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Both LegalZoom and Nolo are online legal services with the goal of helping business owners through the paperwork and processes associated with starting a business.
So, is LegalZoom or Nolo the better service for your business? Read on to decide.
Overall LegalZoom generally focuses on formation services, as well as assisting with other legal documents associated with starting and running your business. Nolo, on the other hand, is geared more toward legal resources, such as books and software, as well as helping you find a lawyer to work directly with your business.
Small business owners with little-to-no legal or business formation knowledge.
Small business owners with a little more base knowledge who feel confident taking on legal forms and documents on their own.
LegalZoom is one of the most popular online legal services out there and has helped over four million users. The most popular business services and forms offered at LegalZoom are:
Doing business as (DBA) name/business name.
Business name availability check.
Business name reservation.
Trademarking business name.
Federal and state tax ID.
Bill of sale.
Independent contractor agreement.
Consulting services agreement.
This is not a comprehensive list of services — just the most popular ones that LegalZoom finds business owners utilizing. There are many others easily located on its website.
According to its website, Nolo’s mission is “to help consumers and small businesses find answers to their everyday legal and business questions.” The company began with publishing do-it-yourself legal guides and grew into what Nolo is today.
Nolo provides users with a wealth of information ranging from legal articles, legal forms, online documents, books and ebooks, among many other resources. It can also help you create an LLC, corporation or nonprofit. Here is just a small sampling of the small-business resources you can get from Nolo:
Tax books for your small business or nonprofit.
Business software to help run and grow your small business.
Custom legal documents and contracts.
Access to local lawyers for individual assistance.
LegalZoom and Nolo have very unique pricing structures. Whereas Nolo’s pricing is generally based on a per-book or per-software basis, LegalZoom’s prices its services into packages, which each have a handful of options.
The pricing structure at LegalZoom works a little differently than most other popular online legal services, including Nolo. Each service comes with its own package options, and there are no flat memberships that cover a variety of offerings. The price of each document and service will vary depending on what it is and the state in which you live or operate.
To figure out all of LegalZoom’s pricing, therefore, you will need to click on your area of need, look up your state to calculate filing fees, and then you will be presented with various package options for that service or document.
For example, here is the pricing breakdown for forming an LLC in New York with LegalZoom:
$79 + $210 NY state filing fee
$329 + $210 NY state filing fee
Everything included in Economy plus:
$349 + $210 NY state filing fee
Everything included in Economy and Standard, plus:
The only services that come in packages across the board are the ones offering legal advice. The Legal Advantage Plus starts at $9.99 per month (but is geared toward individuals) and the Business Advisory Plan starts at $31.25 per month.
The pricing at Nolo works a little bit differently and can be confusing for new business owners since most of what Nolo offers are physical or cloud-based resources like books and software, and these range in price from $25 to $40.
Nolo does offer a Business Forms Bundle, which claims to contain all the legal forms you’ll need to start and run your business — that bundle costs $79.99.
However, since Nolo does offer incorporating services, there are package options for this, but you really have to search for them, and then you have to look up the details by state. For example, to incorporate in New York, the pricing breaks down like this.
$99 + state fees
Express Premiere Service
$299 + state fees
Pros and cons
If you’re trying to decide if LegalZoom or Nolo is better for your business’s needs, it can be helpful to compare the pros and cons of both legal services.
Customers get sent copies of the documents that have been filed on their behalf.
No monthly membership, so you won’t have to worry about canceling a free trial or unexpected charges on your credit card.
Free newsletter for tips and information.
Prices can be lower since you’re not paying for things you don’t need.
Mobile app available for iOS and Android.
Offers a 60-day satisfaction guarantee.
No downloads or edits allowed on any documents.
If you need a lot of legal documents, paying a la carte can really add up.
There could be significant upfront work on your part to evaluate state filing fees and seek out pricing for each individual document.
Some documents take longer than initially advertised.
Have to pay a subscription in order to have access to a business attorney for questions, concerns or general consultations.
Offers a more do-it-yourself approach, which is a positive for business owners who like to do things on their own with the backing of legal experts.
Free online lawyer search within the United States.
Free informational articles and guides.
Website is not easy to navigate and finding prices on services is also difficult, many links on the website take you to 404 error pages.
You will have to do a lot of research to figure out what documents and services you actually need.
Offers a more do-it-yourself approach, which can be a drawback for people who like to be taken through complex legal topics step-by-step.
How do LegalZoom and Nolo compare in terms of online reviews?
Between the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Consumer Affairs, there are hundreds of LegalZoom customer reviews to sift through.
The lack of proper customer service was a big pain point for customers. Many mentioned it took hours to reach someone just to be put on hold or transferred around to a variety of people who couldn’t help with their problem.
Another issue customers had was how long it took to get their documents. Sometimes, it was taking 10 times longer than originally advertised to receive documents or filings. Since LegalZoom covers so many different areas of business, each one with its own package options, it seems there is much more room for error when it comes to the accuracy and timeliness of documents.
Multiple people noted that their documents were filled out incorrectly and that LegalZoom was telling them they needed to pay even more to remedy the issue. This did not sit well with customers.
Additionally, the registered agent service, something that is required by law for anyone operating a business, is a service LegalZoom offers, but customers noted that it isn’t clear that LegalZoom doesn’t have to be the registered agent, and therefore customers don’t know to opt-out of that service, which leads to hefty charges.
However, the customers who were able to get through to customer service reps in a timely manner (or even after some wait time) reported that the help they received was excellent. The representatives were empathetic to their issues and tried their best to help out where they could. The ease of the website was also a huge plus to business owners. Navigating it seemed to be straightforward to many customers.
Even though LegalZoom’s pricing differs from other online legal services, many reviewers pointed out that the price is very reasonable for what you get. Reviewers also appreciated that these complicated legal matters were taken off their hands and left to experts, allowing them to focus on other aspects of their business.
Many of the reviews you will find online for Nolo are actually from attorneys who use its services for lead generation. The few customer reviews that are available on the BBB website note that Nolo was unable to find a local attorney available to assist them, and directed them to purchase resources to try and do it themselves.
A quick search outside of the BBB does produce quite a few more reviews, although many are still from business, personal, injury and bankruptcy attorneys who try to use Nolo to gain clients.
With this in mind, the main thing that reviewers mention is that the information offered in its books and other resources is very general, which is fine for some business owners, but not so much for others.
If you purchase software from Nolo, reviewers want you to know that there is no technical support for it, so if something goes wrong, you’ll have to figure it out on your own.
The positive customer reviews about Nolo, however, outweigh the negatives. Nolo shines when it comes to the variety of products it offers and the price at which they’re offered.
Since Nolo offers free legal informational guides and articles, you won’t have to put in any personal information to get a simple question answered. All in all, customers love the products offered by Nolo and how they’re able to complete legal documents on their own with confidence without paying for a lawyer.
A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.