LegalZoom vs Firstbase

Features, pricing, and contract terms compared

Patrick Ward Patrick Ward Follow Published: Sep 27, 2022

LegalZoom provides holistic legal services, including business formation, real estate, family law, and even last will & testament to SMB business owners. These services are designed to take care of a business owner's legal needs, regardless of their personal or professional nature. By contrast, Firstbase is oriented towards launch and growth of a successful business. Aimed at International Founders, Firstbase looks to help entrepreneurs launch U.S. startups and subsequently accelerate those startups with growth-related products.

Content on this page does not constitute financial advice. It is intended for general information purposes only.

LegalZoom

3.4/5 stars

LegalZoom and Firstbase both aim to provide legal documents to get entrepreneurs started, but where they differ is LegalZoom provides products for compliance. Their goal is to meet the regulatory and legal needs of business owners who aren't purchasing an attorney but are expecting a tech equivalent of that person's services.

Firstbase

3.9/5 stars

Firstbase, unlike LegalZoom, is providing products for growth. Firstbase wants to be the source of tools for International Founders to start and launch their U.S. based startups, followed by providing those same Founders with the services they need to grow and scale successfully.

Summary of key differences

FeatureLegalZoomFirstbase
Entry price$79 + state fees$399
Standard processing time20 business days3-7 business days
Foreign qualification fee $229 Variable

Pricing Analysis: LegalZoom vs Firstbase

LegalZoom, in spite of being at the premium end of the DIY market, manages to pip Firstbase on cost, with a standard business formation service setting an entrepreneur back $79 + state fees, compared to Firstbase's staggering $399 price point (although that package includes state fees). Firstbase has the last laugh, however, as LegalZoom charges a whopping $299 for the annual renewal of a registered agent. Firstbase, on the other hand, offers that same registered agent for $99 annually.

LegalZoom pricing

The base pricing from LegalZoom is more expensive than Firstbase. However, note that pricing is impacted by state fees. For example, LegalZoom customers setting up an LLC in Delaware will see an initial cost of $169 (package cost plus the state LLC fee). In Wyoming, the same package would cost $279 because of the higher state fee.

Firstbase pricing

Firstbase is the less expensive formation service offering compared with LegalZoom.

LegalZoom vs Firstbase market value analysis

Market average based on analysis of 9 formation services providers.
MetricMarket AverageLegalZoomFirstbase
Lowest package price$156 before state fees$79 + state fees$399
Formation processing time9 business days20 business days3-7 business days
Registered agent annual cost$152 $229 Variable

User experience & onboarding

Onboarding for LegalZoom aims to demystify legal services with respect to business formation. Optionality is built-in to the flow with micro-chat questionnaire to help business owners determine the right type of business formation along with options to pick from a set menu with transparent pricing. Add-ons populate throughout the onboarding, but given the transparent pricing up front, it isn't a surprise to any prospective business owner.

With an interface more akin to a developer-facing product than a consumer-facing one, Firstbase is not immediately the easiest to navigate. Once into the flow, it's fairly straightforward with limited options of Delaware and Wyoming and a flat fee disclosed up front. The business formation flow in particular is exceptionally quick to navigate - as Firstbase prefers to offer multiple products within the 'Start your U.S. based business niche' including growth tools, business addresses alongside the expected formation and registered agent services.

Given the non-technical versus technical dichotomy, it's no wonder that LegalZoom earns points for its straight forward onboarding flow, helping a business owner to distinguish between a vast array of legal products and services. Firstbase, targeted at a more technical entrepreneur, doesn't have the easiest to navigate flow, more akin to a GitHub repository than a consumer-facing app. Nevertheless, once into the onboarding flow, Firstbase provides a comparable experience to LegalZoom, with transparency on pricing and products to match.

Formation speed

LegalZoom's is often plagued by its processing times, leaving founders frustrated at its 20 business days for formation services. This is indeed on the higher end, which is beaten by new kid on the block, Firstbase's business formation speed of 3 to 7 business days. Don't get us wrong, Firstbase isn't that fast in terms of processing times, but it doesn't take much to beat LegalZoom's glacial pace.

LegalZoom's twenty business day processing time is in the highest range for formation services. When compared to lawyers in general, this speed might seem swift, and indeed their services are indicative of the 'legaltech' market that reduces the cost of traditionally expensive legal advice. However, their formation speed is not up to scratch when compared to Business Formation-specific services that promise processing in a handful of days.

Firstbase's processing times of three to seven business days isn't awful, but neither is it particularly impressive. In today's 'I want it now' economy, three to seven business days seems like a lifetime compared to the 'same day' or 'next day' promises of several in the business formation space. It's worth noting however, that Firstbase's processing time puts it solidly in the middle of the pack, considerably faster than those in the twenty to forty business day processing time range.

Are they worth the cost?

LegalZoom is geared towards both the SMB and Solopreneur markets, with a strong emphasis on the individual business owner themselves. Their positioning is indicative of trying to be a one-stop-shop for businesses that have legal needs but are fearful of the costly retainers incurred by an in-house counsel or legal contractor. LegalZoom's products look to cover the breadth of what an SMB or Solopreneur business owner would need - not only professionally such as formation, trademarks, and ongoing contracts, but also personal with products for estate planning, family law, and real estate.

Firstbase has strong overtures of developer dark mode interfaces, leaning to a strong targeting of International Tech Founders. The messaging is consistent with entrepreneurs trying to start their first U.S. business. Firstbase positions the choice of their products as either for the entrepreneur looking to be economical on taxation (via Wyoming incorporation) or Startups seeking VC-funding (via the standard Delaware incorporation).

NanoGlobals editor's rating for LegalZoom reflects its comprehensive nature of legal services for an aspiring business owner. LegalZoom earns points for being more cost-efficient than regular attorney services along with ease of onboarding via chat and helpful introductory flows to their products. Unfortunately, they miss the mark on pricing and processing times when compared to the industry average, outweighing any perceived advantage of being legal experts since, like with all services in this formation niche, their recommendations don't constitute legal advice.

NanoGlobals editor's rating represents Firstbase as a solid option, especially for the Non-U.S. founder. Their tech-oriented, all encompassing offer earn points for providing multiple tools to the aspiring tech entrepreneur to start their U.S. base business, along with very transparent pricing on all their available add-ons. Minor subtractions occur due to a higher than average price point and processing times.

Author Credentials

Patrick Ward is an expert on working with startups and new businesses. He has 8 years experience serving tech-enabled companies with staffing and growth.

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