You may be covered when it comes to health, life, car or home insurance… but what about legal coverage?
The question is not if you’ll need a lawyer, but when: according to the American Bar Association (ABA) “Americans have come to view legal assistance as a necessity”. Yet, most Americans have not used a lawyer more than once due to the sky-high attorney fees – anywhere from $100 to $1000 per hour – and the trepidation involved in the search for legal services.
Prepaid legal insurance might just be the answer you have been looking for.
The concept is simple: for a fixed monthly subscription, you get telephone access to advice from a lawyer. You pay a fixed amount in advance each month to defray the cost of legal services furnished in the future. These services span various areas of the law, anywhere from reviews of simple legal documents and the writing of a simple will to more comprehensive coverage of trials, divorce, bankruptcy and real estate issues.
Pre-paid legal coverage is a very attractive proposition for people who don’t have the resources to retain a lawyer on a regular basis whenever they need assistance.
You effectively have a network of attorneys you can use as retainer to seek preliminary advice about what the issues are and how the procedures work whenever legal matters arise. Services not covered by the plan are available to members for a discount on regular hourly rates or flat fees.
A hard fact, however, is that more than half of new subscribers drop out of a prepaid plan after their first year.
One reason could be that many members do not require any legal assistance during their first year, so opt out. Another reason is the scope of services offered, which are very basic and limited in nature. Most plans have certain caps or maximums as far as benefits provided are concerned, and purport to offer discount on standard attorney fees instead. However, by virtue of simply calling around by yourself you could probably negotiate a lower rate. Another problem with pre-paid legal plans is the likelihood of getting assigned to a novice attorney. Because of cost considerations, many of the companies behind per-paid services assign trainee or inexperienced attorneys to handle phone consultation and drafting of simple legal documents. You are also less likely to build rapport and understanding, two of the most important attributes of choosing a good attorney, as over 90% of the work is done over the phone.