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We frequently see legal issues come up here at Fatwallet. While many issues can be commented on as a matter of public knowledge or experience in a particular area, NOTHING you read here or anywhere on the internet is valid legal advice specifically applicable in your state or to your situation. Sometimes, people post terrible MISSTATEMENTS of the law, which only further confuses people.

THIS FORUM IS NOT A LEGAL FORUM. Though legal issues frequently affect people's finances, this is not the appropriate forum to discuss legal questions. If you are looking for a legal advice discussion forum, go here:

http://www.freeadvice.com

This site has tons of legal FAQ'a. They also have a Bulletin Board divided into particular legal issues where you can post your problem. However, as with this forum, be advised that the responses you may get to your question may also be inaccurate or misstatements of the law, as many people replying are not attorneys and are merely guessing.

However, there is really no substitute to the advice of a qualified licensed attorney in your state when you have a legal problem. To find attorneys in your area, probably the best way to find one is a recommendation from someone who has used a good one. You can also use www.martindale.com , which lists attorneys and also rates them "AV BV CV", etc.....Looking in the phone book is usually less recommended (and calling one from a TV ad probably the least recommended)....

Of course, attorneys charge between $150-350 per hour and many require a large retainer up front. This makes seeing one difficult, especially for small matters or when you have a quick question. One way to speak with an attorney at no charge is to use the phone book to see if they offer free consultations. If you are an AARP member, they have a legal services program that provides free 1/2 hour consultations...

AARP

Another way is to see if there are any free/low cost legal clinics or legal assistance centers in your area. You can also call the Bar Association in your County for a referral. This usually has a minimal cost ($25-50) and usually provides a one-half to one hour consultation. However, keep in mind many of these avenues will NOT usually include any services such as making a phone call or writing a letter on your behalf to resolve a problem.

For many issues, a short letter or quick phone call by an attorney is all that is needed to resolve a problem....businesses do not usually take an issue seriously until it reaches their desk via a letter from an attorney. Some people obtain "on-call" legal counsel through a Prepaid Legal Plan.

The biggest one is actually called "Prepaid Legal"....

Prepaid Legal also has many legal forms and documents you can print out for FREE on their website. Prepaid Legal charges $15-35/month depending on the plan (plus a $10 enrollment fee) and provides access to attornies to help you with PERSONAL issues (not business ventures). They do however, have home-based business options.

There are other prepaid plans discussed later in this thread.

I believe many legal problems discussed here on FW could be resolved with quick letter or phone call from an attorney.... with some prepaid legal plans you are entitled to receive such calls and letters (subject to a maximum depending on the plan). You also get a simple will drafted, document review, help with warranties, and other services.

I cannot comment on the quality of the services or the attornies they contract with. In fact, it pretty much depends on the law firm they refer you to whether they will help you under the plans "included" features, or whether they will push for you to pay for additional services outside of what the plan includes. You should always understand that these plans provide only BASIC legal services....Since you can always change firms, this shouldnt be a problem.

One strategy some people take is to signup for one of these programs, use the services for a few months, then cancel after they receive the advice they need. Since there is no contract, this can be a way to obtain an attorney to help you with a problem and only pay about $10-30! These plans usually do not cover pre-exisitng legal issues you may have. But if you have a problem which MAY turn into a legal issue, it is not considered a pre-existing legal issue.

I encourage anyone who has used a prepaid legal plan to comment here, good or bad....many people even have this benefit through their employer....and if you know of other low-cost avenues of obtaining legal advice, please share!

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Bumping --- Found this thread to be of great use. I am signing up with the <a target="_new" href="/redirect/bounce.php?a... (more)

zapy (Dec. 01, 2005 @ 1:16p) |

Another bump for this fiiine thread - and maybe this will help out someone:<br><br>Under the new law, you have to take a... (more)

ravan (Mar. 03, 2006 @ 12:58a) |

I'm currently working on my Prenup. Not only am I going to have to pay for a lawyer to review and sign off on my end...... (more)

ArbolLoco (Mar. 03, 2006 @ 1:17a) |

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Excellent thread. Hadn't heard about the Amex option. IMHO well worth considering.

I'd like to see lots of high-priced professional services have this option. For example, accountants, consultants, buyer's brokers/realators, etc. In MANY cases, it doesn't make sense to keep one of these folks on retainer, but a prepaid contract to cover specific, limited problems can be a win/win proposition.

edit, no longer relevant

I've used the prepaid legal services ($16 / month)and they work well. With prepaid Legal, you get 1 will prepared for you free of charge (a $500 value) and they will prepare additional ones as well as power of attorney documents for $20 each...

I must admit I had all of these documents prepared and submitted then I quit....

but $9.99 / month sounds like a better deal anyway!

Can't seem to find the Amex prepaid legal plan on the website. When did you get this brochure?

The AMEX plans details cen be seen here:
http://www.legalhelpnow.com/

There was an article on Pre-Paid Legal which was less than flattering in Forbes. You need to sign up to read the article.

Text

Legal Trouble
Elizabeth MacDonald, 06.19.02


Pre-Paid Legal Services insures against the cost of lawsuits. Too bad it can't buy some of its own insurance.
The irony is delicious. Pre-Paid Legal Services, an Ada, Okla. firm that insures individuals against legal expenses, has a peck of legal problems itself. A suit filed against it in March in a U.S. district court in Oklahoma says Pre-Paid lied to its agents about how quickly customers discontinue their policies, among other claims. And at least 21 suits filed by 114 customers in Alabama alone mostly accuse Pre-Paid of deceptive practices.

Then there's Pre-Paid's tie-in to the L-K Marketing Group of Waco, Tex., run by Paul J. Meyer. Pre-Paid hooked up with Meyer in 1998, when it bought The People's Network, a marketer of self-help programs where Meyer was a principal, for $19 million in Pre-Paid shares. L-K claimed two years ago to have recruited 53% of the Pre-Paid agents brought on board in North America in the first six months of 2000. But Meyer has been charged three times by the FTC with using deceptive business practices, the last in 1995. That June he agreed (along with other executives and another company he runs, SMI/USA) to settle the charges by paying a total of $320,000, one of the FTC's largest civil penalties at that time, for overstating to prospective agents the income potential and ease of selling self-improvement products.

Top recruiters listed as such in Pre-Paid's in-house magazine The Connection have legal problems of their own. One is the National Audit Defense Network, a Las Vegas tax adviser sued by both the Federal Trade Commission and the Nevada state attorney general in February for deceptive trade practices (the cases are pending). The network didn't return calls seeking comment. Neither Meyer's run-ins with the FTC nor the Nevada recruiter's legal troubles are disclosed in Pre-Paid's Securities & Exchange Commission filings. Pre-Paid's excuse for its silence, answered by Chief Operating Officer Randall Harp in a written response to a reporter's questions: "There is no SEC requirement that Pre-Paid disclose the past legal history of persons who are not officers and directors of Pre-Paid."

John Coffee, a law professor at Columbia University, disagrees: "If your operations are heavily dependent on an individual or business as a leading recruiter, you need to disclose that material fact in financial filings, especially if there have been repeated commercial fraud sanctions."

Besides the legal headaches, Pre-Paid has had accounting trouble. It restated its 2000 results, slashing earnings by half for the period. The SEC ordered the restatement, forcing Pre-Paid to expense sales agents' commissions immediately, rather than amortize them over future periods.

Harland Stonecipher, founder and chief executive of Pre-Paid, tried to put a good face on the situation. In a letter to shareholders, the dapper 63-year-old said his Big Board-listed company was rocketing ahead. Its North American customer base grew 17% last year, ending at 1.2 million. Even with the restatement, the company earned $27 million last year on $304 million in revenues. Pre-Paid's stock has doubled since March 2001 to $22 a share.

This is a curious business, selling legal insurance--it is more selling than insurance. The customer forks over on average $251 a year for the coverage. Only $83 goes to pay for supplying lawyers to customers. The rest goes to overhead and profits.

As for the selling part, Pre-Paid looks like a knockoff of Amway, the huge door-to-door marketer of household products that has tiers of agents, which collected commissions from the tiers below. As at Amway, so too at Pre-Paid: Many of the customers at the bottom of the food chain have the hope that they will rise up through the chain. A customer who becomes an agent can get commissions for selling policies. Move another step up the chain, recruiting people to become agents, and you earn bonuses as well as commissions on policies they sell. Pre-Paid has 286,000 agents trying to sell policies, and 87% of them have bought the insurance coverage.

But what's the hot sales item here--the legal coverage or the right to sell other people this insurance? Agents, lured with the promise of a 25% sales commission on policies they sell, pay a $65 initiation fee. They are urged to take an optional course in salesmanship, which cost $184 last year. Stonecipher gets a $10 cut of that fee, which amounted to $1.2 million last year. Fees charged to agents came to $36 million of Pre-Paid's revenue in 2001.

A key issue is what agents expect to earn in return for forking over these fees. A company filing shows only 29% of the customers keep their policies going for three years or more. But a suit alleges Pre-Paid told agents the three-year retention rate was more than 70%. Without giving specifics, Pre-Paid's Harp says the suit is meritless, as are the others, and that the company intends to fight the suits vigorously in court.

There could be a reason customers bolt. The suits allege Pre-Paid overstates its legal coverage by telling customers they have unlimited legal access and coverage on a range of matters. In an issue of Connection, David A. Savula, one of Pre-Paid's top recruiters, wrote: "Does our product cover everything? Yes. So if somebody asks does it cover this or does it cover that, we're going to say, Yes.'" Stonecipher made similar assurances during an interview in April 2001 on Fox's The O'Reilly Factor, as well as in his folksy corporate memoir, The Pre-Paid Legal Story.

Not so fast. The plans sharply limit coverage for cases involving bankruptcy, alcohol, drugs, preexisting conditions, divorce, annulment, child custody, class actions, hit-and-run accidents, driving without a license and civil or criminal charges associated with a business and tax evasion. The policy covers 60 hours of trial time for the first year that customers join, but there is a big catch. Pretrial work--the bulk of what litigators do--is limited to just 2.5 hours per year in a basic policy.

Customers supposedly get a 25% discount on attorney fees for excluded items--but there's nothing to stop participating lawyers from hiking their rates. What is free under the policy? Will-writing and contract reviews, among other things.

A teacher-turned-life-insurance-salesman, Stonecipher started what would become Pre-Paid in 1972. He was inspired, his corporate memoir says, after he "came face to face with the high price of justice when a car accident he was involved in found its way into the courts. Even though the accident was not his fault, the staggering costs of legal protection nearly destroyed him financially." Not mentioned is the fact that Stonecipher was the one who first brought suit.

nm

I am researching this subject,there is a list of such services here:
API

great link...lots of companies, but most offer prepaid legal services only to employers ....as part of their benefits package offered to their employees...

if you can pinpoint which of those plans can be purchased by individuals, that would be great!

Just got an advertisement in my Amex bill for the Legal Services Plan, presented by American Expess

Fine print said that the Legal Services Plan, presented by American Express, is a service of Signature Agency, Inc, part of the GE Financial family of companies.

Found a link - Link

The service isn't available in several states (AL, FL, IN, MA, MN, MO, MS, MT, ND, NV, OR, RI, TX, WI, and WY).

slappycakes...thanks for the link to them! I pulled up their rates for CA on their website and it shows $11.99/month, whereas the AMEX-affiliated offer is for $9.99 month..is that how much your ad in your AMEX bill states??

testing

oh it was an ad in your AMEX bill? We got a separate solicitation letter from AMEX...

I think the quality of the services you receive under a prepaid legal plan (much like health care) depends ENTIRELY upon the provider...if they contract with a good firm or attorney (or doctor in the case of health care) you will get good service...if they contract with a poor provider, you will get poor service...since you are free to change providers, I wouldnt hesitate to do so if the provider they pick isnt up to snuff..

bump... anybody jump on this one yet?

A couple months ago I went to a Pre Paid Legal meeting. I had received something in the mail a while ago, but had never responded until I saw a flyer posted. Noting that free pizza was involved, I decided to check it out <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>

After the meeting, which was very Amway-ish, I talked to the people about what exactly is covered for that price it sounded like you would get very limited help, if any, outside of the subjects covered in the contract. Based on that response I figured the monthly fee wasn't worth it.

I think if you have a possible legal entanglement its probably a good idea to check out to see if they will cover it, but as general "legal insurance" which is how they tried to sell it, I would pass.

Pre-paid legal is a joke. You get what you pay for. No lawyer worth his salt will work for the pittance these plans pay out. IMHO, more of an MLM scam than anything.

therocksays, can you give anymore details on the amounts that they usually pay?

Thanks

Read the Forbes article from Emre earlier in the thread. That pretty much says it all. These plans are VERY limited in what they cover. They also try to get lawyers to actually sell the plans - do you want your lawyer to be a counselor or an MLM salesperson? I think the basic pitch to lawyers is that it gets the client in the door, then you can sell them on other services at your regular rate. I know a few colleagues (lawyers) who joined up with one of these early in their careers and found it wasn't worthwhile.

Any prepaid plan will NOT provide you with a "free attorney" to do extensive legal work for you, or sue people for you. If you expect a Prepaid Legal Plan to give you a "free attorney" to represent you in lawsuits, youre looking at it for the wrong reasons....

But if you want to be able to make a phone call to an attorney to get legal insight about an unfamiliar issue, or if you are having a problem with a company, having an attorney write a short letter on your behalf WILL ALMOST ALWAYS GET BETTER RESULTS THAN A LETTER YOU WROTE YOURSELF. Thats the value of these plans

SUCK, you are right about a letter from a lawyer having a greater impact than one written by a non-lawyer. But also realize that many lawyers in today's market do give free consultations, during which you could ask questions to determine what further action to take. Why pay even $10 a month for something you could get for free? Free consultations are a marketing tool for attorneys, and most do give them. And actually I do have personal knowldge of PPL.

Actually, free consultations are mainly limited to certain areas of the law, such as personal injury, medical products liability, etc. (you know, the ones you see advertised on TV)...if you read my original post, you will see I mentioned free consultations as one avenue of obtaining legal advice cheaply...

But the fact remains that for the problems we see mentioned on this forum, such as warranty problems, real estate problems, retailer problems, banking problems, it is very difficult to even FIND an attorney willing to offer free advice on these issues. These are usually small issues which the attorney will not take on as a case anyways...thus it is VERY difficult to get a free consultation on these issues. And you would NEVER get any attorney to make a phone call or write a letter on your behalf without first paying a substantial fee of $500-1500...Its simply not worth the liability of being sued for malpractice to offer any assistance, even if you only need "a little" assistance such as a quick phone call or letter...

simply having the attorney telephone/letter writing benefit is a very powerful tool, and will usually speed the resolution of these types of claims, which I believe is well worth much more than $10 per month.

I just enrolled in the AmEx plan, as I desperately need to create a will (been putting it off for far too long). They promptly assigned me to a local attorney who I promptly called. The attorney informed me that I wouldn't be obligated to pay any legal fees, but would have to pay a setup fee of $50 that they require of all new clients when setting up their files. The fee is supposed to cover office expenses and other overhead. I asked if this was standard practice and they said yes. I cancelled the appointment and called the plan administrator back and asked for a different referral.

I'm still waiting to hear back from that law office. Have you all heard of such things? I'm in the Chicagoland area, if that makes a difference.

Thanks,
zender

I had a client come to me after having used prepaid because after the initial superficial work the prepaid lawyer wanted a ton of $$ to continue.

Zender said: "would have to pay a setup fee of $50 that they require of all new clients when setting up their files"

THATS BS, and you were right in asking for another attorney...hopefully the new attorney they assign you will not be so eager to upcharge you...I would also let AMEX know about that too...firms like that should be kicked out of the program....

SUCKISSTAPLES said:

<< Zender said: "would have to pay a setup fee of $50 that they require of all new clients when setting up their files"

THATS BS, and you were right in asking for another attorney...hopefully the new attorney they assign you will not be so eager to upcharge you...I would also let AMEX know about that too...firms like that should be kicked out of the program....
>>



I did let the AmEx rep know, and it defintely sounded as if she was making note of it. Thanks for the feedback. I didn't think it sounded kosher.

zender

SUCKISSTAPLES, question for you(Or any attorney's in this forum): Please read about my speeding ticket and see if you have any advice or opinions. Basically I am looking for an opinion to find out if I have a chance for appeal with ticket. The details are here: http://fatwallet.com/forums/forum.php?catid=55&threadid=118910

Thanks!

Any attorney's or legally informed people are welcome to PM me with advice or insights <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>

Thanks!

According to the Amex plan.
"New York residents are limited to three letters or phone calls a year, no more than two of which may be related to one matter."

Not to hot for us here in NY!

If anybody is in the L.A. area. More specifically, Van Nuys, San Fernando, Glendale, Los Angeles, Encino, Etc. Basicly 818, 310, 626, 323, 562, etc. You get the idea.

You are able to get FREE legel help in Family Law (Divorce, paterity, gardianship, etc.), Unlawful Detainer (Eviction, Landlord/Tenant, Civil Litigation (Contracts, Torts, etc.), Small Claims, Etc.

They will NOT give legal advice, BUT help you fills out forms if you are involved with any of the above. The people who are there that will help are mainly attorneys and paralegals.

You do not pay a cent except for your own parking. I am an intern there and it is funded by the government.

Thanks.


If anyone is interested, my e-mail is sorryievermetyou@aol.com

to expand on that, many counties across the country run a "FAMILY LAW FACILITATOR" program which assists unrepresented parties in family law and domestic violence issues free of charge...they are staffed by attornies and law students, and help guide you through the process, run support calculations,help with restraining orders, etc....I used to intern in one of these offices as well...if you need family law/domestic violence help, call the court and ask for the family law facilitator///

I've tried legal services in the past. It was fairly pathetic. It is basically a scam to make you pay for legal services marketing. Most of the attorneys are low quality small firms which cannot attract enough business.
They are not interested in writing letters or making phone calls on small issues. I have probably talked to about 15 of them. They will pretend that they do not know the actual legal services policies and come up with all sorts of excuses and requests for money in various forms. They will also first, flat out deny the policies. Legal services will then assign another attorney who will basically say the same thing. On more serious issues they might want you to sign a retainer for 20-30 hours before starting a case. Since the rate is $70, they'll pretend it takes more time. You might be able to MAKE one of them write a letter by arguing and complaining to legal services; it might not be worth it.

Found a thread from MrLandLord.com website about prepaid

PrePaid Legal Discussion

ZENDER..if you still check this thread, how was your experience obtaining another Legal Services Plan attorney? Seems to be many negative comments on these prepaid options...

Sis, PM zender instead?

In the end, You always get what you pay for...on FW it seems a little different with the deals, but a HMO Attorney is almost as scary as an HMO Doctor. Listen to the ad...pay $9 and get legal services that everyone else would pay a lawyer $200/hr for. How many of those $200 an hour attorneys do you think you'll be sent to with this plan? In the end, You always get what you pay for.

anyone who thinks this $9.99 /month plan is going to get you a top notch legal time on your side has unrealistic expectations....these plans are good for specific situations:

1. Small matters where no attorney would normally work on the case

2. Matters which require nothing more than maybe a simple forceful letter or phone call (warranty problems, problems with a merchant, etc)

In the end, what it boils down to is that people either 1) DO NOTHING or 2) come here for legal advice.....and those are NOT the wisest options...I would rather call a "discount" attorney and get their opinion than trust information obtained on an internet forum, or simply do nothing at all and get screwed....

Readers should not make the mistake of thinking prepaid legal plans would put a prestigious law firm at your beck and call to sue everyone who wrongs you....

I had few questions about how to properly send notice to a tenant (who signed month to month lease) & and what happens if I have to evict him. After reading various recommendations on fw, I decided to join the www.legalhelpnow.com (the AMEX plan). I went directly through the website and I got $12/month plan (Not sure if AMEX offers any discount, but I was in a hurry & didn't mind paying extra $1 or $2 that AMEX might have saved). Here is my experience so far:

I called their 800 number, and signed up with a credit card. They asked me for my zip code, and by that they gave me options of choosing a lawyer/law firm near my area. I think they gave me about 3 different names, and I chose one of those. They told me they'll mail me an info packet in a week or so. But the account would be setup in 2 days, and I can call them back and get my "id" as well as lawyer's phone number. So, I called in 2 days, and sure enough account was ready, and they told me my info was already sent to the laywer, and all I have to tell them is my "#id".

So, I called the lawyer the same day, left a message with a secretary regarding what I need help with, and left my cell phone number. I got call back from a lawyer within 2 hours, and the lawyer answered all my questions regarding how to send a notice in NJ, what kind of proof of delivery I need, and a rundown of the eviction process.

All in all, I was quiet impressed with their customer service of legalhelpnow as well as the response time of the lawyer, considering I only paid $12/month & actually got advise from a lawyer. That is all I needed, to get some definitive answers. Also, I didn't have to pay any retainer fee (although the www.legalhelpnow.com says you may have to pay retainer fee).

Another aspect that I considered before signing up is that if I needed a lawyer for the eviction, it would only cost me about $70/hr through this plan. Hopefully it wont go that far, but now I'm bit more well prepared for the future.

The only problem I have w/ these types of services is whether the atty you deal w/ actually specializes in the area of law you need help with. I am a criminal defense atty, and my expertise in estates , wills,landlord tenant disputes or contracts is nil.This is the age of specialization and I would be wary of an atty who appears to be a jack of all trades.

welcome to the forums, counsel! Your comments are well taken, and I have stressed that prepaid legal services are NOT likely the best choice for representing an individual in a complex matter....what they DO provide is access to attornies at a lower cost than any other option I am currently aware of, and quite possibly the ONLY option for those small matters that require just a quick letter or phone call (problems with merchants, banks,etc)..... as long as people do not have unrealistic expectations as to what extent of services they will receive, the plans provide for assistance with small "everyday life" issues

Even though you are a criminal attorney, I'm sure you can write an effective,firm letter demanding resolution of many a consumer problem...as you know, a letter from an attorney would be taken more seriously than any letter written by a consumer themself....and my guess is also that you are unwilling to perform such a service (except possibly for friends), given the liability exposure and negligible compensation....and this is where prepaid legal plans have value....

BTW what would be your recommendations as far as obtaining legal assistance for small civil matters?

Skipping 108 Messages...
I'm currently working on my Prenup. Not only am I going to have to pay for a lawyer to review and sign off on my end... I have to hire a lawyer for my wife-to-be because good practice requires independent counsel... and certain provisions [ex: waiver of spousal support] prescribe indpendent counsel statutorily.

my only hope is to negotiate a fixed rate.



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