Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 28 seconds

Image for Legal FormsCommon sense tells entrepreneurs there is more to running a successful small business than opening the front doors or maintaining a user-friendly web site. Among the multitude of concerns facing entrepreneurs is how to legally protect their business interests, regardless of whether they stem from a real estate contract for renting or purchasing a new location for their enterprise or an employment agreement with staff members.


As with most things relating to running a business, having the right legal document expressing what an owner needs can be costly. Fortunately, there are venues for finding free legal templates, especially online.

But, cautions Nick Pavlidis, founder and operator of the Attorney Marketing Institute, an entity that consults with lawyers and other business professionals about marketing their endeavors, people should practice caution when using free legal templates.

When a legal matter involves the general public or another party, it is prudent for a small business owners to consult with an attorney regarding the verbiage of the requisite documentation, he says.

Pavlidis says the best use of legal templates is as the basis for matters to think about or discuss with a business lawyer. “A contract is supposed to bring clarity” to a situation and legal templates are generally too simplistic or generic to apply to everything.

“Legal templates give a framework of what to think about, but I caution people from solely relying on them. Always reach out to an attorney to finalize a document,” says Pavlidis.

Still, he admits, there are limited situations when a legal template will suffice. Examples include using a prepared form when incorporating a business, especially if the document was provided by a Secretary of State of the state where the entity will be incorporated.

If legal templates are readily available online, then why does Pavlidis believe it’s still wise for a company owner to consult with a lawyer when documents are needed?

Seeking the advice of a business attorney when a legal template is involved in a transaction “ensures your document is up-to-date and truly accurate,” says Pavlidis, who practiced law for 13 years before embarking on his current career. “It is also difficult for a layman to know if a legal template is reliable, another reason consulting with a lawyer is a wise choice,” he says.

Although he didn’t want to endorse any one outlet for legal templates, Pavlidis notes web sites such as Avvo and Rocket Lawyer are popular choices.

Josh King, Avvo’s chief legal officer, confirms the forms on their site are free to the general public. For users also interested in speaking with a lawyer to ensure the legal template will accomplish what the customer needs, Avvo’s Legal Services is available, too.

According to King, users can peruse the Avvo directory or purchase one of the company’s Legal Services (such as this Business Contract Review for a flat fee of $199).




Tami Kamin Meyer is an Ohio attorney and writer who tweets as @girlwithapen.



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