How do I find a good lawyer?


I am bootstrapping a startup and need legal help with:

  1. Creating terms of service and privacy policy
  2. Registering the business
  3. Consult for advice whenever needed

Do you suggest:

  1. Finding an online legal service to do this?
  2. Trying to do as much as possible in house (like writing our own ToS etc and registering a company using an online inc service)
  3. Find a lawyer who is physically present in our area who can help us with this (If so, do you recommend anyone in the chicago area?)

Since this is an online subscription service, the lawyer shouldn't be ignorant about software. This is the first time I am registering a company, so any help is really appreciated!


asked Apr 23 '10 at 08:51
232 points
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3 Answers


For the privacy policy - there are some good online privacy policy generators which cover the basics. I used this one for a site I recently launched using the same hosted software model as Answers.OnStartups and it covered the basics.

We're doing a pretty major site launching in July and are using TRUSTe and have been pleased so far with their privacy services support.

If you have any prospects of doing business in the EU - make sure you have a privacy policy which complies with the EU legislation and leverages the Safe Harbor provisions. Also - if you're planning on using AdSense, you need to have a solid privacy policy in place and visible on your home page.

I have not found a great terms of service generator. My suggestion is to look at the TOS's of some of the sites like yours and incorporate the key features.

There are a couple of attorneys who post regularly to this site and who seem to have a clue - you might consult with them on finding someone in "Chicagoland".

You're smart to be thoughtful about your rights and responsibilities - particularly around software licenses.

Good luck!!! (and keep us posted on your progress!)

answered Apr 23 '10 at 11:49
Warren E. Hart
2,181 points


If you cannot find a Chicago-area lawyer here (I'm 2,000 miles away), look on LinkedIn and / or Avvo.

Should I form an LLC or a corporation?, and the links from that post, should give you some idea of the important aspects of, and options regarding, startup entities.

I agree with the suggestion that (a) online privacy policy generators can be helpful (see Can I prepare a website Privacy Policy without a lawyer? ) but (b) copying someone else's terms of service is likely to be far less satisfactory because different website businesses are so different and legal requirements can be so technical (see, e.g., Terms of Use and the DMCA ).

Disclaimer: This post does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

answered Apr 23 '10 at 12:48
Dana Shultz
6,015 points


For registering a company, the best advice you will get is from a decent financial adviser. A good adviser, which will probably also be a CPA, will be able to look at your business and your goals and give you the best advice for how to legally organize your company. Once you figure out how you want to organize, pretty much any lawyer can do the work. Basically, they will file the state and federal paperwork and order a corporate book for you. The book will have several forms of organizing minutes and bylaws that you can fill in as well as a corporate seal and stock certificates.

As for your TOS and stuff, you can do most of it yourself if you want. The risk is that you are not an attorney and don't know the exactly legality of any particular term. However, if your TOS are going to be like every one else's, use someone else's as a reference and make your own. Don't copy theirs because they will likely have a copyright, but there is nothing wrong with using it as a reference for what needs to be included.

I give that advice with a couple of caveats. First, I am not an attorney so I can give advice only from my experience. Second, if you are planning to raise money from VC, they will likely want to audit your agreements and will want to know that they were drafted by an attorney.

If you do decide to get an attorney, get a local one. They will become an important part of your business and you will want decent access to them.

answered Apr 23 '10 at 11:26
Steve Montgomery
179 points

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