What if you could pick up the phone and call an attorney to get advice about any and all legal matters of interest to you? The attorney would draft your will, review it and update it for every other year, make phone calls and write letters on your behalf negotiate your contracts and represent you in court. If you are traveling in another state and need any form of legal advice, he will refer you to a competent attorney in that state for no extra cost to you.
This all seems great on paper, but the mere thought of paying hundreds of dollars an hour to put an attorney on retainer is enough to persuade most people not to seek legal coverage.
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You will be surprised to know that such coverage does indeed exist under an arrangement similar to your health or insurance plan. Pre-paid legal plans offer you access to all these legal services, for a monthly charge of $10 to $25. If you are employed, you may incur no charge if your employer provides legal services as a fringe benefit.
Do you have legal insurance? Are you enrolled in a pre-paid legal plan and worried your provider is simply tallying up your tab for a service you’ll never get to use?
People are most likely to use legal services that fall into four categories: civil defence, civil plaintiffs, criminal defence and legal help that involves a variety of transactional or business law.
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Your liability insurances already covers you for the legal pertaining to civil defence. Your insurer hires the lawyer who will defend you and have every incentive to defend your well since they are the ones who bear your legal costs irrespective of the final outcome. In that respect, you already have “pre-paid legal coverage” in place and a legal plan wouldn’t add much to the coverage.
Civil plaintiff attorneys in the Unites States work on a “no win no fee” basis. This means that they will not charge you unless they win you damages in an insurance claim or lawsuit against someone who caused you physical injury. Their contingency fees are calculated as a “commission” on any money won, so there is every incentive for your plaintiff lawyer to defend you and defend you well: the more you win, the more he wins. There is no need to pre-pay for a service where you stand to lose nothing, and where advice is readily available to you from plaintiff lawyers eager to work on your case.
On the rare occasion you need to bring criminal charges if you’re involved in a serious accident or defend yourself against criminal charges brought against you, lining up a lawyer to represent you in advance is not the best of decisions. In these situations, client-lawyer rapport is crucial: you need someone whom you trust, build a rapport with and competent enough to defend you in a court of law. You rarely get the chance to talk to your attorney face-to-face in a pre-paid legal plan, and most of the attorneys in the network do not do criminal defence work.
Transactional and business law is the area where you will most probably find pre-paid legal services most effective. If you frequently need to someone to draft your wills, review simple contracts and set up advance health-directives or simply want competent legal advice at your disposal, then going pre-paid will save you the trouble of searching for an attorney and paying “a la carte”.