-known online legal platform. It offers a range of services, including the following:
- The creation of legal documents researched and written by qualified staff
- A direct online "ask a lawyer" service, which allows you to type in a question and receive a detailed reply from a qualified lawyer within minutes
- Incorporation services, to assist with the formation and registration of new businesses, and changes to the structure of existing businesses
Rocket Lawyer works on a low-cost, flat-fee retainer service with both monthly and annual options. It also provides access to all of the platform's various services depending on the level of access that you select.
LegalZoom.com is another simple online portal that provides access to a variety of basic legal services for both businesses and individuals, including the following:
- Business formation documents and services
- Intellectual property services, including trademarks, patents, and copyright creation, registration and enforcement
- Direct attorney-to-client advice services in the form of prepaid time packages for consultation with the company's own qualified lawyers from all over the USA
- Personal legal services pertaining to wills and trusts, including will creation and estate plans
Legal Zoom's pricing structure varies depending on the service you choose, with flat-fee tiered pricing options available for many of its standard business services. It also offers monthly retainer plans for direct access to attorney advice in the form of 30-minute consultations.
LawDepot.com specializes in the provision and creation of a wide range of standard legal forms, documents and contracts. It also allows you to customize, print and download what you need quickly and easily.
Law Depot promises "free legal documents, forms and contracts," which you can attain by registering for a one-week free trial. This will also provide time-limited access to the website's resources. After the initial free trial period has expired, Law Depot offers monthly, annual and per-document pricing options for its services.
For many businesses, particularly startups and small-scale endeavors, using the services of an online legal resource such as those outlined above can result in significant savings on the cost of many administrative-based legal services, such as drawing up contracts, forming and incorporating a business, and other paperwork. If you need help with litigation (or avoiding it) or something a little bit out of the ordinary, you will most likely want to retain a business attorney for your specific needs.
Additional options for affordable legal help
If the services of an online legal resource aren't a good fit for you, or you need an alternative option, here are other suggestions for where to find guidance:
Virtually every industry in the U.S. today has its own trade association that provides a variety of benefits and services to its members. If you are not sure there is a trade association specific to your industry, you can search a countrywide directory of trade associations here.
Trade association websites often offer free, industry-specific legal advice and updates. In some cases, their membership benefits include direct access to specialist attorneys who can provide advice and advocacy at reduced fees, or within the association's flat-fee membership cost in certain circumstances.
Small business resource centers
Local or national small business advice and resource centers can provide free or low-cost legal information. They also offer access to documents pertaining to starting, incorporating and running your business. The government does a great job of providing a wide range of resources for small business owners in the U.S.
Check out the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website for more information, and details on how to find your local office.
It is always worth asking around when seeking legal counsel, and direct referrals from professionals or others within your industry are a good place to start. This may help you cut costs by going directly to an industry-specific service that's already familiar with your industry. Additionally, the service may offer a more price-friendly deal because you were referred from someone it has an established relationship with.
Nobody appreciates an unexpected call from an old college buddy they haven't spoken to for a decade or more just because they want something. However, if you've maintained relationships with the folks you went to school with, don't be shy about asking for their advice and recommendations when you need help.
If you need legal advice, advocacy or assistance that you feel falls outside of the online resources or recommendations above, we recommend contacting an attorney in your local city. A local attorney can meet with you in person and provide the guidance you need to help your business.