Legal Expense Plans

By Knepler, James | The National Public Accountant, September 2003 | Go to article overview

Legal Expense Plans


Knepler, James, The National Public Accountant


The United States has become the most litigious society in the world. Huge jury awards in celebrated civil and criminal lawsuits, coupled with the popularity of legal entertainment on television and pop culture, have made the term lawsuit part of everyone's regular vocabulary. The need for legal help is at an all-time high, but most Americans cannot afford the hourly rates charged by attorneys. Purchasing a legal expense plan is a possible solution.

What is a legal expense plan? In a nutshell, a legal plan does for legal fees what an HMO does for medical and hospital bills. It will help individuals (and businesses) leverage the combined buying power of a large membership to access the services of quality law firms for only a fraction of their usual costs. For a low, monthly membership fee, your client can readily utilize a wide range of valuable legal services. Plans are part legal service and part catastrophic protection (insurance). In some states, the plans are sold like insurance through licensed independent associates, while some states do not require licensing.

The American Bar Association says that 52 percent of Americans are involved in a legal situation at any given time. Preventative legal advice could avoid devastating legal problems from erupting. The top and bottom 10 percent of society already have access to legal advice. The remaining 80 percent need adequate legal protection at a reason able cost.

Most Americans consider medical coverage to be a necessity not a luxury. Yet, statistically, you are three times more likely to be involved in a court filing than to be hospitalized.

Legal expense plans have been widely available in Europe since the early 1900s. There, they are as commnonplace as auto insurance. Health insurance began in the early 1950s. To combat the high cost of health insurance, HMOs have grown rapidly and now are a trillion dollar industry. Legal expense plans only become available in the United States in the early 1970s. This concept is expected to follow a similar growth pattern as the HMO. …

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