Tuesday, June 30, 2020

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.