Many entrepreneurs need to control expenses – including legal fees. One way to do that is to incorporate online rather than work with a lawyer. Occasionally I am asked, “When is it OK to incorporate online?”
My greatest concern when entrepreneurs incorporate online is that they have no way to know whether the process has been completed properly. This is particularly true with respect to issuing shares – a critical task.
In answering this question, I look for activities that increase the likelihood of a dispute or a lawsuit. I ask:
The following is an almost-verbatim copy (emphasis added) of a Quora question posted today and my answer. Q. Which is the easiest, cheapest and best way to incorporate a California C corporation, preferably online?
A. Cheapest: Use the appropriate nolo.com book.
Best and easiest: Use a qualified lawyer.
The provisions that bear most closely on protecting website owners include those pertaining to:
- Disclaimer of warranties made by the owner
- Limitations on the extent of the owner’s liability
- Users’ warranties, especially as concerns any information that they may post
- Users’ acceptable behavior policies, which set the stage for . . .
- The owner’s right, in its sole discretion, to terminate use privileges
- Users’ obligation to indemnify the website owner against liabilities that result from user activities
- A requirement that any lawsuit related to the website be brought at a venue that is convenient for the owner
- An arbitration provision as a way to avoid litigation (though I am not a big fan of arbitration because it can be expensive and precludes small-claims court, which can be relatively quick and inexpensive)
I have not been a big fan of online incorporation and LLC formation services. (See, e.g., Forming an LLC Online: You Get What You Pay For.) However, the way a client recently was treated by one of these services – The Company Corporation – convinces me that it is time to expose their shortcomings and add them to the Hall of Shame page.
The client used The Company Corporation to incorporate in September 2006. Two months later, the client retained me to provide a variety of services. (more…)
Update (November 17, 2010): I have decided to start identifying by name providers of corporate and LLC online formation services who, in my opinion, have delivered inadequate service to my clients. (The clients used those providers before retaining me.) The inadequate provider referenced, below, in this post is Rocket Lawyer, which has been added to the Hall of Shame page.
Update (April 27, 2011): I had a cordial conversation this afternoon with Rocket Lawyer’s VP of Sales & Business Development. He acknowledged that, last year, Rocket Lawyer was using a filing service (filing operations are outsourced) that did not meet the company’s expectations. He reported that the current filing service is performing at a much higher level and that Rocket Lawyer is paying closer attention to ongoing support of its customers.
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Almost a year ago, I suggested (in Can I form an LLC without a lawyer?) that entrepreneurs seeking to save money when forming a limited liability company would be better off buying a book from Nolo than using an online LLC formation service. I now believe that more than ever.