There are various pre-paid legal service plans and websites out there, and one of the most prevalent is at www.prepaidlegal.com. I often get asked if I am part of the pre-paid legal network, usually from people who are selling pre-paid legal plans. I am not, and there is a good reason—my office won’t get anything out of it. But here’s how it works:
- You pick a plan with a monthly, quarterly, or annual membership fee.
- If you need any of the various legal services, you get some of them free, or at a discounted rate
- The attorneys are paid in accordance with the fee structure they work out with the pre-paid legal service company, but they are paid from the clients directly.
- Attorneys are not paid anything for the free services advertised by pre-paid legal. They agree to perform these services free in order to get the other work later.
Our firm focuses on estate planning, but most pre-paid legal plans offer free simple wills for the clients. Since we don’t do any of the other kinds of legal work, the wills are not a loss leader for us but simply a loss. For the other attorneys, don’t expect them to spend a ton of time on the wills because there is NO compensation for them. As a result, the estate plans are passable but not very detailed.
Now, I am certainly not saying that anyone shouldn’t consider pre-paid legal services. Quite the contrary, it may be an excellent *insurance policy* should you have to defend a lawsuit, face a criminal charge, or go through any business litigation. But the right mentality to take with pre-paid legal services is not to think of it as paying for a package of services but to think about it as legal insurance just as you think of automobile and homeowners insurance. My opinion is paying pre-paid legal to get the free Will is a waste. Paying the money as you would an insurance premium in case there is a legal problem in the future may be huge value and more than worth the cost.