Imagine Turbo-Tax, but instead with legal forms and the ability to file an LLC for your business.
Today, getting legal help is just as easy as filing your taxes. With a few mouse clicks, you can access documents, find a local or specialized attorney, or set up a brand new business. All of these services are also offered by law firms, but if you’re looking for speed, simple transactions or documentation and low cost legal work, looking online may be your best bet.
Why Does My Small Business Need Legal Work?
There’s no one-size-fits-all for when businesses should enlist legal help. It depends a lot on how complex your business is, and what legal type of business you’re starting. If you’re the only owner of a sole proprietorship, you’re not required to register your business with your state and there’s no specific paperwork unless you need industry specific business licenses. If you have a partnership, LLC, Corporation or S Corporation, or require one filed, you’ll need legal documentation and registration. This is where comparing your options, both online legal services and LLC filings and law firms, will serve you well. If your business is at all complicated, you’ll want someone with the right expertise in your industry.
The most common reasons for a small business to need legal help are:
- Forms and legal documents, such as incorporation documents and state filings
- Trademarks or patents
- Lease or service agreements
- Engagement letters
- Non disclosure agreements (NDAs)
- Employment contracts
Which Legal Services Are Available Online?
You can do pretty much everything online these days. You know there’s online therapy now? Well, if you need a lawyer, you can even engage with one through online legal matching services and speak on the phone or via video chat. You may not even need a lawyer though, with legal services like IncAuthority, which offer document templates and contracts directly through legal software.
Legal services available for your business include:
- Starting a business
- Employment and HR law
- Intellectual property
- Business operations
- Service contracts
Personal legal services include:
- Wills and estates
- Living wills
- Divorce settlements
- Child care authorizations
- Personal finance
- Personal property claims
Traditional Law Firms vs. Online Legal Services
If you’re looking into filing Articles of Organization for your LLC, you may find that it’s a pretty simple task you can do yourself with some online legal assistance. You’ll save a lot of money and may compete the filings faster and smoother than needing to involve external counsel. Some online services will even connect you to lawyers, without the overhead of a law firm. That said, the specialized attention you’d get from your own legal counsel can’t be beat if you have more complicated proceedings or ongoing detailed work. If you need litigation help or major corporate issues and have the budget for a law firm, that may suit your needs best. If you’re looking for basic legal work, software and online services can do today what attorneys have done for centuries.
Pros and Cons of Online Legal Services
The largest two advantages of online legal services are huge: speed and price. Where a law firm’s cost may be prohibitive for a young business, online documentation can be cost effective, with some companies charging as low as state filing fees alone for LLC registration. Many contracts come standard, so using a template to fill in your details and be ready fast may be worthwhile for you. The major disadvantage is that if you need a higher level of customer service or intricate work, templates might not cut it. You’ll want to be sure everything is done correctly and your business is protected. Online services can offer that--but only to a point.
Using An Online Service to File An LLC
Starting a business is something you may only do once in your life, so it’s a pretty big deal. Get it right be filing your paperwork properly.
Here are the steps you need to know:
- Pick a name for your LLC. You’ll be able to to an initial search online through your legal service provider to decide on something you like, then it will run a more comprehensive search through state databases.
- File official paperwork. Each state has different requirements, and your legal plan should include this specialized service among the options you’re paying for. This will include a state filing fee, often which your provider will pay on your behalf.
- Write an operating agreement. This sets out the rules of your company, such as who has what kind of rights, what happens if you dissolve, etc. It’s not required, and you can proceed without doing so, but it’s a highly recommended step for new businesses.
- Get a Tax ID number. Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) will allow you to open a bank account, pay taxes, and get any required licenses or permits you might need.
- Appoint a registered agent. This is only required in some states, but it appoints one person or entity to be your businesses address for government correspondence or compliance-related documents.
- Stay up to date. There may be ongoing requirements for your business, such as filing annual reports or other compliance documents.
- File your taxes: Setting up an LLC is tax deductible.
Now’s the Time
If you’ve started onboarding clients and business partners or purchasing merchandise, it’s time to consider onboarding some legal advice. Legal service providers will protect your business assets from liabilities or unnecessary expense, while ensuring that your paperwork and state requirements are met. Don’t risk doing it alone; online providers can help you through the early stages of your business. Compare services online by reading comprehensive reviews and looking into each company’s reputation to find the one that’s easiest for you with the best value, and concentrate on running your business.