From the April 1998 issue of Startups

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," wrote Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part 2. While this may be a bit extreme, many of us would like to bother less with these advisors. One money-saving alternative is software.

Generally, business law programs give you a set of legal contracts, forms and letters to modify and use. Prepared by expert attorneys, these instruments suffice in many situations.


Robert Schmidt is a computer and business writer in Culver City, California.

Business Law Library

This package ($49.95) is touted as "the most comprehensive library of business legal forms and documents ever offered on CD-ROM." It provides more than 500 items on four CDs in four categories: business entities, sales and finance, labor and property, and dispute resolution.

With each document, you generate it, then print it or save it to disk. You can't edit in this program, so you have to use a word processor. The documents are plain text with underlines you replace with your own data.

Extras include videos that explain the basics of each subject. The CDs also have a glossary of legal terms, a list of resources and a collection of laws.

AgreementBuilder

AgreementBuilder ($49) isn't a program per se, but rather a collection of more than 100 templates in Microsoft Word 2.0 format. The templates range from articles of incorporation to a work-for-hire agreement.

To use a template, you launch your word processor and open the file, then edit it. Most paragraphs are preceded by an attorney's explanation, highlighted in blue, that tells you why the paragraph is important and whether you need to modify it.

The templates also contain placeholders followed by a description of what to enter there. For instance, a placeholder may read "[x] (Describe the transaction)." You delete the placeholder and type in your response.

Quicken Business Law Partner

Priced at $29, Business Law Partner (BLP) comes with almost 60 legal documents and worksheets in the categories of general business, finance, real estate and letters. When creating a document, you can search BLP's index for one that matches your needs. A window gives you "Reasons to Create," "Before You Begin" and "Reasons to Update" for each file.

Once you select a document, BLP asks questions and completes the document with your answers. You can switch between the interview mode and a preview to see how the document looks, then export the document to a simple editor or print it.

BLP's Document Advisor helps you create a list of suggested documents for your business.

Smart Attorney Pro

Smart Attorney Pro ($149) includes more than 2,500 legal forms and documents in 20 categories, including franchises and intellectual property. You choose a document from a category, then edit it, plugging data into empty fields. The software also offers a powerful search engine to scan documents for text, and bubble help for its buttons and fields.

Hot To Buy

  • JetFax PaperMaster Live. This document management utility gives you a central location to store and organize information from all types of "electronic paper," no matter what the source. You can place scanned files, Web pages, e-mails and faxes in one electronic file cabinet. Advanced annotating functions let you attach sticky notes, highlight text and use custom-made stamps. If your desktop is getting unmanageable, call (800) 7-JETFAX for more information about JetMax PaperMaster Live. Price: $99.
  • Subject Search Spider. How much time do you waste trying one Web search after another in the quest for a single answer? To alleviate this problem, PKWARE is marketing SSSpider, a personal Web agent. You program the inquiries you want, and SSSpider does the rest, submitting your criteria to search engines and reporting the results. To improve the speed and quality of your Internet research, visit http://www.pkware.com or call (414) 354-8699. $29.95.

Contact Sources

AgreementBuilder, JIAN Tools for Sales Inc., (800) 346-5426, ext. 128, http://www.jianusa.com

Business Law Library, Sofsource Inc., (505) 532-5000, ext. 114, http://www.sofsource.com

Quicken Business Law Partner, Parsons Technology, (800) 779-6000, http://www.sofsource.com

Smart Attorney Pro, American Institute for Financial Research, (800) 791-1000, ext. 107, http://www.sofsource.com