Small businesses can trim their legal costs by using an online legal service. While these services don’t provide legal representation, they can help you form a business, access legal forms, and connect you to a lawyer.
Before I became a business writer, I was a practicing attorney. Where possible, I have used my legal knowledge and background to give my opinion on the different services.
Best Online Legal Service: LegalZoom
We recommend LegalZoom for small businesses because they are cheaper than Rocket Lawyer for most things, have better quality legal forms, and have excellent customer service.
Rocket Lawyer vs. LegalZoom vs. Docracy
Cost of business formation services
starts at $149 + state filing fees
starts at $99 + state filing fees (first business formation free for Accelerate plan members and discounted rates for future formations)
Cost of business legal forms
$14.95 per form for most business forms or $7.99 per month for access to form library.
$5 to $60 per form or unlimited access to forms with subscription.
Subscription for long-term legal help?
Yes, $399/year to $499/year.
Attorney consultations and document review?
Yes. Unlimited attorney and tax consultations included in monthly subscription.
Yes. Unlimited attorney legal consultations included in monthly subscription (no tax consultations).
Quality of forms
Are forms customizable?
Yes, with step-by-step instructions.
Yes, with step-by-step instructions and online interface.
Yes, with step-by-step instructions.
Phone and email support.
Phone, live chat, and email support.
Overview of Online Legal Services
Online legal services like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer offer three primary services: Business Formation, Legal Forms, and Attorney Assistance.
You can quickly and easily incorporate your business or form an LLC, partnership, non-profit, or sole proprietorship through LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer. They save you time and effort by preparing and filing the paperwork for you.
Once you form a business, you may find that you need legal forms when hiring someone, working with a vendor, or pursuing some other business activity. You can obtain legal forms and customize them for your business on LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer. Docracy offers free legal forms.
If your business has more complex legal needs, we suggest you subscribe to a LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer membership to get attorney assistance. Members can get unlimited phone consultations with an attorney, attorney review of legal documents, and discounts on billable rates if you need to hire an attorney to represent you.
While these legal services can save you time and money, they are not a substitute for legal representation. For example, LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer cannot advise you on what business structure you should choose, but they can direct you to a lawyer who can discuss the general pros and cons of different business structures with you. Whenever you need business-specific advice, we recommend that you retain an attorney.
LegalZoom: Best Online Legal Service for Small Businesses
Though prices vary per form, most business forms cost around $14.95 on LegalZoom, whereas Rocket Lawyer charges $59.95. For businesses that use a lot of legal documents, LegalZoom offers you access to its form library for $7.99 per month. The forms on LegalZoom are high quality attorney-created forms. In contrast, you have to pay $39.95 per month on Rocket Lawyer to enjoy unlimited access to forms. That being said, LegalZoom has a more limited form library than Rocket Lawyer. If you want access to a premium form that’s not available in the form library, you will have to pay extra for it.
LegalZoom has a less expensive membership plan as well. Rocket Lawyer charges $399/year to $499/year for membership, while LegalZoom charges only $288 per year. Both companies include almost the same things in their memberships: attorney consultations, document review by an attorney, and discounts on hourly rates if you need to hire a lawyer. LegalZoom has a couple unique membership offerings that make it stand out from Rocket Lawyer. For instance, LegalZoom has tax accountants on call to help you with financial strategy, and for subscribers on a 12-month plan, they offer an annual legal checkup to see if your business is in compliance with legal requirements.
When it comes to business formation, Rocket Lawyer is actually less expensive. Their basic business formation services start at $99, versus $149 for LegalZoom. However, Rocket Lawyer includes less for that basic cost than LegalZoom does. Rocket Lawyer does offer one free business filing for businesses that enroll in its most expensive membership plan ($499 per year). Ultimately, we prefer LegalZoom because their customer service was of higher quality and quicker to respond than Rocket Lawyer. We have also used LegalZoom ourselves in the past to form a business, and the process was fast and simple.
See Our Full LegalZoom Review
Rocket Lawyer: Best for Ongoing Legal Needs
We recommend using Rocket Lawyer if you need to form a business, and you envision that your business will need ongoing legal help. If you enroll in Rocket Lawyer’s Accelerate plan, you get one business formation service for free plus one year of free registered agent service. Registered agent service means that Rocket Lawyer can receive official notices on your business’ behalf.
The Accelerate plan also grants you unlimited access to forms, on-call help from attorneys, and discounted rates if you need to hire an attorney. This is a good package deal for a new business with continuing legal needs. It saves you $99 for the typical business filing fee and $149 for the typical registered agent fee.
See Our Full Rocket Lawyer Review
Docracy: Best for Free Legal Forms
If you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford LegalZoom for legal forms, we recommend Docracy. Docracy is free and is basically like Wikipedia for legal forms. Anyone can upload a legal template, and anyone can edit and improve existing documents. As a result, you have to be careful about which legal forms you rely on.
There are a few ways to estimate the quality of a document on Docracy. You can see whether the person who uploaded the form is an attorney or someone else. You can also see how many times a form has been downloaded and signed by other Docracy users. If you can put in the time to evaluate which form is right for your business needs, then Docracy is a better option than building a legal form from scratch.
On Docracy, you don’t get any help customizing documents or any state-specific instructions. In addition, Docracy only has legal forms. They don’t provide business formation services and can’t connect you to an attorney.
The services we’re comparing help you satisfy basic legal requirements at a fraction of what a lawyer would charge. The national average cost of a lawyer is $284/hour. In contrast, for around $25 to $50 per month on LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer, you can access a variety of legal forms, speak to a lawyer when you have business-related questions, and have a lawyer review your forms for accuracy.
We summarize the costs below, divided into three parts: business formation services, legal forms, and monthly memberships (to obtain ongoing attorney assistance).
Cost of Business Formation Services
$99 - $518 + state fees
$149 - $567 + state fees
Incorporation (as S corp or C corp)
$99 - $518 + state fees
$149 - $577 + state fees
LP or LLP formation
$99 + state fees
$149 - $587 + state fees
General partnership formation
$99 to $159 (DBA) + state fees
$99 (DBA) + state fees
Sole proprietorship formation
$99 to $159 (DBA) + state fees
$99 - $178 (DBA) + state fees
$99 - $518 + state fees
$99 - $567 + state fees
*One basic business formation (i.e. extras like EIN not included) is included for free for Rocket Lawyer Accelerate plan members.
For more details on the pros and cons of different business structures, check out our guide.
As you can see from the table above, both services have similar costs for business formation. Rocket Lawyer is a bit cheaper for LLCs, corporations, and LPs/LLPs. State fees are added to your business filing. These are set by the state, and will be the same whether you use Rocket Lawyer or LegalZoom. For your reference, here is a listing of state fees for incorporation and LLCs. The state fees range anywhere from $50 to $500.
To compare pricing, let’s take LLC formation as an example since many small businesses are structured as LLCs.
LegalZoom offers three packages for LLC formation: Economy, Standard, and Express Gold. Most small businesses will be fine with the $149 Economy plan. For that price, LegalZoom will file your LLC documents and help you create a personalized operating agreement. However, it will take 20-35 business days to get the documents filed. If you pay $359 for the Express Gold plan, the primary benefit you get is expedited filing within 7-10 business days.
Both LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer offer a deluxe “corporate” kit for an extra fee, but you don’t need this to complete your filing. It’s just for display purposes.
If you need a federal EIN for tax purposes, LegalZoom charges an additional $49-79 to submit an EIN application on your behalf.
LegalZoom charges $159 for registered agent service. Most states require you to have a registered agent to accept official notices on your business’ behalf. In some states, such as New York, the Secretary of State acts as your registered agent for no additional charge. Alternatively, in almost any state, an officer of the business can serve as the registered agent. The benefit of using LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer as your registered agent is that they will keep you notified of any ongoing compliance deadlines, such as annual reports, that come up after your business is formed. See more pricing details here.
Rocket Lawyer charges $99 for basic business formation, $50 less than LegalZoom. However, there’s less included in that basic fee than in LegalZoom’s Economy package. For example, for LLC formation, LegalZoom includes a personalized operating agreement. Rocket Lawyer doesn’t include this. For incorporation, LegalZoom even includes personalized bylaws and board of director resolutions in the basic Economy plan.
However, Rocket Lawyer is faster for business formation than LegalZoom. They will process your business filing within 10 business days. This is twice as fast as LegalZoom’s Economy and Standard plans. For an additional fee, you can request rush filing (2-3 business days) from both companies.
Like LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer charges separately for registered agent service ($149) and federal EIN application ($60).
Does not offer business formation services.
Cost of Legal Forms
Legal forms or templates come in handy primarily when you already have an established business and need to protect yourself legally. Examples of popular legal forms include powers of attorney, nondisclosure agreements, promissory notes, and independent contractor agreements.
Pay per form
$14.95/form for most business forms
$5-10 for most business forms but up to $60 for some
$7.99/month for access to forms library (doesn't include some premium forms).
$84/year for unlimited copies and revisions to 1 document. $399/year for unlimited access to forms.
Most forms on LegalZoom’s form library are $14.95, but if you have a frequent need for legal forms, it makes sense to get the monthly subscription for $7.99/month. Once you buy a form, you can download a blank copy for yourself and edit and reuse it any number of times. See more pricing details here. If you’d like to share the form with a member of your team, you can add them as an authorized user on your account.
One of the drawbacks of LegalZoom is that you’re limited to the forms that are available on their online form library. While they do have most important business forms on there, if a form is missing, you have to pay extra for it (even if you’ve subscribed to a membership).
Most Rocket Lawyer legal documents cost between $5-10, though a few are closer to $50-60. The price for individual forms is on the checkout page for the document.
If you sign up for a Premium or Accellerate membership ($399/year or $499/year) with Rocket Lawyer, you get unlimited access to as many forms as you need. See more pricing details here.
You can download, customize, e-sign, and save any legal form for free.
Cost of Membership/Attorney Assistance
LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer give you the option to subscribe to their services for a monthly fee. By subscribing, you get attorney consultations, unlimited access to forms, and document review services by an attorney.
LegalZoom’s subscription plan, called the Business Legal Plan, costs $23.99/month, which comes out to $288/year, if you make a yearlong commitment. For $3 more each month, you can have a 6-month commitment. When you subscribe, you get an unlimited number (as long as they are about different topics) of 30-minute attorney consultations by phone, unlimited attorney review of documents up to 10 pages long (additional fees for longer documents), unlimited access to templates, and a 1-hour long annual legal checkup for your business. Note: the annual checkup is available only to yearlong subscribers
The plan also includes unlimited free tax consultations with an accountant, something that Rocket Lawyer does not offer and that could save your business hundreds of dollars in accounting fees throughout the year. If you have a complicated legal matter that goes beyond a brief consultation, LegalZoom will direct you to an attorney in your area. Your membership in the Business Legal Plan entitles you to 25 % off the attorney’s standard hourly rates.
Rocket Lawyer’s membership plans costs $399/year for the Premium plan or $499/year for the Accelerate plan with an annual commitment ($39.95/month for the Premium plan and $49.95 per month if you pay month-to-month). For Accelerate customers, the first business formation is free, and subsequently, business formation starts at just $49.95. Accelerate members also get 1 year of free registered agent service as long as you enroll in the Accelerate plan before forming the business through Rocket Lawyer.
With both the Premium and Accelerate plan, you get unlimited attorney consultations by phone (each consultation must be about a different matter), attorney review of up to 6 documents, and unlimited access to templates. If you have more than 6 documents that you need reviewed or a more complicated legal matter, Rocket Lawyer has a lawyer directory from which you can hire a lawyer at 40 % off their regular hourly rates.
One plus for Rocket Lawyer is their “ask a lawyer” feature. In the online portal, you can click a button to quickly ask a legal question. According to Rocket Lawyer rep, this feature is for those times when you don’t need a full consultation, but you have a quick question that you’d just like to run by a lawyer to make sure you’re heading in a safe direction. I signed up for the free trial and asked a question about the difference between an employee and independent contractor. An attorney answered my question in less than 24 hours and provided a link where I could find information about this topic. This is a nice feature that is only available on Rocket Lawyer; LegalZoom only offers consultations that you have to schedule in advance.
Rocket Lawyer also has a 1 week free trial, so you can try out the membership benefits. You can also cancel your membership at any time and receive a prorated refund. LegalZoom does not offer a free trial, but you can cancel at any time.
No subscription/membership option.
Quality and Type of Forms
Since your business’ legal and financial rights are at stake, it’s important to use good quality forms.
For example, unemployment insurance and workers compensation insurance are two of the biggest legal requirements for small business owners. To learn more, read our guide to FICA Taxes, Unemployment Insurance, & Workers Comp for Owners. Make sure that you also consult with a business attorney for a full rundown of the requirements you’ll have to meet.
In our opinion, LegalZoom wins on quality. Over 160 attorney-created forms (see complete listing here) are available in LegalZoom’s library, including promissory notes for business loans, nondisclosure agreements, and independent contractor and hiring forms. Powers of attorney have an additional fee of $35.
I am a licensed attorney myself and used to practice law. As a test of quality, I purchased a mutual nondisclosure agreement from LegalZoom. A mutual NDA is used when you and a business partner or vendor need to exchange confidential information.
With my purchase came an 11-page instructional packet that told me all about mutual NDAs, pointed out where I needed to add custom information for my businesses, and explained optional additions that may be relevant for some businesses. The NDA was very thorough and contained the important legal elements that most small businesses would need.
To learn more about NDAs and whether your small business needs one, click here.
Rocket Lawyer has attorney-created forms of pretty good quality. RocketLawyer offers more forms than LegalZoom. Hundreds of forms (see complete listing here) are available to cover a range of business needs, including promissory notes for business loans, nondisclosure agreements, independent contractor and hiring forms, and power of attorney forms.
I downloaded a mutual NDA from Rocket Lawyer. While it fulfilled the basic job of outlining the parties’ confidentiality obligations, it lacked a standard provision saying when confidential information should be returned by both parties and didn’t clearly specify exceptions to confidentiality.
The forms available on LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer are created by licensed attorneys that are vetted by the companies. In contrast, the forms on Docracy can be uploaded and edited by anyone. To test quality, I looked at two different mutual NDA templates available on Docracy.
The first NDA was very comprehensive in defining confidential information, listing exceptions to confidentiality, and specifying when confidential information must be returned to its owner. In contrast, I thought the second NDA was too specific in its definition of confidential information and didn’t clearly specify exceptions to confidentiality and when confidential information should be returned.
This NDA example illustrates both the advantage and disadvantage of using Docracy. On the one hand, finding good quality documents can be time consuming as you sift through numerous documents (a search for mutual NDA on docracy yields more than 5 pages of results). On the other hand, this means you have more chance to find something that’s exactly what you need or a rare legal document that’s not available on LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer. Right under the title of the document, you can see the number of times other people have downloaded and e-signed the document to estimate its quality — in the example above, the first NDA was signed 23 times, and the second NDA was signed 0 times.
Creating and Customizing Forms
You should always customize legal documents to your specific business and legal needs. The three services we’re comparing allow customization to different degrees.
When you purchase a form on LegalZoom, you can download it in Word format. It comes with step-by-step instructions that explain the law behind the document and note where you’d want to make customizations. You can delete parts of the document that don’t apply to you. You can also add to and edit it. Where appropriate, LegalZoom has state-specific forms, so you can meet state legal requirements.
However, Unlike Rocket Lawyer and Docracy, LegalZoom doesn’t give you the option to e-sign legal forms online.
Rocket Lawyer has the best customization options of the three providers. It has a very easy to use online interface. You are asked questions about your business, and with each answer, you’re one step closer to having a completed form. If you don’t understand a question, there are helpful pop-up instructions. More importantly, the form is automatically modified to be state-specific, so you can take care of any state legal requirements.
Once you finish customizing the form, you can e-sign it, print it, or share it with the relevant parties. The form stays in your account for 1 year, so you can edit and reuse a document. Alternatively, you can download a copy of the form in Microsoft word for editing and reuse. Forms come with a checklist that identifies the steps you need to take to make the form legal (e.g. get it signed by a notary, give a copy to each party, etc.)
When you select a form on Docracy, the fields that are customizable are highlighted in red (see screenshot below). You can edit the text in these fields on Docracy.com or download the file to edit in Word. Since there’s no accompanying instructions as there are with Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom, use extra caution when making customizations. Once you’re done customizing the form, you can send the form to the other party to e-sign it directly from Docracy. It’s impressive that a completely free service like Docracy lets you digitally sign templates, a feature that’s not available on LegalZoom. You can also save the form to use later.
Customer support for these online legal services is limited because they’re not authorized by law to provide legal advice. However, they can help you with navigating the website, finding certain forms, or pricing-related questions.
LegalZoom has phone, live chat, email support, and an FAQ page. Phone support is available Mon – Fri 5 AM – 7 PM PST and Saturday 7 AM – 4 PM PST. They offered a much better customer experience than Rocket Lawyer. Although I was transferred once to a different agent, I was never on hold for more than a few minutes. The last rep I spoke with sent me a follow up email with his direct line so that I could contact him with additional questions.
Unfortunately, when I phoned Rocket Lawyer’s customer support prior to writing this review, my experience was not as good as it was with LegalZoom. Rocket Lawyer offers phone, live chat, email support, and an FAQ page. I called twice, but couldn’t get through the first time and was on hold on the phone for a long time before an agent answered my second call. The agents have department-specific knowledge, so I was transferred to multiple agents. In addition, I did not receive a response to email inquiries. Phone support is US-based, and their normal business hours are Mon – Fri 6 AM – 6 PM PST.
It should be noted that Rocket Lawyer has taken steps to improve their customer service experience in the last several months. According a company spokesperson, a Rocket Lawyer team member responds to most of the complains on the site.
Since Docracy is an open forum like Wikipedia, it only has email technical support. If you have questions about a specific legal document, you can contact the person who posted the document.
LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer are both good online legal services to help lower your legal costs. We think LegalZoom is a better choice overall because it’s more affordable for forms and membership plans. It also has higher quality forms and customer service.
Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom offer more services than Docracy and are easier to use because the forms and services have been vetted by their attorney network. However, if you’re willing to put in the time to sift through legal documents, Docracy might be a good free option for small businesses that are on a tight budget and need legal forms.
We want to reiterate that none of these services are a substitute for hiring an attorney for complex legal matters.