There are a variety of software and template options out there for just about any legal need ranging from estate planning to lease agreements to employee manuals to promissory notes. With these basic outlines in place, do you really need to invest extra dollars on lawyer fees?

I’ve spent a bit of time roaming the Internet to see what’s available and New York Times reporter Tara Siegel Bernard summarized this topic perfectly as she implemented computer generated will software: “Only after I tested all of the online services and analyzed their differences did I really feel as if I had a solid handle on the options available to me and what might be missing. That’s not to say that three of my four wills weren’t perfectly fine legal documents. But even though they seemed easy to draft, I still needed a lawyer to help decode some seemingly standard clauses and their consequences in my home state of New York.”

My online search was both pleasantly surprising and terribly shocking. I found a ton of software and online forms which on one side is awesome; you can easily print out 1099’s, get samples of employee manuals, and get basic confidentiality agreements. For simple documents and government forms, the Internet is great and can help with getting a fundamental grasp of legal documentation. Moreover, many of these items were dirt cheap and could even be found for free.

Now for the part that blew my mind: you can also find online partnership agreements, shareholder agreements, and forms for memorandum of contract for sale and purchase of property. While I know many startups and entrepreneurs have slim bank accounts, I just can’t imagine using a generic form for matters so crucial to the future of your company. After all, each business is unique and a small investment to create an airtight legal document can save you immeasurable grief should the worst happen.  Moreover, there was a ton of software available on Ebay. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those forms were completely outdated and how can basic software possibly evolve with the ever changing legal policies (not to mention how much the law varies from state to state).

But I’m a woman who is willing to compromise and who is also unwaveringly cheap. For basic forms that involve minimal potential financial ramifications, go ahead fill in the blanks. Are you creating an employee manual, subscription agreement, or thinking about selling stock in your company? Please review what others have created and adjust it to your specifications. However, have your business lawyer review all your materials before having anyone sign the final draft. Finally, if you need documentation for creating partnerships or if you are buying or selling anything with a price that could make or break your business, call your lawyer first.  But remember the saying, “Expect the best but prepare for the worst”? 

About the author


Christina Morales

Christina helps provide useful business and legal tips on UpCounsel for our customers and visitors. Having over a decade of writing experience in a variety of industries, she has also been very close to the legal space from a young age with family members who continue to practice business and tax law.

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