Finding Cost-Effective Legal Help for Your Small Business

Running a modern small business is a legal minefield. Vendor contracts must be reviewed to avoid liability. Intellectual property should be formally protected. Sensitive customer data must be handled carefully to prevent breaches. State and local regulations seem to constantly change. The list goes on.

Yet over 57% of small business owners report lacking ready access to legal help, with 74% citing high costs as the primary barrier according to Fundera‘s 2022 survey. This gap leaves many SMBs struggling to navigate critical legal scenarios alone or avoiding them entirely. Both roads often lead to even costlier problems down the line – from lawsuit judgements to government fines and penalties.

Fortunately, the rise of affordable online legal service providers offers SMB owners a practical lifeline for securing necessary counsel without draining precious working capital. This guide will explore the top options in this emerging sector.

By the Numbers: Legal Costs Threaten SMB Success

Before reviewing available solutions, let‘s examine the scope of the problem legal expenses pose for SMBs. According to recent surveys and reports:

  • 63% of SMB leaders say compliance obligations and legal risks are increasingly burdensome (SCORE Business Index)
  • SMBs face an average of 7 serious legal situations annually – from lawsuits to contract disputes (LegalShield)
  • Over 50% report lacking in-house legal expertise to review business contracts appropriately (RocketLawyer)
  • Resolving a single lawsuit costs SMBs an average of $190,000 in legal fees and damages (Hiscox)

Yet traditional law practices remain cost-prohibitive for many, with average attorney fees ranging $900+ per hour at large corporate firms. This breeds a dangerous environment, forcing cash-strapped business owners into difficult corners:

  • Attempting to navigate complex legal processes like financings and IP issues alone
  • Blindly agreeing to vendor and partner contracts without fully understanding risks and liability clauses
  • Failing to structure key employment and termination policies properly
  • Skipping yearly incorporation renewals and reports leading to involuntary dissolution

Fortunately the recent rise of affordable online legal service providers offers SMBs a practical lifeline – delivering necessary counsel without draining working capital.

Top Providers Bringing Legal Help Within Reach

The internet has opened up various avenues connecting business owners to quality legal help at a fraction of traditional costs. While options abound, we will focus on 12 top platforms purpose-built to serve lean SMB budgets below:

1. Rocket Lawyer

Founded in 2008, Rocket Lawyer is one of the most recognized names in online legal services. They are generalists that offer a wide range of document creation and e-signature capabilities plus access to on-demand attorneys for personalized legal advice.

Key services

  • Incorporation & LLC formation
  • Contracts & service agreements
  • Bill of sale
  • Eviction notice
  • Power of attorney
  • Trademark registration
  • Legal consultation

Rocket Lawyer offers multiple plans:

  • Free – Create 1 legal document per month
  • Personal Plan – $39.95/month – Unlimited documents
  • Business Plan – $49.95/month – Additional services like contract reviews

2. Incfile

Incfile focuses specifically on company formations and compliance for new businesses. Since 2004, they have helped form over 250,000 business entities in all 50 states. Services include preparing & filing formation documents, obtaining EINs, and ongoing compliance support.

Key services:

  • Business formation: LLC, S-corp, C-corp, non-profit
  • Registered agent service
  • Annual reports & compliance
  • Certificate of Good Standing


  • Business Formation Bundle – $0 + state fees
  • Ongoing Compliance – $149/year

3. LegalZoom

As one of the largest online legal platforms, LegalZoom assists both individuals and businesses. Covering a spectrum of common legal needs, they are a one-stop-shop for SMBs looking to handle incorporation, trademarks, contracts, employee matters and more.

Key services:

  • Business formation documents
  • Contract builder & review
  • Trademark & copyright filings
  • LLC operating agreements
  • Employment applications & manuals


  • Packages start at $79 for basic LLC formation
  • Mid-tier packages ~ $300-$400 include operating agreement
  • Subscription plans ($39.95-$64.95 per month) allow unlimited access to documents

4. LawDepot

LawDepot offers one of the largest online catalogs of legal documents spanning over 145 business-related templates. Their user-friendly wizards walk SMB owners through the document customization process.

Key services:

  • Contracts: NDA, independent contractor agreements, business purchase agreements
  • HR documents: Employee handbooks, non-compete agreements
  • Business formation: incorporations, operating agreements
  • Small claims
  • Wills & estate planning


  • Individual document packages start at $29
  • Monthly subscription ($9.95/month) for unlimited use of all documents

5. LegalNature

LegalNature provides an extensive suite of customizable legal documents, created and approved by business attorneys, for both personal and business needs. Their clean interface makes navigating over 55 business templates simple.

Key services:

  • Contract builder: NDAs, service agreements, independent contractor agreements
  • Business formation: LLC, incorporation
  • HR documents: offer letters, employment agreements
  • Real estate: commercial leasing, roommate agreements
  • Estate planning documents


  • Individual documents $39-$79
  • Monthly subscription ($29/month)

6. MyCorporation

In business since 1998, MyCorporation offers a full spectrum of startup services like business formations, compliance, banking, tax filings, trademark protection and more. Beyond DIY document builders, they also connect users to legal, finance and tax professionals to provide personalized advice.

Key services:

  • File business formations documents
  • Registered agent services
  • Operating agreements
  • Annual reports & compliance filings
  • Finance & tax filings


  • Business formations starting at $99 + state fees
  • SOS Compliance $125/yr
  • Registered agent services $99/yr

7. BusinessFilings

Part of the Wolters Kluwer umbrella, Business Filings assists entrepreneurs and small business establish and grow their companies. Services range from company entity creation to ongoing maintenance to office and compliance solutions.

Key services:

  • File incorporation & LLC paperwork
  • Corporate kits & seals
  • Minutes & bylaws templates
  • Annual reports
  • Business license application filing
  • Office supplies & compliance solutions


  • Formation packages starting at $99 + filing fees
  • Compliance services from $49

8. MyCompanyWorks

MyCompanyWorks focuses mainly on company formations, with a specialization in Delaware entities. Beyond formations support, they also provide tools and resources for managing annual meetings, drafting corporate bylaws or resolutions, issuing stock certificates, and other important legal paperwork.

Key services

  • File formation documents: LLC, Corporation, S-corp, Non-profit
  • Prepare customized bylaws & corporate resolutions
  • Corporate record books, stock certificates
  • Easy Delaware incorporation


  • Basic formations starting at $49 + state fees
  • Formation bundles at $279+ include bylaws and organizational documents

9. BizFilings

BizFilings covers both ongoing compliance needs and one-time filings for SMBs. With a full suite of customizable documents and guidance on maintaining compliance, they help businesses manage legal processes on their own.

Key services:

  • File one-time registrations and reports: incorporations, DBAs, annual minutes, liquor license apps
  • Ongoing compliance solutions: registered agent, annual reports, corporate supplies
  • Sales tax registrations
  • Quick access to government forms and requirements for all 50 states


  • One time filings & reports starting at $50
  • Compliance solutions starting at $160/yr

10. Corporate Creations Enterprises

Founded in 1993, Corporate Creations Enterprises offers specialized legal services catering to the needs of small and mid-sized entities. With expertise across multiple jurisdictions, they can provide guidance on business entity selection and ongoing legal upkeep.

Key services:

  • Prepare & file formation documents
  • Registered agent services
  • International company formations
  • Minutes books & stock certificates
  • Expedited filing options available


  • Entity formations starting at $359
  • State fee packages $850+ include first years registered agent

11. Avvo

While not a legal document service per se, Avvo connects SMBs to affordable legal help from attorneys. Through their on-demand legal services platform it only costs $39 for a 15-minute phone call with a lawyer. From there, lawyers can provide pay-as-you-go ongoing assistance.

Key services:

  • On-demand legal advice calls starting at $39
  • Pay-as-you-go attorney assistance

12. Shake

Shake also leverages technology to match SMBs to licensed attorneys across all 50 states. Business owners simply post the legal help they need and local lawyers respond with quotes for services. This allows easy price comparisons.

Key services

  • Customized legal assistance
  • Ability to select from competing bids and prices from attorneys


  • Attorney fees set on case-by-case basis

Navigating Key SMB Legal Considerations

While the above platforms help handle formations, filings and document creation, most SMBs require advice and counsel across more complex legal matters on an ongoing basis:

Reviewing & Negotiating Contracts

Vendor, customer and partner contracts underpin most business operations – yet 50%+ of SMBs report lacking expertise to negotiate terms appropriately according to RocketLawyer‘s survey. This creates unnecessary liability if clear performance requirements, dispute resolution clauses, limitations of liability, intellectual property controls and other key provisions aren‘t hammered out.

Online legal services provide templated agreements and the ability to feed custom contracts through to attorneys for professional review.

Structuring Financing Offers

Seeking small business loans or equity financing comes with mounds of legal implications – from picking the right corporate structure to putting investor protection provisions in place to avoid personal liability down the line.

The wrong decisions can lead to issues raising follow-on rounds or even open business owners to lawsuits. Affordable digital legal platforms help SMBs build out solidi term sheets, investment agreements and cap tables correctly the first time.

Protecting Intellectual Property

A single software program, business process or even a catchy slogan can serve as the backbone of an entire SMB. Failing to properly file provisional patents, trademarks and copyrights leaves these intangible business assets vulnerable to theft – destroying competitive advantage.

Online services walk business owners through determining what IP to formally register along with step-by-step filing assistance to safeguard ideas and innovations properly.

Complying with HR Rules

Human resource regulations have grown increasingly complex across states and municipalities regarding hiring criteria, leave policies, overtime rules, termination procedures and much more. Mishandling employee matters is playing with legal fire.

Digital legal platforms offer state-specific template around employment contracts, company policies and termination agreements tailored to your workforce needs while ensuring full compliance.

Implementing Data Privacy Best Practices

Collecting customer contact details, payment information and other data pulls SMBs into privacy regulation waters. Failing to inform clients on data usage or suffering breaches triggers governmental enforcement actions.

Legal services assist with proper privacy policy drafting, data protection planning and compliance readiness to avoid easily preventable leakage incidents.


Modern small business owners already wear enough hats without needing to add layers of complex legal expertise. Yet failing to structure agreements properly, limit liability clauses, formally protect intellectual property and comply with the myriad laws impacting SMBs courts material risk ranging from lawsuits to fines.

Fortunately, the emergence of purpose-built affordable online legal service providers empowers lean SMBs to secure counsel across all these critical areas conveniently and cost-effectively.

Remember – being proactive with legal planning saves both money and headaches over the long run. Use this guide as a starting point to explore offerings that provide the right support mix your small business needs to continue driving towards growth in 2023 and beyond!