Top 3 Cheap or Free Legal Services for Startups

Legal services usually come at a premium, but some firms are adopting a freemium model to get startups in at the ground level. The Internet is the place to go for crowd-sourced advice and legal documents on the cheap, and in some cases, free. Here are three places to look:

1. Crowd-Sourced Legal Advice, $80

Nitin Gupta and Jay Mandal founded Law Pivot to answer simple questions for companies with limited resources. Law services in Silicon Valley cost an average of $500 per hour, Gupta told mbStartups, which is enough to make most startups “afraid to pick up a phone and ask a question” while the meter is running, which often leads to more legal issues in the future. Law Pivot allows clients to send a legal question to as many as ten law firms at a time for a flat fee of $80. The response is quick, but also thorough because it comes from multiple sources.

The lawyers are not paid for their advice, but Gupta told mbStartups that they willingly sign up for the service. “Lawyers are not taught how to develop business in law school,” Gupta said, but bringing in new clients is usually how lawyers become partners at their firms. Answering a few free questions gives lawyers a chance to show off their skills to prospective clients and expand their networks.

2. Online Document Filing Services, $99 – $299

For small business owners who want to incorporate quickly, an online document filing service can be a helpful, one-stop resource for getting all the necessary paperwork. Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation, has noticed a rise in consulting businesses founded not by entrepreneurs, but by professionals who have been laid off from their jobs and just want a way to get back to work. Even hobbyists with eBay and Etsy shops are “trying to do it more in earnest” by forming a business, she told mbStartups, some hitting the road, like mobile kitchens serving up cupcakes or grilled cheese sandwiches. MyCorporation is a virtual “business in a box,” with packages between $99 and $299 for a full menu of services including:

  • Document filing services for online incorporation
  • Trademark searches and applications
  • Copyright registrations
  • DBA registrations
  • Registered agent services

3. Free Services for Tech Startups, $0

Venture capitalists aren’t the only people looking to invest in startups. New York-based law firm Shahmoon & Ellisen LLP is offering some of its legal services pro bono to help promising tech-based companies. “We believe that the cost of legal services should not stand in the way of the development of good ideas and the creation of jobs that are sorely needed to help pull us out of the current recession,” said Eli R. Shahmoon, an attorney and co-founder of the Tech Law Project, in a statement. Â  For qualifying tech startups, the Tech Law Project provides the following services free of charge:

  • Choice of legal entity and state of organization
  • Preparation of corporate formation documents
  • Review of intellectual property issues
  • Creation of an IP-action plan
  • Assistance drafting a privacy policy and website terms of use