Business owners are busy. They don’t have time to learn every aspect of the modern business world, and that includes contract law, articles of incorporation, and property leasing.
Unfortunately, hiring a lawyer isn’t always in a small business’ budget, especially during the first few years of business, where you might not have the cash flow to justify the expense. Then, there’s the matter of the independent contractor, who rarely needs more than a few one-off documents and certainly won’t be looking to retain a legal pro.
That’s why services like Rocket Lawyer are taking off in popularity. Acknowledging that not everyone has the need (or budget) for a full-service legal pro, they seek to step in and fill the gap between the true DIYer and hiring a lawyer. But are they enough? Is the service worth the cost? Who would most benefit from their offerings?
Plans and Cost
To know if the service is worthwhile, it’s useful to know what you will pay. While they offer a free 7-day trial, not all services are available for the trial window. Monthly cost is $39.99 plus taxes, and you’ll get the following:
- Unlimited access to hundreds of template documents that you can customize, sign, print, and download
- Document Defense, a response service that enlists a lawyer to legally respond to any disputed contract you create with the Rocket Lawyer plan
- Answers to your basic questions from lawyers
- A 30-minute consultation session with each new legal endeavor
- Up to 40% off when you hire an attorney
Businesses, specifically, get one free incorporation filing, and a discount of 25% off after that (excluding state fees). They also get 25% off registered agent services.
The free trial excludes almost everything but the document templates and the answers from a lawyer. Upon signing up, you’ll get three free premium documents, one question for a lawyer, and electronic signature access. While the Document Defense is technically included for those documents, the odds that you can create, file, and get a dispute from that same contract is highly unlikely, so we would consider it available only to paying members.
The site includes resources, articles, and advice for knowing what documents you’ll need to file and when. It’s a bit overwhelming, in that there are hundreds of ways to customize each type of form. To take one just one type of business into consideration, property management, you can choose from a standard landlord-tenant lease agreement, which offers sections for pets, deposits, subletting options, furnishing details, and so much more. Just by seeing the agreement options, you’ll be more likely to ask the right questions of your tenants and include important language in your legal documents. Within real estate, there are many more contract possibilities, including:
- Commercial Lease Agreement
- Amendment to Lease Agreement
- Furnished Apartment Lease
- Rent-to-Own Agreement
- Lease Renewal Agreement
There is also a handy FAQ, links to additional forms, such as eviction notices, and prompts on just about every page prompting you to ask questions of their lawyers. (Remember, the questions are free for paying members; trial members get just one.) The site is clear to point out that, while documents have been adapted to be unique for each state, they cannot guarantee that it will be fully compliant with local laws and regulations such as city rent-control measures. They will always direct you to consult with an attorney (referred to through the site) for those unanswered questions.
This is just one business example. There are hundreds of other form types for businesses in just about every space, and more than enough generic business forms that could be modified to address your service or product offerings, specifically.
Is It Worth It?
Speaking as someone who once paid $456 for a legal document template back in the early 2000s, I can attest to the fact that this service—provided the documents are as legally sound as they claim—is probably a good deal. Back then, I had to fill out pages and pages of info online, and my documents arrived on a floppy disc. Technology has certainly made getting legal help cheaper and more accessible to the population. Sites like Rocket Lawyer are opening doors for individuals who need standard legal services, such as rental agreements or vendor contracts, and basic legal advice for the most common matters.
Does it replace a lawyer? Yes, and no. Again, there are many lawyers out there who handle very complicated, nuanced cases. Their services will never be replaced by a template or a team of online, on-call experts.
This, however, is not what most businesses are looking for when they pay for services like Rocket Lawyer. Most people are looking for common template documents that they can tweak slightly, with their personally identifying info, geographic location, service details, and prices. Something like a rental agreement could easily be procured off the internet, and Rocket Lawyer ensures that you aren’t grabbing some outdated document from a shady source. They also seem to back it up with their Document Defense service, which provides a rather handy solution to disputes. It’s surprising how many legal snags can be overcome with a statement from a lawyer on their own letterhead; this service seems to bring that standard to businesses everywhere for a rather modest $40 a month.
It’s worth noting that the majority of Rocket Lawyer’s business clients may be seeking out easy, affordable ways to incorporate. The process can be tricky to navigate, and it’s not just the contract and documents that are tricky to work through. In some jurisdictions, there is additional local and municipal red tape and isn’t always easy to glean from the various government websites out there. If Rocket Lawyer keeps their documents and processes updated with all of the various ordinances and regulations, that’s probably worth the price alone.
Then, there’s the matter of versatility. I’ve known people to use the service for uncontested divorces, rental agreements, estate matters, advanced medical directives, purchase contracts for a vehicle, and more. Once you buy the service, you can access their database of legal documents to be used in dozens of applications. Buying the service for your business also gives you the chance to use it in your personal life.
Even if you don’t use the service for a significant length of time, it’s nice to know that it’s there—should you need it. All it would take it the hiring of one independent contractor to warrant checking out their services again. They also handle such things as patent law, bankruptcy filings, debt collection, and corporate compliance – among other matters.
With the cost of hiring a lawyer easily surpassing $400 or more an hour, it’s easy to see how one year of Rocket Lawyer could pay for itself in no time, especially since many lawyers use paralegals for handling some of the cookie-cutter jobs in today’s corporate world. Add in the fact that you aren’t just getting access to business documents, you are also able to tap into resources for living wills and more, and you can see that it wouldn’t take much to get your value from the service.
Yes, you could probably find many of these contracts for free online, but the time spent digging, verifying, and personalizing isn’t reasonable, especially if you are trying to do a more involved legal maneuver, such as incorporation. For those who want to budget wisely and know exactly what something will cost, there’s probably no better option than a set-price, legal service such as Rocket Lawyer.