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Pre-Paid Legal Service

Pre-paid legal services can often make otherwise unaffordable legal counsel available.

Pre-paid legal services include phone and face-to-face consultation. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
Pre-paid legal services include phone and face-to-face consultation.

Pre-Paid Legal Service

A pre paid legal service allows people to essentially retain a lawyer at a low price. Most people can't afford to have a lawyer at just a phone call away and so are unable to turn to legal help without being hindered by the cost of a traditional law firm. Prepaid legal services may be the answer to their problems.

Prepaid Legal Service Description

Prepaid legal services charge customers a monthly fee for a legal insurance policy, meaning they have a lawyer on call if they need one.

Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. provides access to their services for $26 a month. They offer legal advice and help on big decisions such as buying a home, getting a speeding ticket, returning a defective product, signing a contract, being overcharged and even being audited.

A prepaid legal service might be an attractive option for someone who wants to have a lawyer to call if needed and likes to be well-informed of their legal rights. Just an hour of time with a traditional lawyer can cost hundreds of dollars, and many people can't afford the legal counsel they need. Prepaid legal services simplify this. Customers simply have to call the number on their membership card if they want to talk to their personal lawyer.

These services vary in cost from as little as $9 to $25 a month and may even be offered for free by an employer, union or credit union. Reputable prepaid legal services are endorsed or sponsored by the American Bar Association. The Better Business Bureau also offers information about specific plans.

Prepaid Legal Lawyers Available

Many lawyers who work for a prepaid legal service are also private practice lawyers. They have a contractual agreement with the plan company. Some plans use a broad array of lawyers in each geographic area. Other plans use one law firm or a small group of different law firms in each state. Still, others set up offices in highly concentrated areas, complete with a staff of salaried lawyers whose sole job is to work with plan members.

Typical Prepaid Legal Client

Prepaid legal services are for people who might not otherwise seek a lawyer because they're too expensive, the process of finding a lawyer intimidates them or they don't know where to begin.

A survey by Leo J. Sharpiro & Associates shows that 71 percent of Americans report experiencing something in the last year for which they might have required a lawyer's services. Consumers are unsure how to tell a good lawyer from a bad lawyer, don't know which type of lawyer to contact for their needs and are unaware of how much a lawyer will and should charge. The process is so intimidating that more than half of people who need a lawyer don't get one.

If a person receives proper legal advice, most issues can be handled and resolved quickly. A prepaid legal service lets a user talk to a real lawyer whenever they think they might have a problem. Because it is all covered in the plan, the user doesn't have to worry about high costs.

A real estate agent might also use a prepaid legal service that covers deeds in their plan. Having real estate clients sign up for the plan and obtain their deed would be much less expensive than purchasing the deed traditionally.

Typical Prepaid Services Offered

Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc., offers help with traditional legal troubles as well as everyday issues like big purchases, drawing up a will and handling problems with an insurance company.

According to the American Bar Association, a basic prepaid legal service offers legal advice and consultation over the phone, review of simple legal documents, simple will preparation and a phone call or a letter to another attorney.

More comprehensive and expensive plans are also available, including trial coverage, marital problems, bankruptcy and real estate troubles.

Expert Law states that prepaid legal services often provide discounts on local attorneys, some free services and access to legal documents and forms.

Consumers should be aware of the services their particular law firm provides, as they vary by type and cost. Half of new subscribers will subsequently unsubscribe to prepaid legal services after the first year, either because they didn't need it or because it didn't provide the level of service they wanted. Contracted attorneys may encourage users to purchase an upgrade on their service, which in the end might not make the membership fee worth it at all. Not all attorneys participate in these plans, so if a customer is unhappy with their attorney, they may not be able to get a new one in their area. Before signing up for a prepaid legal service, a consumer should first find out the identities of the contracted attorneys in their area.

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