The internet offers a vast array of services that are supposed to make life easier. You can buy and swap household items, chat with people across the globe, or even create an important legal contract – all from the comfort of your home. Websites like LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer advertise the ability to create a basic contract, will, employment agreement, or even complete a divorce right from your computer – all while skipping the usual step of hiring an attorney. But is using one of these services actually a good idea?
The appeal of using one of these online services is obvious. The prospect of hiring an experienced attorney with expertise in civil or business law sounds expensive and your resources may be limited. Filling out a contract from home sounds so easy. Why not try it out? But the truth is, executing these types of contracts yourself is usually not the best choice.
Most of the problems with online legal services – ones that a contract attorney could have helped you avoid – won’t be apparent until it’s too late. Here are the pros and cons of these sometimes risky services.
Online Business Contracts Look Good…at First
On one of the many online “legal services” sites like LegalZoom, you can download a civil or business contract and complete it yourself directly on a template for less than most people would expect to pay a local attorney. That part is simple and, not surprisingly, the supposed cost-saving is usually the top reason people decide to use these services in the first place.
Unfortunately, however, just like with most things in life – you get what you pay for. While the upfront cost of using a stock template or cheap online “legal service” seems low, the real price usually comes later down the line when that contract or agreement is put to the test. Sadly, most people discover this reality the hard way. They create a contract online, using a boilerplate template that isn’t tailored to there individual or business needs, isn’t jurisdiction-specific, and is usually lacking in the important provisions or terms. When a dispute arises (as they inevitably do), these same individuals wish they had consulted with an attorney beforehand. That is because using an online service or template usually misses things that an experienced attorney would have been sure to include.
Its important to realize – online templates and legal services are created in a very generic and broad way, so as to be applicable to a wide variety of clients. That usually means they contain only the bear minimum to look good, without containing real substance.
Your Needs Go Beyond the Contract Itself
One business owner who hired our firm discovered the drawbacks of these online contract services when he used LegalZoom to set up an S-Corporation in December 2019. After numerous unexplained delays and promises from LegalZoom, he finally received the company’s incorporation documents in May 2020, only to discover that the company had actually been registered since December after all. But by that time, it was too late – the IRS considered his business in default because he had missed federal filing deadlines by several months. The client had to hire our firm to unravel the mess and ended up paying far more than he anticipated when he initially signed up for the online service.
The lesson? Keep your eyes on the big picture, not just on the contract in front of you. Business coaches often tell clients to begin at the end and work backwards to achieve their goals. Drafting a contract, business agreement, employment document, or any other contract is no different: you must first think about the outcome you want to achieve. The form you use is secondary to accomplishing your goals and if your contract is challenged in court, adequate protection usually requires legal advice from an attorney.
What Should You Do Next?
If you are interested in learning more or speaking with an attorney at Capital Partners Law, there are plenty of ways to get in touch:
- Call us toll-free at (833) 7-CAPLAW.
- Find your nearest office and call to schedule a free consultation.
- Complete our New Client Request Form online. (No obligation – an attorney will review your information and contact you to discuss your needs).
- Schedule a Free Initial Phone Consultation online now.
- Schedule a Free Initial Video Consultation online now.
This article is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader nor should it be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact our firm.