If you're a new business owner, one of the easiest ways to lighten your load is to use a business formation service. But there are hundreds of service providers. LegalZoom and CSC are two of your options; let's take an in-depth look at them and what they provide. They'll handle all of the legal legwork for you and help you keep your business compliant.

LegalZoom vs. CSC: The Verdict

LegalZoom is a big name in the business formation industry, with millions of customers under their belt and affordable packages. CSC is an equally big name; however, their prices can be pretty high. With the price, comes a stellar reputation since CSC provides services for the vast majority of Fortune 500. CSC is the cornerstone of the corporate world in terms of compliance regulations and business formation. Some of their prices reflect this. LegalZoom's millions of customers rate them reasonably well with an average of 4.2 stars on Trustpilot though CSC outstrips them with five stars. Overall, either could be a good choice for you, and it isn't easy to choose a clear winner.

Choose LegalZoom If:

  • You're looking to save money, particularly in terms of a registered agent service
  • You want service millions of people have used
  • You want a 100% money-back guarantee

Choose CSC If:

  • You don't mind paying a little more for stellar service that includes many corporate additions such as trademark monitoring
  • You want increased compliance services, not just formation services
  • You want to use the same company that approximately 450 of the Fortune 500 use

Services Offered & Pricing

LegalZoom and CSC offer similar services and can assist you with starting an LLC, corporation, or non-profit. For a smaller company, you'd be better off going with LegalZoom; however, CSC offers extra business services that are too good to miss if you're running a larger business entity. CSC offers robust protections through its digital asset, capital markets, and investment services.

Key Similarities

  • You can start any business entity

Key Differences

  • LegalZoom's pricing is usually cheaper
  • CSC also offers add-ons and compliance services that justify their higher price point
  • CSC has a unique reputation as they provide services to the majority of Fortune 500 companies

LegalZoom Packages & Pricing

LegalZoom offers three different formation packages starting from $79 for a basic economy package to the gold package for $349. Prices don't include state fees. Additional services such as annual report services may be available on an a la carte basis.

Economy - $79 + State Fees

The basic LegalZoom package contains everything you need, with no frills.

  • Business Name Availability Check: The company will search your state to determine whether your business name is already taken
  • Banking Resolution: This is a financial account authorization that indicates who is eligible to open a checking or savings account on behalf of your LLC
  • Preparation and Filing of Your Articles of Organization: The state requires these forms for LLC formation. LegalZoom completes these forms and files them with the secretary of state on your behalf

Standard - $329 + State Fees

This package offers everything that the economy package offer plus many other features, including:

  • Deluxe Organizer: This is a luxury box embossed with your company's name
  • Membership Certificates and Seal: LegalZoom offers personalized membership certificates for LLC owners, including a decorative seal
  • VIP Turnaround times: If you are in a hurry to form your LLC, prioritize your order above customers from the Economy tier

Express Gold - $79 + State Fees

The Express gold include everything that the Economy and the Standard package have a plus:

  • Expedited Processing With Secretary of State: If you're in a rush to start an LLC, LegalZoom can cut your turnaround times to mere days
  • Express Shipping: LegalZoom will ship your completed documents via Express Mail with a tracking number

CSC Packages & Pricing

CSC provides a wide range of services that cater to small businesses and large corporations. Their services are more comprehensive than the competition, covering corporations, law firms, small companies, lenders, capital markets, and alternative investments.

Corporation Services - price varies

CSC does the most for corporations, including:

  • Entity management services: You'll have entity management services to manage and store your data
  • Corporate filing services: Including registered agent services, which include document retrieval, Certificates of Good Standing, annual reports, and corporate filings
  • Compliance services: Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) searches, filings, and management services for capital finance, leasing enterprises, commercial banks, and CSC Corptax to provide corporate taxes efficiently
  • Digital brand protection: Gain control of digital assets with brand protection using domain management security and protect against fraud

Companies like Twitter and Apple use CSC domain services for protection, including Gilead Sciences, Air China, United Airlines, and other brands.

Law Firm Services - price varies

CSC provides services to law firms with the following:

  • Registered agent services: Fulfill needs as a registered agent, using their SOP Manager for document retrieval, Certificate of Good Standing, corporate filings, and legal information
  • Compliance services: File annual reports, support international compliance efforts, and assist with permit and business license requirements in 160,000 US jurisdictions in addition to UCC portfolio management services

CSC requests contact information for a quote based on your state to obtain a pricing. More than likely, the pricing will be high-end.

Small Business Services - price varies

  • Employer identification number: To save you time applying directly to the IRS yourself, CSC can apply for an EIN for you
  • Operating agreements: Assist new entities with bylaws and operating agreements, help register to do business in other states, and reserve unique company names with digital asset protection
  • Ongoing compliance requirements: including annual reports, business license information, offering a Business License Compliance Package

Packages and prices vary depending on the state and additional services and range between $300 to $500.

Capital Markets Services - price varies

CSC provides services to various capital markets across the globe, including:

  • Special purpose vehicle management
  • Independent director needs
  • Trustee and agency commitments
  • Accounting requirements
  • Analyze and innovate with clients
  • Corporate Trust and Agency Services

You have to send in a request for more information for accurate pricing.

Alternative Investments Services - price varies

CSC provides solutions worldwide for the following:

  • Private equity
  • Venture capital
  • Real estate
  • Private debt
  • Fund of funds
  • Other alternative investment strategies

For up-to-date pricing, you'll want to contact CSC directly.

Document Management & Online Experience

LegalZoom's document management is easy to use though it's pretty basic; CSC offers much more comprehensive services encompassing lots of extras that LegalZoom doesn't.

Both offer order tracking and the ability to track and manage legal documents. Only CSC can offer you on-demand live chat, corporate filings, licenses, and litigation information via the CSC navigator. CSC Navigator also allows access to other platforms, as many clients use more than one service. These include CSC DealRoom, which covers business license compliance offerings. LegalZoom's website is also very focused on upselling, and it's easy to run up a hefty bill accidentally.

Key Similarities

  • Easy, safe document management
  • Smooth online experience

Key Differences

  • LegalZoom's website is more basic and focused on upselling
  • CSC offers more corporate services and on-demand assistance

Processing Time

Processing time is a significant difference; CSC processes filings very quickly in 3-5 business days on average. You can expedite your service in as little as 30 minutes. During March, June, and December, filing times may be a little slower due to increased custom, but expedited options are available starting from $100.

To use the 30-minute option, you must be an existing customer. LegalZoom also offers expedited services, but you can't beat 30 minutes. LegalZoom's usual processing time is 10-30 business days.

Key Similarities

  • You can pay extra for expedited services

Key Differences

  • CSC's services are much faster than LegalZoom's
  • Premium processing by CSC can cost up to $1,500

Compliance & Track Record

CSC can help you with all of your compliance needs; their CorpTax software has many positive reviews, sporting a good reputation for their compliance services. On top of this, they have a great track record with many excellent multi-billion dollar clients.

LegalZoom's reputation is a bit less impressive; however, they do hold BBB accreditation, decent customer reviews, and no major compliance issues. They don't have a candle to CSC in this area. LegalZoom can also help you remain compliant with accounting, annual reports, and essential legal services, but they're nowhere near as comprehensive as CSC.

Key Similarities

  • There are no significant compliance issues
  • Both offer additional compliance services

Key Differences

  • CSC offers enhanced compliance services geared towards its large corporate clients
  • LegalZoom is more focused on accounting and essential legal services

Customer Service

CSC's customer service is quite variable for such a large company, and customers report waiting more than 30 days for a response from their online form, and the email support team can take several days to respond, too. Their phone line has four different options, and it's pretty easy to speak to a human being, but the other options having such significant difficulties is disappointing.

LegalZoom's customer service is a bit faster. Still, they seem to put more effort into their sales team than their existing customer support structure, which means it's easier to purchase a package than get support from them, not a great outlook either. With that said, both are well-reviewed with 5 and 4 stars out of 5 on Trustpilot, respectively.

Key Similarities

  • Excellent TrustPilot scores
  • Support is available via online form, email, and phone line

Key Differences

  • LegalZoom's support is faster but more sales-focused

Structure Breakdown

As you can see, there's a lot to consider when you're choosing which incorporation service you'll be using. One major thing to consider is what kind of business structure you'll be setting up, as some may be better suited to one service or another.

LLCs: LegalZoom

CSC is great. However, many of their additional services wouldn't benefit you if you're starting an LLC and will only add unnecessary expenses. For example, their registered agent service is almost double that of LegalZoom's. LegalZoom's simplified LLC formation service wins this category.

Corporations: Choose CSC

Corporations are CSC's primary client base. CSC provides additional brand protection and digital security to protect your trademarks. If your business offers items that can be copied, CSC scans marketplaces like Amazon to pull suspected counterfeit items on your behalf. This is where CSC shines, and the extra cost is worth it.

Partnerships: Toss Up

LegalZoom supports partnerships and can help you set up a low-price partnership. Their accounting and tax assistance are excellent for setting up a partnership. However, CSC also has great offerings in this area and is popular among law firms, entrepreneurs, and others requiring corporate partnerships.

Non-Profits: Choose LegalZoom

While CSC can offer a lot for a non-profit, LegalZoom's affordability makes them a no-brainer in this category. LegalZoom can help you file for non-profit tax status, which will help you become eligible for things like grants and reduced taxes.

The Last Word

When it comes to online incorporation services, you have a lot of choices. LegalZoom is a great, affordable option for small businesses. However, if you're looking to set up a corporation or you're likely to need their arsenal of extras, you should consider CSC. Either way, you'll be making a great choice.

Filed under: Head-to-Head

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