Pros and Cons of Using Legal Forms and Document Templates for Your Business

By Marco Mannone

3 min read

When it comes to being an entrepreneur, there is simply no way around legal paperwork. After all, it constitutes the very framework of your business, minimizes risk and helps protect your interests. So how do you go about drafting and managing employment agreements, partnership agreements, employee handbooks and independent contractor agreements, just to name a few?

You have two options: Hire an attorney for an average of $300 an hour to do it for you, or roll up your sleeves and utilize customizable legal forms and document templates for a fraction of the cost.

Recently, there has been an explosion of websites and services geared toward helping people sort out their legal issues themselves. Many of these sites offer these legal forms, documents and templates for a flat or monthly fee (as opposed to expensive hourly rates for a lawyer), while others offer their forms free of charge. The gist is simple. You answer a few basic questions, such as the parties’ names, the specifics of the contract and a few others, and the site creates a document for you based on the answers you’ve provided.

Some sites provide a wider range of legal services, from filing a trademark, creating a living trust, to forming an LLC, among others. However, these services are rather straightforward, and if you have a specific requirement that is somewhat specialized, these services may not be for you.

So which is the right choice for you? If you’re like most entrepreneurs starting out, you don’t have capital to burn, so the choice might already be made for you. However, if you’re on the fence, here are some pros and cons to implementing customizable legal documents and templates that should help you make a decision.

Cons

  • No professional advice for complex issues: Employment issues, intellectual property issues and corporate issues can get complex, and you may need the guidance of an experienced attorney to help you navigate them properly.
  • Many of these sites disclaim the notion that they are a law firm and reiterate that no legal services are being provided. On top of which, their terms of use might require a team of lawyers to translate the legalese.
  • Some websites offer substandard documents—possibly with illegal clauses—so it is imperative to use a service from a company or brand that you trust.
  • Impartial reviews of these sites found problems with outdated legal information and insufficient customization options.

Pros

Conversely, these services do exist for a reason, and they help a lot of people for a nominal fee. So what are some of the advantages of these legal forms and documents?

  • You don’t have to know anything about legal regulations or have any previous business experience.
  • You answer specific questions related to your business, and some sites even file the forms for you.
  • They are much cheaper than a lawyer.
  • Once you get the hang of it, you can create documents easily and quickly.
  • Several sites securely store your documents in the cloud, reducing paper clutter and even helping the environment.
  • If you quickly need to put pen to paper, you can access documents anywhere from any device and have a properly executed document with electronic signatures (yes, even through your smartphone).

Cost-Benefit Analysis

During the tumultuous course of running a business, you will face multiple difficult choices that may spell the difference between success and bankruptcy. Consider conducting a cost-benefit analysis to balance the complexity of your legal needs against the costs of hiring professional help.

If the transaction is for a large amount, the cost of an attorney to draft a document is relatively small compared to the cost of losing money in the transaction. However, if you have basic needs, such as requiring standard employment contracts, it obviously makes no sense to spend hundreds (possibly thousands) of dollars hiring an attorney to draft the contracts.

If your business has legal needs, but you don’t want to spend considerable money on attorney fees, sites like QuickBooks Documents may be your ideal solution, providing step-by-step guidance in customizing attorney-drafted documents and legal forms. This will ultimately save you significant capital that can be devoted to more pressing entrepreneurial needs, such as growing your consumer base and expanding your workforce.

Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.

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