A contract dispute, a lawsuit from a customer, an employee filing an ADA complaint — these are a few of the legal issues you could face as a small business owner. Then there are the more routine matters, like forming a new LLC or putting together a commercial lease. One way or another there will be times when you need legal help.
Of course a lawyer can be expensive. The American Bar Association reports that a recent analysis puts the average hourly billing rate around $536 for law firm partners and $370 for associate attorneys. Fortunately there are a number of places where you can get free legal forms and information, and even free legal advice for business. Twenty of these resources are listed below.
But a word of caution is in order. Sometimes information and advice can be too general to be applicable to your specific situation. Also, you might misunderstand what you read online, or worse, it could be inaccurate.
So, use the resources here, but run your contracts and/or plans past a lawyer. It is cheaper to have an attorney review your legal work than to have him prepare everything for you (or fix a mess you make), so combining inexpensive do-it-yourself resources with a legal review is a way keep your costs down and keep you safe.
Low Cost or Free Legal Advice for Business
Rocket Lawyer is one of the leaders of online legal help. You can make one document for free to start, which you can print or download as a PDF. After that you can sign up for a Rocket Lawyer membership free for a week. That lets you create unlimited legal documents and comes with advanced tools like their e-signature service and online sharing. You can also ask a lawyer legal questions and have your completed documents reviewed.
The legal plan costs $39.95 per month after your free trial expires. If you need additional legal help you can get it at a discount.
One of the better-known legal websites, the history of Nolo goes back to 1971, when it began as Nolo Press, selling do-it-yourself legal books. Those eventually included business related topics ranging from forming a corporation to patenting inventions.
On its website you can find a wealth of free legal advice for business, as well as books and business forms available for purchase. If you open a free account first, you can create, save and edit your legal form before you pay to download or print it. You can also use Nolo’s Lawyer Directory to find an attorney by specialty and location.
The business section of Lawyers.com has free articles and tutorials on many topics, but there are two other features that make this site worth a visit. First, the “Ask a Lawyer” form lets you submit a question for free and “receive multiple answers from top rated lawyers.” Second, its “Find a Lawyer” tool not only lets you search by area of law and location, but provides customer reviews of the attorneys listed (Nolo, for example, does not have reviews as part of its directory).