By Daniel Hunter

Research released by the online legal service LawBite has revealed how the high cost of obtaining legal advice is threatening the UK’s 4.5 million small businesses.

More than half (52%) of business owners worry their company is “at risk” because they haven’t paid for proper legal advice and support.

With experienced commercial solicitors charging between £250 and £600 an hour, an overwhelming majority (84%) of businesses blame law firms’ high rates for putting them off seeking professional legal advice.

The survey of UK small business owners was commissioned by LawBite, a new online platform that offers growing businesses affordable, easily accessible legal documents written in plain English, as well as access to a virtual law firm.

Its conclusions are stark — nearly six out of ten small businesses (57%) feel lawyers offer poor value for money. Most damning of all, 44% say they resist hiring a legal professional as they feel lawyers have their own interests at heart, rather than their clients’.

Clive Rich, barrister and founder of LawBite, commented: “Britain’s small businesses are the backbone of the UK economy but far too many are at risk because their owners are unwilling, or unable, to pay through the nose for essential legal support.

“It’s not just worrying, it’s terrifying. Millions of contracts and other legal documents might not be worth the paper they’re printed on, simply because the legal expertise needed to make them right was too pricey.

“As a result the businesses who rely on these documents are essentially flying blind — with no legal protection at all. Without robust legal documents, all the hard work put into building a business could be undone at a stroke.

“Some lawyers are worth every penny, of course, but the majority of small businesses need simple, unambiguous legal support and documentation, and lawyers who don’t cost the earth to consult.”

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