Posted over 6 years ago

Pre-Paid Legal Plans. My Experiences.

     This series of blogs began with An Introduction To Pre-Paid Legal Plans. Thanks to those of you who took the time to read that post and, especially, to those who took the time to comment.

     I am often skeptical of promised benefits and am slow to join groups or enroll in anything. When I enrolled in my pre-paid legal plan I set out to test it. I didn’t have any pressing issues so I called inquiring about landlord tenant issues, asking questions I was fairly certain I knew the answers to. My intent was both to test the answers and the process of obtaining the answers. The answers in these preliminary conversations were always correct. Occasionally, my actual practice varied, slightly, from actual law. I used those conversations to explore under what circumstances my failure to follow law exactly could adversely impact me and how likely those results would be. Though these were general conversations, they were conversations I had never had with an attorney before. I modified some of my procedures and became better educated of the legal requirements and the risks I chose to take.

     My biggest challenge was to remember that I had enrolled in the plan and now had easy access to attorneys. Before enrolling in the plan I tried to avoid calling attorneys. They were sometimes difficult to reach and their advice often came with a bill. I usually called on the rare occasion that an incident occurred and I needed assistance but never called to explore issues before they arose. I knew the plan would not have much value if I didn’t use it so I tried to train myself to call whenever a question occurred. In the beginning, I would call every couple weeks. I was never discouraged from asking my questions, in fact, I believe I have been asked if there was anything else I would like to inquire about every time I have called. The attorneys always called sooner than the return call was promised. Occasionally, the return call would come well within an hour.

     I called every time I had to fill out a Notice to Quit, a Demand for Possession, a Request for Garnishment or any other legal form. Since these are fairly infrequent events for me I will often still call if there is any line on the form that I do not completely understand or for which I do not remember the rationale. Whenever I see there has been a new version of a particular form I make sure that the attorney still recommends I fill the form out the same way, whether the number of copies needed to file is still the same, etc.

     I was satisfied that the plan offered enough value for the $26 I paid monthly (my monthly payment is higher now because I added additional services but I still feel it offers considerable value). I was more confident I was practicing within the law and was certain that I could get a quick legal opinion if anything unexpected should occur. I could not yet associate any actual savings to my pre-paid legal plan. That changed within a few months of my enrollment.

      I switched accountants toward the beginning of the year. My former accountant had prepared my taxes for 6 years or so but my real estate portfolio was growing and she did not have much expertise in this area. In fact, she occasionally let slip that she thought real estate was risky. I found that a little annoying. The fact that she promoted stock investing while I was liquidating my bonds and mutual funds (I was increasingly viewing those as risky) prompted me to seek an accountant with real estate expertise. I hired one and my former accountant transferred my records to my new accountant in a timely manner. In August of that year, 6 months after I had last spoken to her, I received a bill from the former accountant for transferring my files that was nearly as large as the bill I received when she prepared my taxes. I was taken aback to say the least. When I called she explained that she thought the bill was reasonable. I remembered that I now had a law firm I could consult with no added expense and stated that I planned on running this by my lawyer. She ended the conversation by stating she would review the bill to see if an adjustment was warranted. When she called back the next day she referenced our long relationship and that she didn’t want to end it with a bad experience. She stated she had “adjusted” the bill. I asked if she would send me a copy so I could forward it to my lawyer. She then stated that it wasn’t necessary to involve a lawyer and waived the entire bill. I would have been willing to pay a portion of this bill and, before I had enrolled in the pre-paid legal plan, if she had insisted that I pay the entire bill I probably would have. However, I also thought the original bill was unjustified and was happy to not pay it. I attribute this result to my being enrolled in the plan even though I never consulted the pre-paid legal firm in this particular case. This exchange saved me more than 2 years of payments for the pre-paid legal plan.

     The “lawyer card” is one that I am willing to play if I am presented with an unreasonable charge or have a complaint that I feel is not being taken seriously. It has been helpful on more than this occasion. 

     Further stories will be shared in future installments. I encourage your questions and comments and appreciate your interest.

Comments (13)

  1. I love my plan being able to call a lawyer anytime gives me peace of mind. @jeffrabinowitz said it best use as a supplement not to replace. The landlord for my office sent me a letter trying to get me to pay a tax that wasn't in our agreement. I contacted legal shield to review the document and educate on whats going on. I then hired a real estate attorney to respond to the land lord. This saved me at least an hour with the attorney at $300. Ohh and I don't have to pay the tax and the other 10 tenants just signed off and started

    I also had a seller back out of a contract while we were in escrow. They were trying to sell to another buyer at a higher price. I contacted legal shield and we came up with a plan. I recorded a memorandum with my contract. This stalled the other escrow seller contacted me and offered to pay me $2,000 for my time and to release the recording. To make sure there were no problems in the future we both signed a mutual release agreement and had it notarized. 

    Sorry for the rant just really happy with the service. Every small biz owner should have this. 

    1. @Mike Delprete, I definitely agree. I have also had some very good results. The plan lawyers are not great for everything but the price is hard to beat for actual legal opinions. Lawyers can and do often disagree on matters, especially those that have not been litigated often (Dodd-Frank, CFPB rulings, self-directed IRA's) but getting a second opinion even when it differs can help illuminate an issue and help one make better decisions. I am amazed at the number of people who post complex or personal legal situations on the BP boards asking for opinions. You can get good opinions (there are lawyers on these forums) but even when you get a lawyer they will not know all the relevant details of your situation. You can also get responses from complete neophytes that know neither the law nor the situation. I prefer gettin my legal opinions from lawyers with whom I can share the details of my case. When the price is so little--I can hardly understand why people do not subscribe when offered the opportunity. (Yes, I am also an associate and will send anyone a link if they ask for it.)

  2. I love Pre-Paid Legal Services. You can ask unlimited questions without being billed for extra consultation.

    1. @Bobby Terry, I have been quite happy with my plan also. It is now called LegalShield.

  3. I signed up for the Legal Shield service based on your initial post.  I had need to use it to respond to a letter I received a little over a week ago.  So I'm hoping that the response letter will go out soon.  I'm not sure the comparison on the timeframe for a letter response from a traditional law firm versus a Legal Shield law firm.

    1. @Dawn Anastasi, there is a different law firm in each State. Mine has been fairly responsive. I get answers to calls within hours. Letters may take several days, a bit longer once in a while. I have dealt with lawyers who I paid thousands of dollars who did not respond that quickly.

  4. @Jeff Rabinowitz, great article Jeff, thanks for sharing your experience.  I had not heard of these prepaid legal services, but sounds like something I should be looking into as I often have questions and I too am hesitant to call my lawyer as I don't want to get the bill.  If it is only $25-30 a month, that sounds like a bargain in the long run if you call them even just  2-3 times per month.  Great adice, thanks Jeff!

    1. @Cory Mccarthy, I consider the plan a very useful tool. Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment.

  5. Have you had any cases where Legalshield didn't cover what you needed? 

    1. @Garett H., yes. I was disappointed that they didn't provide much help when my IRA was targeted in a frivolous lawsuit. That has been one of my most expensive legal bills but LegalShield determined that my IRA was a separate entity and the coverage could not be used. I disagreed. I panned on discussing this if the series continues. There have been several times where I have used the plan attorneys for a first read or a second opinion in a situation where I knew I would be using an outside attorney. In those cases they saved me some time (fees) on the preliminary discussions with the outside attorneys because I could easily demonstrate to the other attorneys that I knew the law and issues involved. Saving a 1/2hr of explanation time that would have been billed even if used occasionally can add up to a significant savings. I think these pans deliver a lot of value for the small expense but they are not perfect. They should supplement, not replace, one's other legal and accounting advisors.

  6. @Jeff Rabinowitz,

    Again I appreciate you sharing your experiences about pre-paid legal services.Very valuable information to me as I recently consulted with an attorney on my lending practices,tenant issues,ect.I think my circumstances are similar to your own.I will research my options concerning these.Thanks for providing quality information.  Bryan Drury

    1. @Bryan Drury, I appreciate your interest and your comments.