Nearly every week I get emails from entrepreneurs asking me legal questions about starting or growing their business. I hate when I get those questions because I can’t answer them, even if I know the answer. I’m not qualified.
Beyond that, the truth is I don’t know much more than you because I’m in a completely different situation than you. Asking me how I’ve handle something doesn’t make it correct and even if it is correct for me, it doesn’t mean it’s correct for you.
Ask a Lawyer
So where does that leave you? You’ve been researching starting a business for a while, maybe you’ve found your product, evaluated the idea and you now have the motivation, energy and budget to move forward. Then, like a brick wall, you’re frozen in your tracks because you’re not sure how to keep it kosher. Do you need a license? Do you need to have a company formed to sell products online? Is there a liability issue with you selling products dropshipped from another supplier? Can you sell a food product with no permits?
The truth is, I’ve faced many of these roadblocks as well so I know how frustrating this situation can be. Over the years, after taking to lots of lawyers, I’ve come to realize that 95% of the time, I’m overthinking it. However, it took the reassurance of a qualified lawyer to tell me I was overthinking things before I could move forward.
I know what you’re thinking though. Seeing a lawyer sounds scary, especially for a new, and maybe young, entrepreneur. You’ll probably have to call a few lawyers and when you ask them on the phone for an estimated quote, they’ll likely say something like “I can’t quote you until we sit down and talk”. That’s usually lawyer talk for “a lot of money” right?. Let’s be honest, they’ll probably charge you for at least an hour, maybe three, even for just a small, single question. Maybe they will even laugh at you because your question is so basic right? Boy, no wonder so many give up.
Well, the good news is that things are changing. There are lots of entrepreneurs out there making legal advice and services much more friendly, inexpensive, and accessible.
If you’re looking for some answers to your legal business questions check out the services and platforms below and find out how you can ask a lawyer the important questions you have in order to move forward.
For years, when I was stumped by a legal question, I used Clarity. Created by Canadian entrepreneur Dan Martell, Clarity has got me past many legal roadblocks. I, along with many other entrepreneurs, likely owe much of my success to Dan and his service.
Clarity is as simple as it gets. It’s an on-demand marketplace that connects entrepreneurs with top advisors & industry experts, including startup lawyers and accountants.
Clarity essentially has over 30,000+ experts in all different disciplines from all over the world (mostly North America though) that put up a profile and list their specialties.
Simply sign up at Clarity and search for the service you require (business law, patent, trademark, accounting) and view the profiles of people from your country, state, or province (the closer to you the better as laws tend to vary from state to state). Each professional’s profile will have a fee per minute (usually several dollars per minute, depending on their knowledge and accomplishments). Once you find someone that appears to be a good match, you can send them a quick message, asking them if they would be able to properly answer your questions. When you’re satisfied they can help you, you can book a call with them.
You will automatically be charged at the end of the call for the number minutes you spoke with the expert. Most of my calls ended up being around 15 minutes and $30-$45. It was simple, inexpensive, reassuring and the people have always been super friendly and helpful.
Pro Tip: To get the most out of your call, make sure you send the expert you’ll be speaking with a bullet list of any relevant information about your business beforehand so they can better prepare.
Other Places to Get Easy, Accessible Lawyer Advice
There are plenty of others working hard to make legal advice more accessible for entrepreneurs. Below, I’ve listed some of the top ones and the applicable countries they primarily serve.
Lawscout – (Canada Based)
Lawscout is taking on the challenge of making business legal information and services better for Canadians. I’ve personally had the opportunity of taking to the founder of Lawscout and really love what they’re doing. Right now their pricing is based on a per service basis, but they may be looking to expand their services in the near future to be able to provide quick advice to simple legal questions for Canadians.
LawGo – (USA Based)
LawGo can help you take care of the most common legal service for your US business including company formation, non-disclosure agreements, trademarks, copyrights, and patents. Looking for something else? Connect with their legal concierge and tell them what you need.
Avvo – (USA Based)
Avvo Advisor is the simplest, most affordable way to get legal advice. A 15 minute call with a top-reviewed Avvo attorney for just $39. Post your question for free, and experienced lawyers will respond within hours. Or, find answers to previously asked questions at their Ask A Lawyer forum.
Legal Hero – (USA Based)
Experienced attorneys for your business at clear, upfront prices. No hourly rates. No retainers. No hidden fees. A great place to find someone to talk to about starting your business, company formation, general counsel, trademarks, patents or agreements.
UpCounsel – (USA Based)
Get high-quality legal services from top business attorneys at reasonable rates with UpCounsel. Save 60% (or more) on quality legal services provided by only top attorneys on UpCounsel. By using technology to cut out the extra overhead fees charged by traditional law firms.
UpCounsel gets you price quotes right away from screened and vetted lawyers to get you high quality legal services & legal advice. UpCounsel saves you time and money getting the best lawyer.
Congo – (USA Based)
At this point in time, the attorneys on the Congo.io platform are only offering ‘free consultations’ with the hope that most will turn into paid work. However, by January 2016, you should be able to schedule 15 minute blocks of time where you can pay a low, flat rate for quick one-off questions.
Use Rocket Lawyer to ask a lawyer questions, create documents, or start your business—anywhere, anytime, on any device.
They’ve developed simple-to-use technology to help you do more on your own, and backed it up with their network of Rocket Lawyer On Call™ attorneys who are ready to help whenever you need it.
ProAnnexUs – (UK Based)
ProAnnexUs is a smartphone app that allows UK entrepreneurs to connect with business attorneys quickly and easily.
Documents, Terms, Conditions & Policies
As a bonus, below I’ve listed two really great sources for obtaining templates for contracts, non-disclosure agreements, website policies, terms & conditions as well as other documents you may need for your business.
Docracy (Universal Documents)
Docracy is the web’s only open collection of common legal documents, contracts, incorporation documents and non-disclosure agreements. Docracy allows you to easily edit and sign the agreements through the platform and is a free service.
TermsFeed (Universal Documents)
TermsFeed allows you to create the legal agreements easily and online. No software is required. Their agreements are from free to premium as a one-time fee. You can download a free agreement in minutes.
Terms & Policy Generators
- Terms and Conditions Generator
- Return and Refund Policy Generator
- Terms of Service Generator
- EULA Generator
- Terms and Conditions Template
- Return and Refund Template
- Terms of Service Template
- EULA Template
Those legal concerns about starting and growing your business, whether real or manufactured in your head can be a huge hurdle for new and seasoned entrepreneurs alike. The good news is that you no longer have to make an appointment and sit down with Saul Goodman while he charges your for a 3 hour minimum. Today, it’s easy to find an accomplished lawyer online that can provide you with the answers you needs sometimes for as little as $30 and a quick 15 minute call.
If you know any other legal services that should be added to this list, please let me know in the comments below.