You could call a lawyer any time you want to get advice about anything you think might turn into a legal problem; the lawyer could draft a will for you, look over a purchase contract on a home before you get locked in, represent your teenager in traffic court, negotiate to get your parents out of a "life contract" for nursing home care, and even give your spouse a divorce!
Great, but who can afford the hundreds of dollars it would take to put a law firm on retainer for all this — especially when you probably won’t need all these services every year. A prepaid legal services plan may be the answer for you as it is for more than an estimated 25 million Americans now enrolled in some form of plan.
With a prepaid legal services plan, these services could be yours for $9 to $25 per month charged to your credit card, or even "free" for a company which offers legal services as a fringe benefit.
The basic service provided under most plans in generally legal advice and consultation by telephone and may also include brief office consultations, review of simple legal documents, preparation of a simple will, and short letters written or phone calls made by a lawyer to an adverse party. Many plans offer more comprehensive coverage for trials, marital problems, bankruptcy, real estate matters and the like.
Most prepaid legal service plans in operation today rely on a panel of lawyers in private practice to provide covered services. This panel may consist of one lawyer or firm which services a small group under a direct contract or a nationwide network of law firms all of whom have signed a participation agreement with the plan administrator.
These plans work much like HMOs, as the risk for legal services is pooled and spread over a large group of customers. Members of the group pay an annual fee and have access to an established network of attorneys for advice and service, just as HMO members have access to a network of physicians. And like HMOs, plan members can always choose to use a lawyer out of network, though the plan won't pay for it.
Hodges and Associates has endorsed the concept of prepaid legal services for years. We believe for most people it represents an excellent method of obtaining access to safeguarding their rights at minimal cost.