Online Legal Services: Are They Effective for Startups?
Apr 16, 2012
Your idea for a startup has been streamlined, the team is assembled, and everything is moving forward. Talk starts to turn to S-Corps versus LLCs, and you quickly realize that you need an attorney.
Finding a lawyer to incorporate your business or register a trademark can become a job in itself. Ever wonder whether you can execute the process online? Can the online version really get the job done?
A recent report on online legal services from NextAdvisor.com, an independent reviewer of small business and consumer information, specifically put those two processes to the test. Six sites were thoroughly vetted. In all cases, it was found these sites provided legal assistance for far less than a physical lawyer would cost, and, in most cases, were easier to understand.
“Why should you go through the whole process of finding a lawyer and retaining their services when you can click on a legal services site, answer a few questions and have them file the paperwork for you?” said NextAdvisor.com’s legal editor, Jeff Hindenach. “Legal services are a more efficient, cheaper way to handle your basic legal issues.”
Reviewers walked through the interface for each and answered all the questions to receive personalized documents for each category. In addition, all general areas of the sites were tested, which included downloading documents, accessing the forums, reading advice articles and walking through as many different services and scenarios as they could. Customer service options were tested; reviewers asked both technical and legal questions. The reviews and rankings are based on many key components of each site including usability, functionality, and overall customer service.
So which legal service came out on top?
“Many of the sites specialize in different things, so we had to look at the overall value of each site,” said Hindenach. “We looked at the sites from the perspective of an every day consumer’s knowledge of the law and ranked the sites based on how helpful they are to those consumers. Some have more downloadable do-it-yourself documents. Some offer preparation and filing services for most of their forms. And some only focus on business-related legal issues. So there really is something for everyone.”
LegalZoom ranked the highest. A comparison chart highlights features of each, and a summary of each service is provided to quickly see usability, support, services offered and sample pricing.
This analysis on online legal services joins 30 additional categories on NextAdvisor, such as VOIP and online backup, according to president and founder Erik Larson. Larson and his team realized the need for a new category after repeated requests from frequent visitors to the site. Larson knew it was valuable as well, after his experience starting NextAdvisor and co-founding his previous company, MetaReward, a performance-based advertising network in 1999.
In addition to LegalZoom, NextAdvisor reviewed Rocket Lawyer, CorpNet, MyCorporation Review, US Legal and LawDepot.