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Our List of 9 Sites to Sharpen Your Startup's Legal Chops

Have you been agonizing over a legal topic in your business? Great.

I love when someone wants to go over a legal topic they’ve been mulling over -- in part because I have a (strange) love for talking about this stuff. It's also because most topics could put a candy-binged toddler to sleep, so I can't help but respect founders expressing an interesting.

But this type of interest is becoming more of a necessity for startups.  The rise of the solo-preneur throws individuals into an arena that was reserved for companies breaking the high barrier of entry: that is, companies with resources large enough to hire snazzy outside legal counsel and in-house attorney. Though the barrier to entry is now lower than ever, the arena hasn’t gotten any less complex. If anything, the technology karate-kicking the barrier down makes the arena more complex. 

Companies aren’t any less expected to know the rules of the road than before, regardless of their size. This has made every entrepreneur their own in-house counsel, in addition to launching, scaling, and keeping an eye out for legal issues.

Here's the problem: you don’t know what you don’t know. But as with UX design and rapid prototyping tactics, you can learn.

Luckily, you've got a the best sites to get started below: 

The Top Legal Resource List

Below I list a few of my favorite sources for trends discovery, conveniently categorized by legal topics and industries. Most sites here tend to use legalese-free "plain English," though some get technical. 

Quick Topic Searches

JDSupra: JDSupra did an amazing job organizing their content, down to super niche topics. There are also summaries on trending topics with a newsletter you can customize.

Justia: Search by area of law, region or resource. Neat-o bonus? If you have questions there's a directory of paid and pro-bono attorneys.

LexologyThe content on this site can get technical, but it covers every legal topic imaginable. Which also comes in the form of blogs, great if you want to keep updated. And with the navigator feature you can compare areas of law in different countries. 

Learn the Law Resources

FindLaw: Findlaw is good because its public-oriented. Another one with a Q&A section and attorney directory it also has a “Learn About the Law” section. 

Cali: Cali is used in law schools, so when I come across eager beavers, this is my first suggestion. There are lessons and eBooks on tons of different legal topics. 

Taxes & Employment

IRS: You read that right. The IRS spent alot of energy overhauling their site to make it actually… helpful. Now there's videos, graphics, explanations, newsletters, webinars and Q&A's, making this a great resource for tax questions. 

Free Management Library: This site is good for looking into a topic. Super helpful when it comes to employment and business governance questions. There are also e-learning links.

Local Law and Policy

Statelocalgov: A directory to state, local and county websites you can say bye-bye to trolling 20 search pages. The site directs you to location-specific resources. Which means the resources are tailored, a problem with the larger sites. 

Legal Information Institute: Good site to look into specific laws. This site also keeps track of upcoming cases. You’ve got to do a little more digging. But the material itself is written for the purpose of making the law more understandable. The legal encyclopedia and dictionary are also a win. 


Read how the law is affecting Uber: Digging into Uber's 9th Circuit Appeal

A few honorable mentions are the Law/Legal Information Resources page of RefDesk or Legal Resources page of the Archives Library Information Center.

Keeping It Together

Feedly: Once you have your list of legal sites sourced, use Feedly to organize your RSS feeds and get new recommendations.

Flipboard: This app offers a great "law" category that helps you keep up with breaking trends, inspired by their acquisition of Zite, which was my favorite.

Pocket: Once you've found a few legal documents to track, you might have a lot of reading on your hands. Use Pocket to break up your reading, and even have it dictated to you with the build in audio feature.

Conclusion

The awesome thing about these sites is they become one long rabbit trail. One site leads to another site which leads to another. Go with this trail. Embrace this trail. But understand not every site is equal. Not everything will be accurate. Some sites will have outdated information. Others will be downright wrong.

Use discretion when reading them. Is “legal” spelled wrong in the header? Red flag. Is a banner ad for some “As Seen On TV” mop? Another red flag. Look for sites that do some type of quality check and have reputable sources. Also, go in acknowledging, this is not a substitute for legal advice. It’s education, not a guarantee.  

I’m always looking for new resources, feel free to share the one's you use in the comments section!

    Comments

    Great tips Erin! What are your thoughts on companies like Upcounsel that are improving the traditional lawyer search process?

    Reply 1

    Absolutely believe the more options you have, the better.

    These types of networks (UpWork for attorneys) have been around a few years. It's interesting to see the new wave like UpCounsel come in. I haven't used them myself, but I think it's something to look into. Won't necessarily work for everyone. But could be a great, less intimidating way for founders to put their "toe in the water."

    Reply 1

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