I get asked: “Should I use a legal template for my online business” at least a few times each week. And my answer is always the same – there are 3 courses of action an online business owner can take when it comes to getting legal protections in place.

And your chosen course of action is probably based on your reaction to the word “legal.” Be honest – when you hear the word “legal” what do you think? Overwhelming and complicated? Pricey?

At the end of the day, no matter how you feel about legal you’ve got to protect your buns and your business. Period.

If you have no idea why you need to get legal in place for your online business, read the 5 most important reasons here. Otherwise, let’s chat about your 3 potential courses of action – and why only 2 of them make smart business sense.

But first, let’s get my disclaimer out of the way. Everything I chat about here is legal education and information, it is not business, financial, or legal advice and it does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. An attorney-client relationship is only formed once a signed written Retainer Agreement with Nicole Cheri Oden Law exists.* You want to be sure to chat with an attorney in your area to ensure that you’re taking the right steps for you and your business.

should I use a legal template for my online business

Ok, so your first potential course of action for your online business is –

#1. No legal protection.

Let’s start by saying inaction is NOT recommended even though it is an option. Having no legal protection in place means you have no contracts or policies that address what happens if a dispute arises between you and a client, customer, or another person you’re in a collaboration or joint venture with.

You’re basically using the “wait and pray” method – waiting to see if something happens and praying it doesn’t. Again, this is NOT a recommended legal strategy or business practice. Because the question is not IF something will happen as a business owner but WHEN. That’s part of being a business owner. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows #itsmyjobtotellyou

And FYI, I lump cutting and pasting someone else’s contract or policy (I see you serial Googlers out there!!!) in with having no legal protection – it’s not smart business. You don’t know if what you find will be missing key provisions, have extra provisions that could hurt you, or be infringing on someone else’s intellectual property rights. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

#2. Legal Templates.

So now that you know why having no legal protections is NOT an option, let’s chat about legal templates for business.

Legal templates are contracts or policies that you customize for your particular online business. They’re a great starting point because they can be a more affordable option for small business owners.

It is always a good idea to make sure the template you purchase is drafted by an attorney. An attorney is a lawyer who is licensed to practice in a court of law. An attorney will always be a lawyer but not all lawyers are attorneys #funfact An attorney will often have her finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the courtroom, which means your legal template will be drafted with an eye on what happens if you have to pursue enforcement of one of your contracts or policies.

I also recommend that you have an attorney in your local area review the completed template before you start using it which can be more cost-efficient than having an attorney custom draft your contract or policy “from scratch.”

If you’re interested in snagging an attorney-drafted legal template for your online business, check out my Legal Shop here.

#3 Custom Drafted Contracts or Policies.

Your third option is to retain an attorney to draft a custom contract or policy for your online business.

The attorney will have an in-depth conversation with you about your business and what you’d like your contract or policy to accomplish or address.

The total cost will vary – an attorney’s average hourly rate will range between $250-$1,000 (depending on where you’re located). While retaining an attorney is a more costly option, your contract or policy will be specifically drafted for your business or your particular transaction.

If your online business is located or incorporated in California and you have no idea if you have the contracts and policies that you need OR if your online business is located or incorporated in California and you need a custom contract or policy drafted, you can schedule a consultation with me here.


*This post is an attorney communication under Rule 1-400 of the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of California and Business and Professions Code Sections 6157-6159.2.

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