Legal Protection in the Bank: Here's How You Can Cover Your Legal Costs - before an Emergency

Article excerpt

In August 1996, when Michael and Marchilene Harlee went to a relative's funeral in Philadelphia, they didn't anticipate needing a lawyer. That was before the car they were being chauffeured in was broad-sided, leaving them both injured. Following the advice of a medical representative, the Harlees sought legal advice from a lawyer in their home state of Maryland. They found out that lawyers generally only practice m one or two states, so the Maryland lawyer referred them to one in Philadelphia. After weeks of commuting to Philadelphia and waiting for an answer, they found out the lawyer had settled with the driver's insurance company and collected his legal fees, which equaled 40% of their payment and amounted to several thousand dollars.

Months later, as they were discussing how the legal odds seemed stacked against them, friend introduced them to Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc. of Ada, Oklahoma. "If we had Pre-Paid Legal at the time of the accident, our expenses would have been a lot different," says Michael.

Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc., according to its founder, Harland Stonecipher, was created to provide access to lawyers for middle-income people. Pre-Paid is one of two dozen national companies offering legal services plans.

The basic concept is that the cost of legal problems is spread over a group, similar to the premise of health insurance. And like health insurance, the goal of pre-paid legal service plans is to get people into the habit of calling a lawyer before there's a crisis. They also give you reduced rates of up to 50% off the lawyer's normal fees if it's a matter not covered by your group.

A legal service plan provides access to licensed attorneys at special rates or on a pre-paid basis. …