posted: Jul. 2, 2002 @ 9:22p
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:
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...
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!