Why DIY Legal Documents Will Leave Your Startup DOA


Could you imagine if someone went to a restaurant and said:

“Hey, chef, I was looking on the internet and I found a bunch of recipes I liked. So I cooked a five-course meal, with appetizers, starters, salad, dessert, and the whole shebang. But I’m not sure it tastes all that great so I was hoping you could look at it and make sure it’s all good. How much would it cost to do that?”

Nobody would ever do that, because it’s absurd.

But for some reason, people do that to us all the time.

When I first left my prior job representing Fortune 500 companies and started doing my own thing, I wanted to encourage clients to use me however they best saw fit. I wanted to be the cool lawyer who worked with clients in a flexible way.

A few of my clients wanted to create their own legal documents and have me review them. I thought, why not?

Then the clients would find a half-dozen resources around the internet and create an amalgam of what they thought worked best. Et Voila!

Invariably, it was a disaster.

The process took much longer than it needed to and it was always a struggle to explain why it took so long. It would usually take me as long to explain to clients what was wrong with the documents as it would for me to just create new documents from scratch.

Lesson learned.

I won’t do it anymore.

If you want to perform surgery on yourself, that’s your decision. But I won’t be involved in that process, because I know how it ends.

With both lawyers and chefs, you’re going to get a better experience if you just let them do their thing.

You don’t get bonus points for creativity in your legal documents. And you definitely don’t get bonus points for doing documents yourself. Instead, you get problems and legal documents that are not professional caliber.

This approach will also likely scare off your potential investors and acquirers. No serious investor or acquirer will ever sink a dime into a company that wants to play lawyer. By straying from the traditional framework of legal documents without sufficient knowledge of all of the legal reasons why the framework existed in the first place, there are unintended consequences. And those unintended consequences are invariably bad.

The process isn’t that expensive anymore, which is why there’s no reason to waste your time pretending to be a lawyer. Unless, of course, you think your time is worth nothing, in which case, waste away. Play amateur lawyer. See where it gets you.

Yeah, I know that this article comes off as self serving. But I pride myself on being a flexible and open-minded person, and if the other approach worked, I’d be happy to use it.

I promise you. It doesn’t.

Your job is to crush it with your business. Our job is to handle the legal side of things.

We got you.

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