LAWYER VERSUS LEGALZOOM: IT’S YOUR CHOICE

aarongardBy Aaron Gard

As business and estate planning attorneys here at the Forrest Firm, we must always justify the value of our legal services to our clients. We are no different from any other business sector, and in fact, that’s what growing a successful business is all about—converting your value proposition into sustained revenue, as your customers realize return on their investment in your service.

As with many types of service-based businesses, professionals must often justify their value not against a competitor, but against the urge for people to do it themselves. DIY methods are pervasive across many industries—as long as you have the right tools, you can do the job yourself, right?

Well, as I’ve discovered in my numerous failed attempts at home improvement projects, it’s often better to leave it up to a professional. The same can be said for legal services—it’s simply a matter of risk.

Let’s take, for example, one of the most common DIY legal endeavors, forming a new business. You can go online and find almost any entity filing document out there for free or from a site like LegalZoom. And you can also go to a state agency and file those documents with an appropriate oversight entity, such as the North Carolina Secretary of State. It’s all out there, waiting for you with a couple of internet searches and a credit card. So why do entrepreneurs come to the Forrest Firm to execute their business formation?

They come to us because things aren’t always as they seem in the world of business law. There are many things to consider when setting up your business, and that’s where the advice and counsel of a seasoned business attorney is needed, to make sure you are set up for success.

We take into account many factors, both risk-oriented and growth-oriented to get you off to the right start. To protect your personal assets from business liabilities, we may recommend an LLC, S corp or traditional C corporation. Factors such as tax liability, freedom to write off certain expenses, and the ability to take on future capital investment from venture capitalists and angel investors may drive us to recommend either the S corporation or C corporation. Your own appetite for expense, either immediate versus a few years out, may compel us to recommend an S corporation for its simplicity versus the C corp.

Your current and future view of business operations will dictate how we advise you with regard to your articles of incorporation or by-laws, depending on your selected entity type. If you form a business with multiple partners having variable ownership interests, it’s important to understand how the rights and interests of the majority owner may differ from that of the majority owners.  The choice of business entity will also dictate which operational and governance issues you can or must retain, as well as those that you must relinquish to others—C corporations require a board of directors who will govern the company’s direction on major decisions, while management runs the day-to-day operations.

Our clients are talented entrepreneurs and executives from every sector of the economy. And because they are intelligent and focused on building their businesses as efficiently as possible, they know when to leave certain matters to the experts. DIY mistakes reveal themselves when documents are needed to enforce an agreement (dispute resolution), comply with federal law (taxation, labor policy), or proactively enforce one’s rights (patents, trademarks and copyrights). When the chips are down and it’s time to protect yourself under the law, do you want to rely on downloaded document templates or carefully reviewed and executed documents customized and scrutinized by people who live the law?

Many matters that fall within business law are serious or can become so due to improper execution, errors, or omissions. When you have a more serious health problem, do you look for a diagnosis and treatment on WebMD, or do you call a doctor?

If you’re making a business decision and need to balance your risk with the need to grow, please email me at the Forrest Firm for a consultation.  We provide flexible and responsive legal services with predictability that’s tailored to each client.