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Prepaid legal services?
Old 01-26-2007, 11:49 AM   #1
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Prepaid legal services?

I saw there was a brief discussion on this as part of a "will" thread a while back and i'm interested in them.

Basically a prepaid legal plan involves paying a monthly fee, usually 15-25 per month. For this you get access to an attorney with, depending on the plan and price, a variety of included services.

Most offer a basic will with annual updates, relatively unlimited telephone calls to ask legal questions, review of legal documents (some limit the number and number of pages), and having the lawyer make 'necessary' phone calls and write 'necessary' letters on your behalf.

The more expensive plans also offer to represent you in court for minor criminal matters like traffic tickets and additional frills and benefits.

This is one of those things like insurance where I can think of a lot of occasions where a letter to a problem contractor, a review of a dicey document, or having someones business card in my wallet if you ran into a sticky situation might have been a really great benefit. Maybe even worth a few hundred bucks a year.

Investigating this, I found quite a variety of companies, many of them "big name" subsidiaries of GE, countrywide, etc.

Brewer mentioned "prepaid legal services", who seems to be a major operator. However I found that the BBB revoked their relationship with PPS due to excessive unresolved customer complaints around the service and some fringy sounding MLM practices where they were signing up people to sell the service who were supposed to sign up other people to sell the service and none of them actually made the kind of money that they were supposed to.

I tested this by filling out a form on their web site to ask for more information, simply asking if the lawyer I would be working with would be in my local area and what names of lawyers/firms do they work with so I could check THEM out. I had little interest in calling some 800#, waiting on hold, and having some telemarketing droid from another state that doesnt know **** from shinola as far as my geographic area spend 10 minutes thumbing through a directory and asking me "do you live near...?"

I had four people call me over the course of three days, one that wanted to get me "on the phone with her supervisor", and one that persisted in calling after I told her on the phone and in writing that I was no longer interested. None of them were prepared to answer my simple question..."lets just get started signing you up and then see what we can do for you!".

No.

On the flip side, theres a smaller local service that supposedly is the "pioneer" of prepaid legal services...caldwell legal in Sacramento CA...less than an hour away. Good BBB record and a solid member of the BBB...no complaints filed in recent history. Sounds good. $15 a month but only document/telephone stuff, no representing you in court. However any and all legal services beyond what they cover is discounted to $85 per hour.

Filled out their "request for more information" form, same question about local lawyers, who they might be, etc.

No response.

So I directly emailed the guy who had his email listed on the web site. He replied the next day that they dont give information out via email, that I should call their main number. Hmm...then why is there an "RFI" form on their web site.

Two weeks later someone from customer service responded "please call our main number to answer your question".

My take in general is that the service you get BEFORE you give someone your money is generally far better than the service you get AFTER they've got your credit card and signed you up to a one year service plan. Fooey.

I sort of let it drop after that. But i'm still interested.

Anyone actually sign up for one of these? What was your experience like? Who was it? Did you get a local lawyer? Were they any good? Did you have a choice and/or the ability to change if you didnt like the lawyer? Did you use the service? Did you think you got good value? Are you still a member?

Any and all info very much appreciated...just dont wait two weeks and then ask me to call your main 800 number!
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Re: Prepaid legal services?
Old 01-26-2007, 11:54 AM   #2
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Re: Prepaid legal services?

My firm on occassion was approached to offer services under prepaid plans. We always refused. The money was minimal and we would lose our shirts.

I am concerned that you might get what you pay for.
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Re: Prepaid legal services?
Old 01-26-2007, 11:56 AM   #3
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Re: Prepaid legal services?

I'm a little leery of the whole thing. I have met a few of the Prepaid Legal Services franchises in my networking groups, and not one has impressed me............. :P :P

I look at it like a fitness club where you pay dues but never go...........a waste of money. When it comes to GOOD legal advice, I think you get what you pay for..........
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Re: Prepaid legal services?
Old 01-26-2007, 12:06 PM   #4
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Re: Prepaid legal services?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martha
My firm on occassion was approached to offer services under prepaid plans. We always refused. The money was minimal and we would lose our shirts.

I am concerned that you might get what you pay for.
Thats what I was thinking, although a half assed lawyer might be better than trying to figure stuff out on my own sometimes.

After thinking it over, I thought that perhaps the appeal to the law firm might be getting an essentially 'captive' customer that would want additional services at cost. And if someone perceives they need regular legal 'servicing' chances are they're self qualifying to a degree. The flipside is maybe they're just cheapskate customers that'll milk the freebies for all they're worth and never buy a thing.
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Re: Prepaid legal services?
Old 01-26-2007, 12:09 PM   #5
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Re: Prepaid legal services?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
Thats what I was thinking, although a half assed lawyer might be better than trying to figure stuff out on my own sometimes.

After thinking it over, I thought that perhaps the appeal to the law firm might be getting an essentially 'captive' customer that would want additional services at cost. And if someone perceives they need regular legal 'servicing' chances are they're self qualifying to a degree. The flipside is maybe they're just cheapskate customers that'll milk the freebies for all they're worth and never buy a thing.
Sounds like a way to get people to pay for an "endless retainer fee"..............
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Re: Prepaid legal services?
Old 01-26-2007, 12:22 PM   #6
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Re: Prepaid legal services?

My employer offers this with the option for automatic monthly payment. I did it the first year and then discontinued it. The sales pitch was attractive on the surface; that you always have representation at your fingertips, no matter where you are.

I think the reality is, though, that if you really need legal representation, you need to KNOW who YOU are selecting.... not just settle for the next guy that comes up on the rotation system.

And, yeah, maybe if you have a lot of "lawyer activity" it's cheaper to get in a pre-paid "bulk purchase" program. But (knock on wood) I don't have a lot of lawyer activity. At 57, we have needed a will, no mas.

And working closely with local law enforcement people on a daily basis is better than any lawyer for dealing with traffic tickets.
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Re: Prepaid legal services?
Old 01-26-2007, 01:20 PM   #7
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Re: Prepaid legal services?

My employer offered this during the last open enrollment. We considered it, knowing we have a few technical issues coming up. However, when we looked carefully at what was provided, (and I think my DH called and discussed), they didn't cover what we were looking for, and the scope of service was really quite narrow. I think you are wise to be cautious.
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Re: Prepaid legal services?
Old 03-02-2007, 08:38 AM   #8
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Re: Prepaid legal services?

For what its worth, I signed up with Caldwell Prepaid Legal Services, who is headquartered out of nearby Sacramento. For $14 a month I get unlimited calls to answer legal questions, they'll write necessary letters and make necessary phone calls on my behalf to miscreants that are giving me trouble, and they'll review contracts up to six pages.

I figure between buying and selling a home, and working with a whole batch of contractors to repair both places, and all the other errata that goes with it, someone is going to make a problem and perhaps a phone call or letter to them will resolve it quickly. A threatening letter from a half-baked lawyer is probably all the effectiveness I need and the price is right.

30 day money back guarantee!
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Re: Prepaid legal services?
Old 03-02-2007, 08:29 PM   #9
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Re: Prepaid legal services?

CFB, somehow I know you'll get your monies worth out of them.

I figure after about a month or so they'll want the money back guarantee.
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Re: Prepaid legal services?
Old 03-02-2007, 08:46 PM   #10
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Re: Prepaid legal services?

I'll feel pretty disappointed if that doesnt turn out to be true.
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Re: Prepaid legal services?
Old 03-03-2007, 11:16 PM   #11
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Re: Prepaid legal services?

Quote:
Originally Posted by 73ss454
I figure after about a month or so they'll want the money back guarantee.
Actually, this is timely for me. My wife, who is retiring at the end of April, just had her open enrollment, which included prepaid legal services as mentioned. Think it will cost us $10 for the one month before she retires. I'm hoping that we can get a will, POA, Medical POA, and Living Trust set up in that month. If true, and if it stops when she retires, that might exceed even CFB's getting their monies worth.
Wish me luck!
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Re: Prepaid legal services?
Old 03-04-2007, 07:38 AM   #12
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Re: Prepaid legal services?

Read the fine print. The ones I looked at will do a "simple will", but not the other documents you mentioned. They'll READ ones you've already got or made yourself up to a page limit, which is usually 6 or 10 pages. Five bucks says they dont read them too closely either

I'm most interested in the 3-4 times a year I want a specific answer to a specific question that I'd rather not air on an internet chat board, and a nice snappy letter for the couple of times a year someone fails to perform to a contract. Maybe look over a couple of basic documents once in a while.

Seems worth $150-200 to me.

And although it has no measurable intrinsic value, I emotionally like the idea of my wife and I carrying around a lawyers business card in our pocket just in case...
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Re: Prepaid legal services?
Old 03-05-2007, 12:34 AM   #13
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Re: Prepaid legal services?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
Read the fine print.
Always good advice. I forgot to mention that I also have an appointment with one of those "take you to dinner so I can sell you my services" estate planner/lawers as well, to get an estimate of their prices for the same thing. Looking to play both ends against the middle. Maybe a fools game, but at this point, absent any way to evaluate them (I'm obviously not a lawer), hopefully one will cue me in on what to watch out for with the other. This would be a great time for Martha to live in Texas, to give advice/pick up some RE legal work. At least I feel that I can trust her judgement.
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