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Millions of people have opted to literally have the services of an attorney on retainer, or so to speak. With a prepaid legal service plan, the advice of an attorney can be as easy as a phone call away.
These plans can range from a monthly amount of $9 to $25 charged to your credit card. Most of the prepaid plans include general legal advice and consultations by phone and may also include brief office visits, review of simple legal documents, preparation of simple wills and short letters written or phone calls made by a lawyer to an adverse party. Other, more comprehensive plans may offer coverage for trials, marital issues, bankruptcy and real estate matters.
Most of these prepaid plans rely on a panel of lawyers, which may consist of one law firm or a network of law firms, which have signed on and agreed to participate in the program.
The Legal Services Corporation might be a place to turn for assistance. LSC is a government-funded organization dedicated to providing legal services to those who are unable to afford adequate representation. The LSC funds over 143 legal aid programs across the nation to assure that underprivileged secure fair representation in legal matters.
The organization began in 1974 with bipartisan support of the Nixon Administration and is headed by a board of directors, which is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
By law, the board must remain bipartisan, containing no more than six members of the same political party. Legal aid services can be located in your local phone directory or by contacting the local bar association.
Nearly ever state in the US has a non-profit legal aid type foundation where citizens can take advantage, if they qualify, of free legal services.
These services can range from civil causes of action such as elder law services, family and domestic law, farm law, public benefits and disability law, children's legal services, and cooperative programs with the private bar, which may include reduced fee agreements and pro bono work, or work done for no charge.
Legal services usually can provide representation or referrals generally for citizens meeting income guidelines for the area. Most of the free legal services fall under the Legal Services umbrella and may be restricted upon some representation but usually strives to serve the poor of their communities with “equal justice under the law.”
Obviously another qualification is that you have a problem that has a legal remedy and can be resolved through the court of law in your area. Things that most free legal services cannot help with are criminal cases, traffic cases, accident claims, personal injury or wrongful death suits or representation to prisoners.
As with the purchase of any “insurance” type of product, there is always a chance that you will not need the services being sold. One should carefully consider whether a legal service plan is something that you or your family would benefit from on such a basis that would prove worth the cost of the plan.
Depending upon the services being offered and purchased, one could argue that purchasing this type of product is in the long run more cost effective. When contemplating whether or not to enter into this type of arrangement, be sure you know everything that your prepaid legal service will include.
As with any product, review carefully any services or even promises made to you regarding the plan and coverage. Some prepaid legal companies in the past have gotten into trouble by promising reward or dividends to members who brought other members into the company.
Avoid this type of pyramid plan unless that is the focus of your interest. If you're an informed consumer, this type of prepaid legal service can be beneficial for you, your family or your business.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|