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Pre-Paid Legal

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Legal plans: An Intro

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.

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.

How to enroll for a legal plan

Are you thinking of getting on the pre-paid bandwagon? Choosing a particular
enrolment method can be very important in determining the benefits, costs and
conditions of coverage of your legal plan.

A voluntary enrolment refers to a membership of a legal plan where people
"voluntarily" subscribe to a pre-paid legal service in response to a direct
email offer, during an employer's open enrolment period or during individual
sales representations. In this arrangement, you pay the prepaid charge, get the
standard discounts open to all other members of the plan and get the coverage as
per the terms and conditions of the plan.

In a group plan, all members are automatically included in the plan because of
their status as a group. For instance, many employees enjoy a 100%
participation in legal plans sponsored by their employers. They do not have to
pay any pre-paid charge or premium, as legal coverage in the work place is now
regarded as an employee fringe-benefit.

Some universities also provide legal coverage for their students, financing the
plans from their general tuition fees.

Group legal plans

Group legal plans in the workplace have experienced rapid growth recently
because of their usefulness to both employer and employee alike.

For the employee, a group legal plan is a cheap way to get legal coverage in
much the same way as other traditional benefits. For as little as $20 per month
deducted from payroll, an employee is put in touch with an attorney who can
draft his will, buy or refinance a home, adopt a child and plan an estate.
Unlimited legal advice is offered at no cost to the employee.

The benefits for the employer include increased efficiency and productivity
from their workforce, and reduced administration costs to handle personal
matters. Another very attractive benefit is the very low cost involved in
researching and implementing a group legal plan. In fact, such plans cost
employers very little in terms of time and investment. Group plans are
structured on a voluntary basis, paid for through payroll deductions from the
workforce. Additionally, the carrier handles all the claims, redundant
paperwork and customer service related to the plan.

Are Pre-paid services worth the money?

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.

Benefits of Pre-paid legal plans

Pre-paid legal services can be a very attractive alternative to hiring a lawyer
for many people. You should consider the importance and relative priority of
these benefits in light of your own legal needs.

So what are the benefits going pre-paid compared to conventional hire of
lawyers?

Benefit Number 1: Cost-Effective

Pre-paid legal plans can take the sting out of hiring a lawyer. Lawyers' fees
are prohibitive for most people: you can run bills of thousands of dollars and
this is simply out of reach of most working and middle-class families.

With pre-paid plans, what you get charged is more in line with what you pay for
your health or home insurance. Plans start as low as $9 per month and typically
don't exceed the $30 mark.

Benefit Number 2: Simplicity

There is a number of very complicated set of fees lawyers charge: contingency
fees, flat fees, statutory fees and hourly rates. In the case of contingency
and statutory fees, you have to get into the intricate details of how these
fees are computed -- say for a contingency fee how much is the lawyer's
commission? -- and their regulatory nature -- who regulates the statutory fee
and how do I know if these fees are in line with regulatory guidelines?.

The other two types of fees can be equally as complex. Increasingly, attorneys
choose to incorporate any overheads they incur, like secretarial expenses,
parking charges and travel fees into their flat and hourly fees. They can also
set a minimum number of billing units, like three tenths of an hour (18
minutes), irrespective of how long it takes them to deal with your problem.

This is just a sample rundown of what might influence the various fees charged
by lawyers, other factors and arrangements can apply too. Contrast this with
the simplicity in which pre-paid legal services are priced and furnished. The
process is simple and straightforward: you sign an agreement to pay a fixed
monthly fee and that's about it. If what you're looking for is not covered,
your plan provider will give you a prior notice of a different billing so that
you know exactly how much you will be charged.

Benefit Number 4: Pre-emptive Law

Pre-paid plans offer unlimited phone consultation and advice. This aspect of
the service can save you a lot of trouble, money and time in the future. Most
legal problems you are likely to face in your day-to-day life can be solved if
you take the necessary steps in line with the law. With the right advice and
consultation with your lawyer, you can detect legal blunders before they occur
and hence minimize the risk of litigation and protection.

Common Services offered by Pre-paid legal Plans

Considering a pre-paid legal plan? He's a run-down of the services you're most
likely to get and also some legal documents you need to sign before you enrol.

Telephone and Office Consultation: You have unlimited telephone access to a
panel of attorneys regarding any legal matter of interest to you. You can also
make brief consultation visits to your lawyer for up to 30 minutes per day at
no cost to you.

The only condition placed on these two benefits is that you enquire about a
different legal matter.

This aspect of coverage provided by legal plans is one of the most beneficial
because it promotes preventive law. Preventive law is very much like preventive
medicine -- it helps in anticipating potential problems and taking the
appropriate legal steps so that unnecessary legal problems or risks are
avoided. With a simple phone call to your lawyer you can avoid getting
embroiled in a hellish legal situation, and you can even identify legal rights
you don't even know you had.

Follow-Up Service: The panel of lawyers will write letters and make phone calls
on your behalf to adverse third parties. Such follow-up service may be all it
takes to solve many of your legal problems.

Legal document review: Simple personal legal documents, such as your insurance
policies, sales contracts and leases will be reviewed. Any questions of legal
nature that you have about the documents will also get answered by your
attorney.

Drafting of wills: A will is a written document that regulates how you want
your property distributed after your death. Your attorney will draft your will
according to your state's laws so that it's valid when you die. He will also
advise you on any provisions you might want to consider, such as appointing a
guardian and establishing a trust.

Discount on regular fees: Any additional services not covered in the written
fee agreement will be at regular fees -- either hourly or flat -with a discount
between 20 to 30%. These services generally include family matters, such as
divorce and the custody of children, and court representation, such as traffic
tickets and lawsuits.

Some of the legal paperwork you need to read carefully, agree on and sign
include the following:

Written fee agreement: This is an agreement that outlines what services are
provided in the plan, how much it costs and the methods of payment.

Grievance procedure: This document details the procedures that will be taken by
the provide to resolve any complaints about attorneys or disputes regarding
service fees.

Differences between Pre-Paid and Legal Plans

It is not uncommon to see the terms "legal plans" and "pre-paid legal services"
used interchangeably. While they share a lot of characteristics in common, there
are a number of differences you should be aware of.

Both of these terms refer to an arrangement whereby you pay a fixed monthly or
yearly fee in exchange for legal services. The idea behind them is to save 
consumers on high legal fees whilst offering a valuable service. That's where the 
differences lie: what kind of service is offered and what is covered. What are you 
entitled to in both schemes?

Pre-paid services cover for specific legal services: free phone consultation
and advice, drafting of simple wills and trusts, review of sample contracts and
writing of letters on your behalf. Legal services not provided will get charged
at regular attorney fees, but you may be eligible for discounts.

Legal insurance, by contrast, works much like other insurance plans, like
health or car insurance. Although specific legal services are offered at times,
your insurance provider will typically offer a policy that covers for all legal
services. The policy will pay on behalf of you, the policy holder, or reimburse
all expenses, costs or fees that you pay for legal services up to the policy
limit. For instance, your policy might reimburse any fees incurred in your
court judgments or pay your bail money -- a service not provided by most
pre-paid legal plans.

Your legal insurance is also pegged to other insurance policies you may already
have. If you run into legal problems involving your other insurance, then your
legal insurance policy will protect you against loss or liability. For
instance, if you are involved in a car accident when your auto-insurance has
already run out and you are subsequently sued for recovery of damages, you will
be protected by a legal plan insurance.

The other difference between the two schemes is related to your choice of
attorney. In a pre-paid legal service, you get to choose from a restricted
number of the attorneys in the network. By contrast, a legal insurance plan
provides legal coverage regardless of attorney. You are free to set up
interviews with any number of attorneys and choose the ones you think will
provide the best service for your personal legal needs.

Finally, pre-paid legal plans are much more accessible to the general public.
Legal plans are harder to come by as only a limited number of insurance
companies offer such arrangements.

Types of Legal Plans

A prepaid legal plan is a scheme based on the payment in advance of a set fee
to defray the cost of providing future legal services to the members enrolled
in the scheme. They vary in cost, scope of legal coverage provided and how the
legal services are provided. We will look at the different types of pre-paid
legal plans available in the United States and how to enrol into them

An individual pre-paid legal plan is readily accessible to the general public.
There are two types of individual plans: access and comprehensive. An access
pre-paid legal plan is the most basic plan. It is designed to give easy access
to lawyer and a set of simple legal services for a low cost. Basic services
furnished include unlimited toll-free phone access to your attorney for
consultation and advice, letters written by the lawyer on your behalf, brief
office consultation and the drafting or review of simple legal documents.
Complex legal issues not covered will be subject to an hourly or flat rate
negotiatable with your provider.

The comprehensive plan goes beyond basic legal services, to offer more complex
and comprehensive coverage for a premium in cost. Generally, all the benefits
of an access plan are provided at no cost to you, plus a broader range of
services like drafting complicated legal documents, negotiations with adverse
parties, legal representation in court cases such as divorce and child custody.
They also cover all the costs involved in a legal litigation. Comprehensive
plans typically start at $300 per year and are most beneficial to middle-class
families.

A group legal plan is typically sponsored by an organization as a fringe
benefit to its members. The lawyer or law firm contracted provides free or
low-cost legal coverage to all members of the sponsoring organization.
Employers, labour unions and even universities are now increasingly offering
group legal plans to enhance the value of their benefits package and reduce the
cost of administrative burden. Law firms are contracted to provide participating
members telephone and office consultation for their most frequently needed legal
matters. These typically include: Preparation of wills and trusts, document
preparation and review, debt and real estate matters and family law.

Additional legal coverage can be contracted according to a fee schedule
negotiable between the plan sponsor and provider, and publicised to
participating members.

Why you need legal help

We are likely to need legal help at least once a year, yet most of us do not
actively seek legal help.

This is borne out of data from a survey conducted by Leo J. Shapiro &
Associates, on behalf of the American Bar Association's Section of Litigation,
which shows that close to three quarters of American adults experience some
event during a twelve-month period that may require the services of a lawyer.
Over half of those who needed an attorney chose not to hire one, and close to
80% of those yet to experience legal problems gave strong indications they
might go down the same route.

Why all the doom and gloom? Price is the most sticking point for most
consumers. When it comes to hiring a lawyer, hourly fees of $100 up to $1000
are out of reach of most people's budget. And then comes the trepidation of
searching for a good attorney and the right service: there is a lot of
uncertainty and confusion as what a lawyer will do, and how to tell the good
from the bad.

A legal plan may solve these problems and change the way you think of legal
services. Thanks to this arrangement, you can now talk to a lawyer whenever you
have a problem, without fear this will leave you out of pocket. In fact, you
don't even need to be embroiled in a legal problem to get legal advice: just
pick up the phone, call your attorney and get the necessary legal advice
susceptible of resolving any potential problems -- with professional legal
advice and follow-up, you can prevent ninety percent of your legal questions
becoming legal problems. Basic services such as the drafting of your will,
review of sample health contracts and writing letters on your behalf are
handled at no cost to you. If you want further coverage to include family
problems, such as a divorce or custody of children, and any legal
representation in court, then you simply pay a premium and get more inclusive
coverage.

Even if your plan doesn't cover complex legal matters, it can still save you
money on those sky-high attorney fees. Discounts of up to 20% are offered on
hourly and flat rates. Ultimately, it's not all down to how much you can save.
Having an attorney readily available at all times gives you peace of mind, in
the knowledge that there is someone you can use on retainer for advice and help
on anything of legal nature.

How to choose an attorney

Throughout the course of your legal problems, you will have to make some tough
decisions -- If you were involved in an accident then you have to choose
between bringing criminal damages or press with a plaintiff case, if you have a
small business and you were involved in a deal, then you have to decide whether
to sign it or let it pass. There is no clear-cut answer in many of these
dilemmas, and getting the right lawyer is crucial to you. We examine the perks
of choosing a lawyer in a pre-paid legal plan as opposed to hiring your own
lawyer, and some simple steps you can take to choose a good attorney.

The number one criterion has to do with a lawyer's legal ability: someone who
lays the law down for you, present you with options, explain the ramifications
of each decision you make and give you recommendations on the best course of
action. In this day and age of complicated legal matters, many lawyers are
increasingly specialised and you stand to get better information from someone
with a practice focus in a particular area of the law than a generalist who
deals with a broad spectrum of legal issues. Building rapport is also very
important: your relationship with your lawyer can make or break your case. You
need a lawyer who gives you candid advice and council you can trust, someone
with enough perspective to step back from an issue and look at it from all
perspectives.

Client-lawyer relationships are very limited within a pre-paid legal plan.
Because of "preventive" nature of most plans, your contact with your lawyer
will be limited on many occasions. You seldom get to talk to your lawyer
face-to-face -- as most of the consultation is done over the phone
-- and even when you get to talk to them, it's difficult to build rapport when
your office consultations are limited to a dozen hours a year.

The good news, however, is you still have some options left. When you sign up
for a legal plan, you get to choose your lawyer and there is a number of steps
you can take to increase the likelihood of getting a good lawyer. First, you
need to ask for referrals from previous clients. Ask around about good
attorneys in the network. Once you get a few names, check their educational
background, their qualifications and their professional track record with your
state's bar association.

After you receive your referrals, don't shy away from setting up interviews
with attorneys in the network. Most don't mind receiving enquiries about what
they do and how able there are. |Ask tough questions: How long have they been
in practice? How satisfied are their previous clients? How many legal problems
of interest to you have they taken recently?





Limitations of Pre-Paid Legal Services

Pre-paid legal plans are promoted under the promise of cheap legal coverage, an
attractive alternative to the high fees charged by regular attorneys and law
practices. But under the gloss of accessible legal services for the general
public, lie a number of limitations.

First, there is a limit on the scope of the legal services provided. Most of
what is provided on an unlimited-basis is phone based: calls to your attorney
for advice and consultation on legal matters, or phone calls made on your
behalf to third parties. Other benefits bundled in the plan are limited:
regular visits to your attorney's office is restricted to a dozen or so hours
per month, the wills you want drafted or sample contracts reviewed will be
carried out on two or three copies per year. More complex legal matters
involving more time and effort on the part of your attorney are not provided
outright. If you need representation in a court for a lawsuit on the recovery
of damages, or a complex lease contract reviewed and approved, then you have to
pay regular lawyer fees. Some discounts of up to 25% apply, but you could get
the same discounts if not better by the simple virtue of simple negotiations
and clever comparison shopping.

Second is the restriction on your choice of attorney and the quality of legal
work provided. Although you are free to choose your own attorney, client-lawyer
relationship and the building of rapport are harder to come by in this scheme.

Pre-paid legal plans are fraught with the "rookie" syndrome: the providers
usually resort to employing newly-licensed or trainee attorneys in a
cost-cutting exercise. Someone who does mostly wills, trusts and sample
contracts is probably not a good fit for a more complex legal issue like the
custody of children. In this day of age of increasing specialisation, it is
better to ask someone with specialised knowledge and years of experience then
it is to rely on a novice with a limited professional track-record.

If you go down the traditional way, then there is restricted "pool of
attorneys" you can choose from. Your research will be easier and a lot more
comprehensive. You can set up interviews with lawyers, ask for referrals from
friends, previous customers or check your local bar association. You are more
likely to get a top-notch lawyer with who to build rapport get competent advice
and trust the judgement.

Who regulates pre-paid legal plans?

Pre-paid legal service providers are required to provide either a written
agreement of the services provided in their plans, or at least a written
communication concerning the services covered, together with the fees to be
charged for services not covered in the written agreement of membership.

However, most people gloss over "terms and conditions" and just sign the
agreement assuming they are covered for most legal services. This usually gives
rise to frequent complaints about the service, fee disputes and complaints about
attorneys.

Generally, if you have any complaint with your service, you should first
address any such complaint with your service provider. Contact them to get
information regarding their in-house complaint process and settlement of
disputes. If you are unsatisfied, then it helps to know who regulates your kind
of legal insurance.

Your state's Department of consumer affairs licenses and regulates all pre-paid
legal plans. Prepaid legal service companies are required to register with the
department prior to commencing business and appoint a sales representative.
Further regulation can be provided by your local bar association.

Who is involved in Legal services?

When you subscribe to a pre-paid legal service, you are likely to deal with an
attorney and a number of other individuals and organisations who are involved
in one way or another with the service. It's important to understand the role
of each participating party in a legal service plan, particularly when you're
unhappy with the service or when fee disputes or any other litigation with your
provider arises.

So, who is involved in your pre-paid legal arrangement?

Your Lawyer

You get to choose your attorney from a pool of attorneys in the network. Your
lawyer is your point of contact for any phone advice or office consultation. He
is the one who furnishes other legal services specified in your written
agreement with your provider: he drafts your will, reviews simple contracts for
you, writes letters on your behalf and makes phone calls to adverse third
parties.

If you are unsatisfied with the quality of work you are getting from your
current attorney in the network then you have the choice of choosing alternate
attorneys. You can also make a complaint to your provider's in-house charge of
complaints.

If you benefit from legal services under a group plan scheme then there are a
number of parties who are involved in this scheme.

First the contracted firm, just as is the case with an individual plan, is the
one which provides all the legal help through its network of attorneys. There
are also two parties involved in the deal: a plan administrator and a plan
sponsor.

A plan sponsor is the organisation you are member of, which sponsors your legal
plan. Your sponsor can either choose to provide the legal services as a
fringe-benefit, as is the case with most employers, pre-charge for the service
-- universities usually charge for any legal service as part of tuition fees --
or charge low-costs, as do trade unions under a group-bargaining scheme.

Your plan administrator is the person appointed by your sponsor to arrange for
the panel of lawyers from the contracted firm to provide services, collects all
the fees paid into a pre-paid plan, publicizes the plan and handles enrolment
and marketing. The administrator may be a an employee of the sponsor, an
insurance company or an outside firm.

Regulating Authority

Authorities that regulate pre-paid plans provide you with an outline of how
pre-paid legal services are managed and also an outlet in case there are any
complaints.

Individual pre-paid legal plans are generally regulated by your state
department of consumer affairs.

If you are an employee participating in a group plan funded by your employer,
then the legal services are covered and regulated under the deferral Employee
Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Types of Prepaid Legal Services

Over 100 million Americans are signed up for pre-paid legal services. Also
called legal insurance, these plans are similar to those provided by Health
Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and cover the legal needs of the member,
spouse and any dependent children.

In a prepaid legal service plan, the customer pays a fixed monthly subscription
fee of up to $25 for the services of pre-selected lawyers. The most basic plans
provide advice and consultation by telephone. Plan members receive a few hours
of free office consultation with their assigned attorney. They may also include
review and advice on simple legal documents, preparation, drafting or an update
of a simple will. Phone calls and letters can be written on behalf of members,
a service helpful for credit problems and consumer protection.

More comprehensive plans cover clients' personal legal needs ranging from
services that require more time and effort on the part of your attorney, such
as contracts, wills and deeds, to legal representation in negotiations and
courts cases related to family matters, bankruptcy and real estate issues.

Comprehensive access plans

If you are a member of a pre-paid access plan and are not getting the legal
services you think you need, then it is probably time to upgrade to a more
comprehensive plan.

A comprehensive prepaid legal service plan is designed to cover for the
majority of your legal service needs in a given year. Access services, such as
legal advice and information by toll-free number and follow-up service, are
provided at no cost to you. It's in the realm of more complex legal matters
that require more time and effort from your attorney, that the comprehensive
plan is more beneficial than a basic, access plan. You can have your trust set
up, instead of a simple will, and a more complicated business sale contract
drawn up as opposed to a simple contract. Legal representation can equally be
provided in court for some cases, such as child custody.

Comprehensive prepaid plans are most suitable for people who need business
advice, have family trusts or own real estates properties.

Pre-paid legal plans? You can get them for free!

They say the best things in life are free. In the case of pre-paid legal plans,
this may just hold true.

Pre-paid legal plans offer a range of legal services on-call for a fixed
monthly charge of up to $25 per month. With such a low monthly payment, most
people are only too happy to get a legal coverage they wouldn't have otherwise
dreamt of in the stultifying, money-grabbing world of lawyers... But did you 
know, you could get all of that coverage free of charge?

In a bid to cut on administration costs, employers, labor unions and
universities are now providing legal services at discounted or no cost
altogether to their members. Employers are increasingly sponsoring legal plans
to their employees as a fringe benefit, as part of their Employee Assistance
Program (EAP). Labor unions fund plans offered as member benefit, or under a
collective bargaining scheme, in which case new members are eligible to huge
discounts. Universities are equally as involved with legal plans offered to
students and staff.

Pre-paid legal: Are you really going to use it?

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? Read on as we
explain the chances of using pre-paid legal services in legal challenges you
may be faced with.

In their lifetime, 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.

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".

Look before you take the leap into pre-paid legal services

Choosing a pre-paid legal plan is a good way to save big bucks, but choosing a
plan you need and a provider you can trust is a different matter. Here is a
number of things to look for in a legal plan from the very start:

Look for what's covered: Legal plans are offered in different models and differ
in the specifics of what they cover. While phone consultation and simple
drafting and reviewing of simple contracts are included across the board, more
elaborate and complicated legal matters are not covered. It's best to review
your own legal needs before you choose a legal plan. Ask which legal services
will you need most and then choose a plan that provides the best coverage given
those needs. For instance, if you are a business owner, lawsuits, lease and
contract negotiations could be high on your list and you would be looking for a
legal plan that provides coverage accordingly.

Know what legal coverage you already have Don't pay for coverage twice! If you
have car insurance, then you are covered for liability and medical protection,
home insurance covers you for injuries sustained on your property: Your
existing insurance policies already cover some of your legal costs and there is
no need to pay for that coverage when you select with a legal plan.

Does the company have an in-house procedure to handle complaints? One of the
stumbling blocks of pre-paid legal services is quality of service.
Newly-licensed attorneys, phone calls not getting answered and that ointment on
any client -- lawyer relationship: fee disputes, typically involving bills made
to your credit car to cover for services not included in your contract: This is
just a specimen of the many problems people face with their plan providers.

Make sure you select a plan that has clear guidelines as to how to settle
dispute when they arise. A company that has a good in-house mechanism to handle
complaints will generally assign a senior attorney with the authority to handle
customer complaints of and disputes with any attorneys in the network.
Secondary sources of resolution may include your state insurance department or
bar association. Check their outlet for complaints against pre-paid services.

Checking out the business you'll need to do some homework before you select
your legal provider. Ask these questions: 

- What's the firm's reputation in my area? 

- How many years have they been in business? 

- Have they been operating in my local area for at least a year without 
  complaints? 

- How skilled are they as attorneys? 

- Do they cover the locale where my business operates? 

Some good places to start your background research are your state bar 
association, the Better Business Bureau and the Consumer Affairs Office.

Group Legal plans benefits for employer and employee

A properly developed group legal insurance plan can be the perfect complement
to any employer's work life initiative. Considering that many employees are
nowadays increasingly swayed by benefit options when making career decisions,
Legal insurance is a viable product for many employers.

However, there is no single fit-for-all group legal plan for all organizations.
For a start, each organization has a distinct list of requirements when
contracting for legal insurance. A requirement built on the premise of reduced
administrative costs will require a different set of legal services than
requirements built on enhancing a benefits package or protect against liability.

Legal plans also vary in what they offer: the quality of their customer
service, flexibility of plan design and finally the experience and professional
track record of their panel of attorneys.

In order to minimize the risk of poor service and plummeting employer
satisfaction, an employer should conduct both requirements analysis amongst its
employee base to cover for their difference needs, and a due research to select
the most appropriate legal plan to fit those requirements based on experience,
integrity and track record.

The access legal plan

Pre-paid legal plans come in a variety of types depending on the scope of legal
coverage they provide.

The most basic pre-paid plan is designed to make the simple legal services
readily available to the general public at low cost. These plans typically cost
between $10 and $30 per month, billed in advance.

You get unrestricted toll-free number telephone access to a lawyer for legal
advice and consultation. You can also make brief office consultations to talk
to your lawyer about any legal problems you may be encountering. Your lawyer
can also write to letters or make phone calls on your behalf. This can help
resolve many problems before they escalate further.

Other services provided are not overly time-consuming: the drafting of your
will to distribute your property after your death, review of your trust and any
other simple legal document.

If you require any other service beyond the scope of a basic plan, then you can
either pay discounts on regular lawyer fees or pay a premium to upgrade to a
more comprehensive plan.

Pre-paid legal plans promote preventive law.

Many people believe they need the services of a lawyer, under a pre-paid legal
service scheme, to solve a legal problem or resolve an intricate situation.
Often, your lawyer's most valuable help could be before you get involved in
legal trouble.

When you sign up for a pre-paid legal plan, you have the right to unlimited
toll-free telephone access to your attorney. The sound advice and consultation
given to you by your lawyer will help you take the necessary steps to detect
and resolve any potential legal problems before they take more dangerous
proportions. This is called in legal jargon "therapeutic jurisprudence" or
"preventive law". Just as preventive medicine helps prevent disease by
detecting their symptoms, preventive law helps prevent serious legal
consequences by detecting early problems. In an increasingly litigious society,
there is real concern that assets you have worked long and hard to accumulate
may be attacked by creditors and litigants, through no fault of your own. By
the time a potential claim or liability is identified, it is too late to act.

A competent attorney's advice is your best option to minimize your exposure to
potential risks and protect yourself from legal problems getting out of hand.

Prepaid and Small Business

Legal advice for small businesses does not have to be expensive. With pre-paid
legal plans, a wide array of legal services designed specifically to cater for
the needs of small businesses is available for a set yearly fee ranging from
$125 to $300.

Although coverage differs across the board, most pre-paid plans offer unlimited
telephone consultation with a lawyer, a valuable service that is enough to solve
many small-business matters. This encourages "preventive law": the process
whereby you identify legal problems that affect your business, contact your
lawyer and get advice on taking steps to minimize them.

Basic plans provide coverage for simple contracts and the drafting of simple
legal documents, like a power of attorney or a bill of sale. More comprehensive
plans will deal with more elaborate matters like equipment lease and
accounts-receivable collection work.

If you are a member of a local chamber of commerce, trade or professional group
than you can get a plan at a reduced group rate. Otherwise, buy directly from a
commercial vendor.

Pre-paid legal services for small business

If you are operating your own business, you cannot afford to go it alone when
it comes to legal matters. The ever increasing complexities of law, spiralling
costs of lawsuits and the proliferation of government red tape can land you in
a lot of trouble.

The flip of the coin is hardly attractive either! Hiring a lawyer can
constitute a substantial financial investment many cash-strapped small
businesses and entrepreneurs cannot sustain. Lawyers charge a minimum of $200
per hour when it comes to "business law" and it can get very costly if you are
involved in lengthy legal procedures, complicated contracts or business
transactions.

There may just be a glitter of hope in pre-paid legal plans. For a set monthly
price, some legal providers are now bundling a whole suite of legal services
especially tailored to the needs of small-businesses. Whether you need phone
consultation on the legal complexities of a lease contract, or require legal
representation during tax audits, a pre-paid plan can help you manage legal
costs. An array of services is included as "standard coverage" at no cost to
you in the plan, and any legal matters not covered can be provided with a
discount on fees.

Before you take the leap, you need to keep some caveats in mind.

You need to know more about the quality of service you are likely to get. While
lower fees do not necessarily infer lower quality of work, it is always
necessary to bear in mind that legal specialization plays a crucial part and
lawyers are not interchangeable. Ask for references from previous clients or
ask entrepreneurs who've used the services of the provider about the quality of
work they have received from them. Use your state bar association, service
organizations in your locale and your local Better Business Bureau to research
law firms and the background of the attorneys in the network before selecting
them. Things to look for are the number of years they have been operating,
complaints from previous customers, the education background of attorneys,
professional track record and so forth.

With the increasing amount of small businesses involved in litigation and fee
disputes with their legal providers, it is important to give some thought to
alternative courses of actions when dealing with disputes. Ask your prospective
provider about the way in which they settle disputes or complaints. Do they have
an in-house procedure to deal with complaints, appoint a senior attorney to deal
with such things or do you simply have to settle out of court?

Benefits of Pre-paid legal plan for your company

Employers are on the hunt -- researching benefit tools that are low-cost,
easily administered and satisfy their employees' needs. One such tool is
pre-paid group insurance. We examine the benefits of having such a work-benefit
option from an employer's perspective.

The first benefit employers expect from legal insurance plans is increased
productivity and efficiency. Today's employees are interested in a variety of
benefits to balance their work with their life requirements. Given that most
American household had an issue with law last year that might have led them to
hire a lawyer, it's only normal that a legal benefit would increase employees'
morale and efficiency.

Having legal benefit as part of a work-benefit package can help the company
recruit and retain the best employees. In this age of work-benefit hysteria,
many prospective employment candidates base their career choices on the set of
benefit package provided by employers.

Cost containment is another benefit. With less time and resources to be used
for personal matters, the company expects to make significant savings on
administrative costs.





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