Award-winning solicitor and founder of A City Law Firm Karen Holden explains the pros and cons of online legal templates.The internet affords many businesses a wide range of online resources, information and often cheap downloadable legal documents, for a fixed fee. We understand the attraction of easily accessible and affordable documents compared to those drafted and tailored by lawyers. However, is this right for your business?There are pros and cons to everything. Legal document templates are obviously cheaper and faster than bespoke documents, but can one template truly be assembled to fit all? More importantly, do you understand the consequences of signing up to its specific terms and conditions? Templates can be ideal for start-up businesses and standard legal documents, such as non-disclosure agreements, tenancy agreements and website policies. But, as your business grows and changes, they may not adapt with it to adequately cover everything. Worse, you have an outdated, incorrect document that binds you to erroneous and restrictive terms.
The benefits of online legal templates
Easy and quick to download
Sign up to instant protection (sometimes better than nothing)
Tailor them yourself, so long as you understand the construction of the terms
The cheapest way to obtain the documents
The potential drawbacks of online legal templates
If something goes wrong, a dispute arises for example, these documents will be scrutinised and used to challenge you. As such, any gaps or weaknesses not known until then could cause serious issues for you down the line.By meeting with a solicitor, who takes the time to understand you and your business and thus understand your short and long-term goals, bespoke documents can be drafted to fit around your requirements and anticipated changes. It also means they can be updated and adapted as your business evolves.With legal advice, you will not accept accidentally, erroneous or restrictive terms you perhaps did not fully understand or mean to adopt.
Tailored legal documents, with advice, do not have to be expensive. Reputable firms offer start-up and scale-up packages, monthly retainers and fixed fees. Bear in mind that it is not the document you are not paying for, but the advice and the security this offers you: someone to guide and support you as things arise. In fact, done correctly, these documents can save you money in the future.
Which documents are not suitable to be downloaded online?
As a minimum, we recommend that your contractual terms and conditions, shareholders? agreement, directors? service level agreements and data protection policies are drafted bespoke to you. These are lengthy documents, and essentially your protection against disputes. They are often required for investors, so must cover you for all eventualities and be as tight as possible.
Karen Holden is an award-winning solicitor and founder of A City Law Firm (ACLF), the go-to lawyers for entrepreneurs, startups, scale-ups, those seeking investment. In addition to being very successful lawyers for businesses , ICOs and family law, ACLF are now the UK's leading LGBT law firm and surrogacy specialists. Karen is a regular media commentator, panellist and event speaker.