DIYs gain another startup option, with advice

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A young Colorado Springs attorney has created a useful tool for do-it-yourselfers in the process of starting up their own small businesses.

Michael Smith, 35, works in business and estate planning by day and on RockyMountainStartup.com by night. The website, which Smith launched in early October, provides legal advice and services pertaining to LLCs and state trademarks for small-business developers.

“We believe that RockyMountainStartup.com will revolutionize how business owners in Colorado approach the legal aspects of the business startup phase,” according to a news release announcing the site’s launch. Smith said the idea was inspired by seeing that the online document preparation market is dominated by non-legal entities. LegalZoom.com, for example provides low-cost, basic legal services but does not offer the expertise of licensed attorneys in the states of the clients it serves, according to Smith.

“The problem was they were not getting legal advice, just the service,” he said. “The idea came from my thought that there is an under-served market there.”

He designed his business and online interface to cater to those who are comfortable with doing things themselves, but who also “want to make sure it’s done right and that things are taken care of legally.”

The element that makes Smith’s business convenient and efficient for entrepreneurs is the fact that it is operational 24/7. There is no need to schedule an appointment during the crucial 9-to-5 hours of one’s work week.

The process is simple:

Step 1: Fill out an online questionnaire with details on business type and scope.

Step 2: Phone consultation and preparation/filing of legal documents.

Step 3: Email feedback and followup with the client.

Smith said that unlike the competition, RockyMountainStartup.com offers document preparation and consultation by a real lawyer with working knowledge and licensure in Colorado business law.

“We’re here, we’re local, we understand the laws here and we want to see small businesses grow and thrive here,” Smith said.

Although Smith is currently the only member of the company and the only lawyer from whom customers may receive consultation, he said additional attorneys may be recruited to support demand.

Smith said his rates are comparable to those of larger service providers, but he believes he gives clients more bang for their buck with no hidden charges.

“There are a lot of hidden charges and hidden costs with the competition,” he said. “Legal consultation is what separates us from the competition … on the other hand is that you can do this 24 hours a day, whenever it is convenient for you.”

An LLC formation costs $399, plus a $50 state filing fee, and includes a business name search, 20-minute phone consultation and the development of an LLC and operating agreement, as well as preparation of other required documents.

“Our services are affordable when compared to other services available on the web, and we provide the peace of mind that comes with legal advice, which our competitors simply cannot do,” according to the release.

State trademark services are $199, plus a $30 state filing fee, and include similar services. Prospective clients are also offered access to an extensive online library of LLCs and trademarks before paying the one-time flat rate for whichever service they choose.

The bottom line, Smith said, is that it’s quick.

“Our motto is ‘Legal advice at the speed of business,’ and that’s what we try to do,” Smith said.