By Daniel Lewis,
/ Advertising Disclosure

While there are some things that only a licensed attorney can help you with, many other things can be done via alternative means – namely, online legal services. An online legal service can help with the maintenance and filing of essential business records. From simple estate planning to starting a new business, it has become necessary to use automated online tools that let you stay on top of things. Below, you can find the primary functions that an online legal service will perform for your enterprise.

What Can an Online Legal Service Do?

An online legal service can perform many functions, largely depending on what service you are using. They are most commonly used to

  • File business formation documents
  • Maintain essential employment and HR records
  • Maintain and file critical real estate documents
  • Maintain family and personal documents
  • Securely store and sign all sorts of legal documents
  • Create legal documents that would traditionally require a lawyer (and huge fee)

Editor’s Note: Hiring an online legal service makes great sense when you need to plan an estate, start a business, or make a bunch of legal documents like lease contracts and the like. These services have made what used to be a complex and expensive task a breeze to do, but you should always read the fine print, as you are still dealing with lawyers, though digitally.

Top 3 Online Legal Services at a Glance

In sum, an online legal service will help you maintain documents for your business securely and enable you to share them with the necessary parties. Paying an attorney for a similar service is far more costly, and the many online legal services are helping streamline the industry so that it is more affordable and more efficient.

One of the most common functions of an online legal service is to form a business. While this is easy to do yourself, the legal service provides a neat online repository to hold all of your documents securely, so you can access them as you need. Here I need to note that you should look for an online legal service that does not charge a formation fee, and the only charge is the mandatory state filing fee.

#1 – IncFile (Try now): Possibly the single best online legal service for the formation of a business (LLC, C-Corp, Partnership, etc), it is one of the most affordable online legal services for business formation.

#2 – LegalNature (Try now): Excellent customer service. A quick and simple process for legal documents creation. Also very affordable; LegalNature excels in real estate documentation creation, maintenance, and filing.

#3 – LegalZoom (Try now): One of the oldest and most reliable online legal services that cater to a vast range of customers. Closely connected with a network of lawyers and probably the most highly regarded of all online legal platforms.

You can get a better idea of these Vendor thanks to the comparison table I’ve made

Vendor Type Of Service Basic Service Cost/Business Formation Cost Best For…
IncFile
(Website)
Basic $0 + state filing fees. Simple business looking for form quickly and easily
LegalNature
(Website)
Basic $40 + state filing fees. Businesses looking for legal documents without professional assistance.
LegalZoom
(Website)
Basic $79 + state filing fees. Businesses looking for professional expertise and a wide variety of legal documents.

Best Legal Services Loans for Small Business (Updated 2021)

IncFile – Genuinely and Affordable Service

IncfileIncFile has been active since 2004 and has assisted in the formation of over 500,000 businesses. So it’s no surprise that they made the Finimpact No.1 choice for best online legal service. It is not just because they have such a long history, as plenty of businesses have excellent reputations and longevity but maintain a sub-par standard of service. IncFile genuinely makes the formation of businesses so much easier. IncFile is our No.1 choice because this service genuinely makes the formation of businesses so much easier.

First of all, IncFile happens to be the most affordable of all the business formation service providers, by a considerable margin. How does a $0 LLC formation fee sound in comparison to the $79 charge imposed by LegalZoom, IncFile’s biggest competitor in the business formation sphere? Pretty good, especially when you consider that you get a full-year registered agent package throw in (a registered agent is essential for an LLC and usually costs around $100, spending on the state).

Another thing where IncFile excels in the customer service department, and they take great pride in this area. All clients with IncFile have unlimited phone and email support.

They have a 4.8 rating on the Shopper Approved review site, many of which are quite recent:

  • “The most efficient business filing service I have found.”
  • “I jumped over from legal zoom because of the price and length of time advertising for extras was taking. Your check-out was straightforward, and the process was quicker overall. Thanks, Incfile.”
  • “Excellent!!!!! Everything is easy and straightforward. Nothing hidden. I loved it!!!!!!”
  • “Love Incfile. use them for all my companies.”

IncFile has a 4-star rating on Trustpilot, mainly due to issues during the COVID-19 pandemic (which many businesses have suffered from). They have a 4-star rating on the Better Business Bureau.

Many corporations don’t bother with the BBB, but this is somewhat of a ‘Gold Standard’ in terms of customer feedback. While IncFile used to have an A+ rating, at the start of 2021, they have been downgraded due to a recent pattern of negative complaints. When we called them, we experienced no wait times and got an email response within 24 hours, though there have been some complaints of long waits in recent times.

The most commonly cited benefits of IncFile are how smooth and easy it is to get set up with a business. You can get everything formed and filed within 24 hours. The issues tend to arise when a customer files incorrectly (such as with the wrong EIN number) and then needs to get an issue resolved. These were the main complaints amidst COVID when customer service became overwhelmed (a pattern found amongst many online services ).

IncFile offers three packages: Silver, Gold, and Platinum. All packages include the preparation and filing of formation documents, lifetime customer support, 15-minute free consultation with a tax professional, one year of free registered agent services, business name availability searches, online document access, lifetime company alerts, and order status tracking.

The Gold package additionally has an EIN submission, customer operating agreements, express shipping, and S-Corp taxation documents. The Platinum package also includes expedited shipping, legal document templates, and a business website and domain name.

IncFile will send you alerts for all of the typical deadlines of when to file for taxes. It might seem simple but is a handy thing when you are running a business. Unless you have a system of reminders, you are simply going to forget to file and have to pay an IRS fine for a late submission.

Generally, I was very impressed with the free package, not so much with the other packages. After all, it is an entirely free service that will satisfy the needs of most small businesses. All things considered, IncFile is the default option for business owners, even with some recent complaints on social review sites.

Still, keep in mind IncFile is only suited for business formation, and for more comprehensive legal services, you need to use another provider. 

Features

  • $0 LLC filing fee (state fees must still be paid)
  • Free 15 minute tax consultation
  • Online document access
  • Superb lifetime customer support
  • Name availability verification
  • Order status tracking
  • Free registered agent for 12 months

Price: $0 for basic filing with one year of free registered agent. No legal advisory services.

Why We Recommend
Simple. Free. Fast. IncFile is literally the perfect choice for starting a business without having specialized requirements..
Best for…
Any individual looking to form an LLC, or other types of business quickly, effortlessly, and at a low cost.
Pros
  • Essentially free
  • Lifetime alerts
  • The fastest of all online formation providers – Next day filing
  • Free business tax consultation
  • Startup banking and bookkeeping services
Cons
  • Not the most sophisticated or customizable of legal services.
  • Not suited for specialized businesses needed niche documentation.

Read full IncFile review

LegalNature – State Compliant and Easy to Access

LegalNatureLegalNature is an online legal service suited for the creation and maintenance of various legal documents, as the name suggests. They also offer high-quality business formation packages, but these don’t come for free, as you are paying for a bundle of business formation with associated legal services.

LegalNature has a rating of 2 stars on the BBB but is still A+ accredited. However, this is a little misleading, as all of the customer complaints have been answered professionally, but customers are still free to leave negative reviews.

There are many complaints about the Legal Nature sign-up process, which we found to be validated. It takes a long time to fill out lots of information for the free 7-day trial, which is not the most generous of free trial periods compared to competitors. To put it plainly, it will take 10 – 20 minutes to fill out all of your details, which is time-consuming.

LegalNature is ideal for people who require specific legal documents. They have a 4.3-star rating on Trustpilot, which is quite strong. Many of the complaints are about the free 7-day free trial. Customers use the service, forget to cancel, and then complain when they see their credit card bill the next month.

LegalNature is brilliant for people who need a diverse range of legal documents. If you need customizable personal documents, business documents, rental agreements, etc, then you should definitely consider LegalNature.

LegalNature has a very transparent pricing structure. The cost for creating a business is $40 (half that of LegalZoom, but $40 more expensive than IncFile). They offer two pricing plans for legal services. The Standard plan is $84 a year and the Professional plan is $499 a year. For one-off documents, the price ranges from $35 – $79.

The main difference between the Standard and Professional plans is getting an unlimited number of the same document. LegalNature offers a free 30-day money-back guarantee, as well as a 7 day free trial period.

What sets LegalNature apart is that they are strictly a document creation and maintenance service. They do not provide any legal advice and are not connected to any lawyers. In other words, they offer streamlined legal self-services with sophisticated documentation customization and hosting functionality. LegalNature offers a giant list of legal templates for any kind of requirements.  For example, in the sphere of rental real estate agreements alone, the documents they provide include:

  • Eviction Notice
  • Lease Agreement
  • Lease with Option to Purchase
  • Month-to-Month Residential Rental Agreement
  • Month-to-Month Tenant’s Termination Letter
  • Notice to Quit
  • Notice to Vacate
  • Rent-to-Own Lease Agreement
  • Residential Lease Agreement
  • Residential Lease Amendment
  • Residential Rental Agreement
  • Residential Rental Application
  • Residential Sublease Agreement
  • Tenant’s Notice of Intent to Vacate Premises

Regardless of what legal document you are creating, you will find a lot of helpful assistance to what the document is used for and how to create it. LegalNature makes it easy for novice users to understand legalese and to create their very own documents. If you are looking to understand the nature of legal documents and their relationships with one another, LegalNature can be a tremendously helpful educational tool. It is helping to make a traditionally complex field very manageable. 

Features

  • Document creation and storage
  • Business formation
  • More legal document templates than any other online legal service
  • Speedy and reliable execution
  • Extensive knowledge base and resource center

Price: $40 for business formation, $38 a month for documents on Standard Plan, $59 a month on Professional plan.

Why We Recommend
Suitable to everybody looking for easy document creation, regardless of industry. Good customer review ratings.
Best for…
Any small to medium-sized business in need of document creation at a reasonable cost. Especially useful for those in the rental real estate industry.
Pros
  • Gigantic list of legal documents to suit all industries
  • Easy to use
  • Reasonably priced
  • Very customizable
  • Good reviews
  • Good customer service
Cons
  • No specific legal services.
  • Business formation is more expensive compared to other vendors.

Read full LegalNature review

LegalZoom – Start a Business and Protect Your Family

LegalZoom reviewFounded in 2001, LegalZoom was one of the first-ever online legal services and has grown to become one of the most widely used online legal service providers.

With LegalZoom, you purchase a monthly subscription where you get connected to a network of specialized attorneys. With this business package, it is akin to having an on-call business attorney. The most commonly cited advantages of LegalZoom are:

  • Easy to use
  • Informative and helpful
  • Diverse in its scope of functionality
  • Has qualified and reliable legal professionals

LegalZoom is suitable not just for small businesses but also for established businesses. It can handle employee and Human resource records and agreements, among other things. Historically, this has been a massive expense, as some countries require document storage for longer than seven years, especially in the healthcare and insurance industries; the result is a warehouse full of documents! The price for business creation in the US is $79, with a $159 fee for a registered agent.

In my opinion, LegalZoom is not for small businesses looking to file formation documentation. When compared to IncFile, using LegalZoom for this application is essentially a waste of money ($240 including a registered agent) in comparison to IncFile.  I find it a bit irritating that they do not openly advertise their pricing plans for documents. But they have such a vast range of documents, each with different pricing, that this can be difficult to gauge pricing in a general sense.

If you are running a small to medium-sized business and need the creation of many kinds of legal documents or need expert advice, then there is no better company than LegalZoom. They make it so easy, and though it can seem a little expensive, it is far cheaper than going directly to an attorney, who charges exorbitant prices.

LegalZoom is pretty much a one-stop-shop for legal services. It is one reason why you could consider using them for business formation, as you could then use them for a vast number of diverse legal tasks. While many providers specialize in one area, LegalZoom does it all. You have access to a personal advisor for whatever your requirements happen to be.

LegalZoom is one of the only providers that offer unlimited document review by a professional, as long as the document is no longer than ten pages in length. It also offers the longest money-back guarantee at 60 days and is more affordable for what it provides. While there are some negative reviews about LegalZoom online, I’ve found it quite responsive for all of our queries. Just be mindful of the terms and conditions of LegalZoom; the same goes for most online legal services:

“LegalZoom is not a law firm, and the employees of LegalZoom are not acting as your attorney. LegalZoom’s legal document service is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. LegalZoom cannot provide legal advice and can only provide self-help services at your specific direction. LegalZoom is not permitted to engage in the practice of law. It is prohibited from providing any kind of advice, explanation, opinion or recommendation to a consumer about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies.”  

Features

  • Business formation services
  • Creation of a single document
  • 60-day money-back satisfaction guarantee
  • 30-minute phone consultation
  • Access to a network of vetted attorneys for legal advice and document review
  • Trademark registration, copyright application, and patent application
  • Legal forms, articles, and other resources for different industries
  • Unlimited document reviews

Price: $79 for business formation, $14 for the one-off document, $31 per month for the business advisory plan.

Why We Recommend
It can be described as a ‘one stop shop” for all of your business/legal requirements. Very affordable for its business advisory service in comparison to other providers.
Best for…
Businesses looking for specialist advice and complex documents.  LegalZoom is ideal for those with a long list of legal document requirements.
Pros
  • Wide range of legal documents is available
  • Free  30-minute phone consultation
  • Experienced attorneys at your disposal
  • Affordable one-off document creation
  • Most affordable of all online legal services
Cons
  • Mixed customer service reviews across multiple sites
  • Expensive $159 for a registered agent

Read full LegalZoom review

Online Legal Services Pricing (Comparison)

Vendor Business Formation One-Off Document Standard Plan Monthly Professional Plan
IncFile $0 N/A N/A N/A
LegalNature $40 $38- $79 $38 $59
LegalZoom $79 $14 $31 N/A

Alternative Online Legal Services Candidates

Atrium: Atrium is more of a specialist legal services brand. The legal services provided by Atrium can be divided into Corporate, Regulatory, Intellectual Property, and Litigation. In other words, they are more of a “niche” legal service. In addition to legal counsel, Atrium offers professional services related to fundraising, HR, company culture, and hiring. It is disrupting the legal industry in the sense that it automates all legal tasks, and lawyers can no longer bill clients by the hour as they complete mindless, repetitive tasks. The Atrium online legal service is best suited for larger businesses or startups in the technology sector.

Avvo: Avvo is an online legal service in the “traditional” sense; meaning that it is a job board where you connect to attorneys in your area. It does not offer documentation creation and storage or online business formation, but it is a directory of lawyers. Still, for what it does, Avvo is very reliable and has great longevity. Unlike many other platforms, Avvo does quite a lot to verify its attorneys, so you know you are getting high-quality legal advice. You can browse by topic, state, or city.

Rocket Lawyer: RocketLawyer only narrowly avoided making our top 3 list. It is well-known, popular, cheap, easy to use, and functional. As an industry standard, it offers a 7-day free trial and a $40 a month charge after that. Similar to LegalZoom, RocketLawyer offers legal advisory services from a working professional. It is an excellent platform for document formation and signatures, similar to LegalNature. But it falls short on business formation, which is needlessly expensive.

UpCounsel: UpCounsel covers eight key legal areas – finance, labor, immigration, general counsel, patents, trademarks, business formation, and general legal agreements. It is incredibly intuitive and easy to use with fantastic customer service. It ticks all the boxes for people needing a low-cost, diverse legal service, along with outstanding customer service reviews. Like Rocket Lawyer this only narrowly avoided our top 3 list. However, there have been claims that UpCounsel does not thoroughly vet its attorneys and enough horror stories have made us skeptical of this platform.

MyCorporation: Similar to IncFile and ZenBusiness, MyCorporation specializes in business formation services. What separates it from the competition is the free business consultation it provides, which is helpful to uninformed, new business owners. MyCorporation also provides a “MaintainMyBiz” plan, which (for a fee) takes care of up to four legal document filings every year. The downside is that MyCorporation is nowhere near as cheap as IncFile, with plans ranging from $99 – $324 non-inclusive of state fees

BizCounsel: This service was started by the founders of LegalZoom. BizCounsel aims to make legal costs more affordable for small businesses. It provides advice from business attorneys on a wide range of legal and business creation topics such as business structuring, intellectual property, and employee management. BizCounsel charges a monthly fee for attorney consultations and a flat fee for legal document creation, and is quite expensive, at $89 – $189 per month. The only real downside is that it provides no online scheduling features.

Law Depot: LawDepot is a do-it-yourself legal form builder, somewhat similar to LegalNature. You choose the form (or contract), answer the required questions, and the software builds your document. Legal form builders are always awesome to use, for people who don’t need specialist legal advice. What separates LawDepot from other online legal document creators is the $10,000 insurance policy covering any costs incurred from an out-of-date or incorrect legal doc provided by them. Most legal document providers absolve themselves of any liability from such errors in their fine print. You can test-drive LawDepot and create legal documents for free during its 7-day trial.

LawDistrict: LawDistrict provides a wide library of verified legal templates that can be customized according to your specific needs. This site’s contract maker stands out due to its highly intuitive step-by-step process, which enables you to easily create any legal document in just a few minutes. You’ll also be able to edit, download, and print your file with any device due to their secure cloud storage. LawDistrict’s tools are designed for both individuals and businesses, covering most legal areas and always meeting state law regulations. The website offers 7-day full access to all legal forms with unlimited downloads for $1.95. You can then upgrade to a $7.99/month plan, which is significantly cheaper than most other do-it-yourself form builder websites.

Zen Business: Similar to IncFile, ZenBusiness specializes in business registration services. What separates ZenBusiness from competitors is the legal entity management packages. ZenBusiness does not offer legal services aside from its business formation. It has excellent customer service and is a serious competitor to IncFile, though not as affordable. The subscription packages will typically include rush business filing, EIN registration, and a domain name. If you want to form quickly, ZenBusiness is the perfect solution.

How We Ranked Online Legal Services

We evaluated each of the Online Legal Services based on the list of criteria, outlined below:

  • Price
  • Range of services
  • Ease of use
  • Range of available documents
  • Availability of free trial
  • Security of stored documentation
  • Quality of Customer Service
  • Mobile Accessibility
  • Ratings And Complaints From Various Sites

During our test period, IncFile, Legal Nature, and Legal Zoom stood out for a myriad of reasons. Primarily, they are the most affordable, the easiest to use, and able to complete the essential business functions. At the end of the day, you want an online legal service that makes it simple to create, file, and access key business documents.

However, suppose you have specific requirements in a  particular field (such as commercial real estate, health care services, construction, etc ). In that case, you might need to find an industry-specific legal service. Each industry will have specific documents that the more generic online legal services may not handle.

To offset this, you can still use a service like LegalZoom. They will put you in touch with one of their attorneys when you need specific documents created. For all the base documents, the core service will have you covered.

What to Look For In Online Legal Services

What you are looking for in an online legal service will vary depending on your business. If you only need business formation, then you need an easy way to form business documents at a low cost. Remember that you can do this for free yourself, though the state fees are mandatory.

Young businesses will have less of a need for legal services, but as the business grows, so will its legal needs. Consider this when selecting an online legal service, as you would not want to pay for services you don’t use. Select a vetted online legal service, as you would not want to hire a sub-par legal service that will cause more harm than good for your business.

If your business needs specific documents, then you should check the list of document templates on the legal service’s website to see if they provide those document templates. Most online legal services should cater to the legal documents that you need; but if you are involved in a niche industry, such as healthcare or intellectual property, you need to onboard with a provider that can cater to this specific industry.

For instance, if you happen to be a medium-sized company looking to cater to Human Resource documents, then your standard items will include:

  • Confidentiality Agreement
  • Consulting Services Agreement
  • Employee Confidentiality Agreement
  • Employee Handbook
  • Employee Non-Disclosure Agreement
  • Employment Agreement
  • Employment Contract
  • Employment Offer Letter
  • Independent Contractor Agreement
  • Independent Contractor Confidentiality Agreement
  • Independent Contractor Non-Disclosure Agreement
  • Job Offer Letter
  • Mutual Confidentiality Agreement
  • Mutual Non-Disclosure Agreement
  • Non-Compete Agreement
  • Non-Disclosure Agreement

5 Questions to Ask Before You Select an Online Legal Service

Here are some essential questions you need to ask before you go and hire an online legal service, as this is a sensitive and critical aspect of your business dealings:

  1. Does this legal service provide what my business needs right now?
  2. What is the cost of this legal service in comparison to others?
  3. How easy is this service to use?
  4. How old and reliable is this service?
  5. What kind of rating does this company have? (Use Better Business Bureau, Trustpilot, and Consumer Affairs as reference points)

Remember, you will be providing important data to these companies. Do not do so lightly. Make sure they are trustworthy and that you will have a smooth experience with them.

Conclusion

An online legal service can help your business out, though it will depend on what you are looking for in such a service. From the many available options, I recommend you use IncFile for business formation. For document creation, LegalNature has you covered. And for legal advisory services, LegalZoom is the most affordable and professional.

Don’t make things any more complex than they need to be. For your peace of mind and the good of your business, an extra $10 a month is definitely worth it, instead of maintaining all of the forms and documents yourself.

FAQ

Do I Need to Use Online Legal Services?

Most likely, yes. For basic business formation, you can use a service like IncFile for free, which comes with a registered agent for a year. But you could also do this yourself quite easily. However, if you have more extensive legal requirements, you definitely should use an online legal service. It is more cost-effective and using an attorney for specific document customization is simply not viable. In the digital age, it makes more sense to use online legal services.

What Functions Does an Online Legal Service Offer Me?

The primary functions of an online legal service are the fast creation of a business with the filing and storage of the appropriate documents. In addition, many will offer a legal template library with a list of the most common legal documents required. You can customize these documents as needed. This list can be helpful if you need to submit an SBA(7)(a) application. It simply helps to have a list of legal templates with a stored repository for all of your forms.

Do I Need a Lawyer When I Have a Good Online Legal Service?

It actually depends on your unique industry and pressing legal needs. If you are involved in commercial real estate (‘CRE’) and need lots of high-end contracts worth millions of dollars, where each contract needs to be unique, then you definitely need an attorney. Still, for most small businesses, an online legal service can serve as a substitute for most situations, as all of your legal documents will be stored in one place and are automatically filed.

Do I Need an Accountant When I Have a Good Online Legal Service?

You still need a good accountant, regardless of your business and industry, however,  you can certainly reduce your dependency on an accountant by using a good online legal service. Remember, a good accountant knows certain tricks (mainly tax-related) that can grossly reduce your tax liability. As a rule of thumb, you can keep all of your documents with an online legal service. And when it comes near to tax time, then consult your accountant on an as-needed basis. Most small businesses do not need a full-time accountant when there are so many automated accounting services out there.

Does the Online Legal Service Cover Intellectual Property?

Some online legal services will cover legal property, though the vast majority of them will not. Intellectual property is a very niche field with a lot of moving parts. The process of filing patents on ideas is a multi-billion dollar industry with some huge fish in it. But some online legal services provide services for the creation and storage of intellectual property documents, for an additional fee.

How Much Money Can an Online Legal Service Save Me Each Year?

An online legal service won’t directly save you money, as you are still paying the state filing fees (for business formation) and any other legal service filing fee. But a great online legal service will save you future troubles. You will be alerted to what forms need to be submitted each month and have an easy place for document storage and retrieval. The full-service legal platforms can also save you money directly if you were to compare them with the cost of visiting an attorney for each legal need. Still, this all depends on the size of your business and your immediate legal needs.

What Are the 3 Most Important Features to Look for in an Online Legal Service?

The three most critical features to look for in online legal services are business formation capabilities, a diverse range of legal document templates, and extensive customer support. No matter what a company offers or how cheap its services are, if you cannot get hold of a representative when a crisis rears its head, then your business will suffer.

What Is the Average Price Range for Online Legal Services?

Depending on what you are looking for, the price will vary. For business formation, you can get free services. For more comprehensive business advisory legal services, you can expect to pay between $100 – $400 a year. The definition of ‘legal’ is broad in scope and expands depending on what you need to do.

Daniel Lewis
Daniel Lewis
Daniel Lewis is an MBA accredited investment professional who wants to assist small business owners to gain access to finance. After going through many channels for funding, Lewis has found that getting the first loan right is vitally important for future success.

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