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Legal Plan Information
Approximately 85 million Americans belong to some type of prepaid legal plans. Most, are middle class people who would otherwise not seek the services of an attorney. Legal service plans can help members prevent legal problems before they occur. A lawyer can review a document or contract before you sign it, or you can consult with an attorney before suing another party. If you have a will to be written, need tax advice, or are adopting a child, the attorney's fees can empty your bank account fast. Pre-paid legal services can help ease some of the sting in paying for a lawyer.

Pre-paid legal service plans work much like certain types of health insurance or HMOs. The risk for legal services is pooled and spread over a large group of customers. Members of the group pay an annual fee and have access to an established network of attorneys for advice and service, just as HMO members have access to a network of doctors. Just like HMOs, plan members can always choose to use a lawyer out of network, though the plan won't pay for it.

Legal plans vary among different providers, but normally include the following legal services:
  • Guaranteed hourly rates for in-court and out-of-court representation. This helps you to save money and help manage legal costs. Hourly rates for participants in prepaid plans may be 40 to 50 percent lower than what attorneys would normally charge.
  • An array of services for which there is no charge, including free document review, unlimited phone consultations, legal letters and documents such as collection letters and contracts, and thirty to sixty minutes of personal consultations for new legal matters. Most plans vary, but almost all place a limit on number of no-charge consulting hours and documents during the year.
  • Reduced rates for services such as real estate closings and other real estate matters, wills, tax preparation, representation during tax audits and bankruptcy.
  • Reductions in contingency fees for legal matters such as collections, personal injury, credit problems and others.
  • Some plans will also prepare some legal documents like wills at no charge or for a very small charge.
Like any thing else, be sure to do your research and to carefully review all terms and benefits relating to a plan or provider. Be sure to ask questions like
  • Who will actually be representing you (names of legal firms and individual attorneys)
  • What are the attorneys' levels of experience and expertise?
  • Do they have extensive experience representing small businesses? (if you area small business);
  • Will you have the choice of attorneys within the plan, and will you be able to change attorneys if you wish?
  • Will the same attorney handle you case from beginning to end?
  • What are the plan's fees and what services are offered?
  • What limits are put on services and representation?
  • What services and types of legal representation are not covered?

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