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A Subscription Plan For Legal Help?

by J. Money on Tuesday, September 4, 2012

law library

I come across all kinds of interesting things at yard sales every weekend, but lately I’ve been running into all sorts of interesting *people* too ;)

Last month it was an avid coin collector who was kind enough to share some of his knowledge (and coins!) with me. Later it was a guy who had earned – and lost! – millions of dollars over his lifetime from not managing his money all too well (he’s since back on track). And then this weekend I run into a wonderful woman who not only loves my hair (yipee!), but also sneaks in a pitch for prepaid legal subscriptions, haha… A pretty smooth feat when you can transition from hairspray chat to warding off identity theft in a matter of seconds ;) But I’ll admit it caught my attention! And she was a pretty cool chick too – we had some good convos…

I’d never heard of *any* type of prepaid legal advice before, and certainly not anything on a monthly subscription plan. It’s actually a pretty cool idea, really. Even if more so for the company raking it in ;)  You have protection when you need it, and when you don’t you just keep low and stress-free, continuing to pay your premium for whenever you happen to need it next.  Kinda like health insurance and car/home/property insurance as well. It saves your ass in an emergency, but all the rest of the time you wonder why you’re paying for so much every month, haha…

I can honestly see a market for that, though :) Considering the wife and I STILL – to this day – have not written up our wills even though we say we’re gonna do it almost every other weekend!  Maybe a subscription like this would get us to DO IT?  And then review/edit it all the years forward too? Regardless we gotta figure it out SOON, especially now that we have a new member of our family to watch over going forward… We gotta get that stuff on lock.

So naturally my first question to my new friend here was, “Will this get us to do our wills faster? And is it included?”  And the answer back was, “Yup!”  Off to a great start so far!

This company she was talking about (we’ll call her Donna going forward) was Legal Shield. Not to be confused with Legal Zoom, with whom I’m much more familiar with and think they offer some pretty good stuff even if it costs you a pretty penny. When asked if that was her competition, she said something to the affect that they’re not even in the same ballpark, which is kinda true, though I do see what Legal Zoom now offers direct access to attorneys too – other than just legal *documents* like they’re usually known for.

At any rate though, here’s Legal Shield’s main pitch off their homepage:

“For less than $20 a month you can talk to a top quality law firm in your state about whatever you want, whenever you want.”

Enticing, right? And if you look further you’ll see they already have over 1.4 million people signed up making you feel better, as well as an impressively large headquarters to boot.  A pretty legit-looking operation. And upon further investigation you’ll find they help everyone from individuals, to families, to businesses and, of course, those associates looking to help sell Legal Shield too :)  Which is what my pal Donna is happily involved with. And also the part of the site that made my cringe because no matter how hard I try, I just keep thinking “Pyramid scheme!” :( Which sucks because from what I’ve gathered so far they def. don’t seem to be one.

And really there’s nothing wrong with promoting a company you love, anyways! Even if you get paid for it. We do it all the time as personal finance bloggers when we come across products we love (insert shameless plug), but the only difference is that most times it’s not all up in your face like it is on Legal Shield’s website. And people don’t randomly bring it up at yard sales either ;) Usually you have to scour a site to find their partnerships/affiliates page, but with them it’s right next to their main bread and butter: the services they offer their customers. It just makes me wonder how many others are getting turned off by it and walking away before even giving it a chance?

Regardless, it doesn’t necessarily mean their services suck, so I poked around further and saw they offer a ton of different help out there – all depending on how much you’re willing to spend, and the state you currently live in.  Here is a snapshot of some of their services:

legal shield logo

  • Advice on unlimited topics, personal or business even on pre-existing conditions
  • Legal Document Review (up to 10 pages each)
  • Standard will preparation
  • IRS audit legal services
  • Up to date credit report access
  • Personal credit score with analysis and continuous monitoring
  • Identity Restoration Services
  • After-hours legal consultation for covered legal emergencies such as: if you’re arrested or detained, if you’re seriously injured, if you’re served with a warrant, or if the state tries to take your child(ren).
  • Letters and phone calls on your behalf (At the discretion of the lawyer provided)
  • Motor vehicle services: Accidents, traffic violations, help with defense for charges of manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide, or vehicular homicide
  • Trial defense assistance if you or your spouse is named defendant or respondent in a covered civil or job-related criminal action filed in court.

All stuff that’s GREAT if/when you need ‘em. And according to Donna they have one of the BEST credit restoration services too – something both her and her husband is subscribed to (among others) and they swear by. But why hadn’t I ever heard of all this before? Am I the only one missing out on this new idea, or have others been taking advantage of it the entire time and forgot to send me the memo? :) I thought I’d poke around a little more, and hit up my good friends and fans on Twitter and Facebook to learn more and gauge the temperature a bit better…

Here’s what they said (thanks guys!):

  • “I use it and they have work our great me.”
  • “Sounds like prepaid legal, which I had a REALLY bad experience with a long time ago.”
  • “Great service from the company in FL. I’m always happy with the outcome I used them …and I’ve had them for 10 years now”
  • “…I don’t think it is worth the money unless you plan on going to court and wanting an attorney at a discounted rate or you want to write out some contracts and want an attorney at a discounted rate… You are only allowed to do business with the firms that are in the legal shield program, so depending on where you are, I would make sure you have at least a few firms to deal with and they are decent firms.  I wouldn’t need it, but the discounts might be good for you.”
  • “Legal Shield is the old Prepaid Legal… I used to sell their products. They are a great service if you NEED an attorney. Do not get wrapped up into selling the service…Call me and I will let you know more details.” (Haha… I bet that would be interesting ;))

Some rants and some raves, but overall pretty good info to take in.  It shows they’re indeed doing *something* right, but obviously it’s not for everyone. And really I’m leaning towards me being part of that “not everyone” crowd too.  It’s a fantastic concept no doubt about it, and not surprising so many people have already signed up to them (they’ve been in business for over 40 years!), but realistically how often would I, personally, use them?

  • When I need to make or update a will – check.
  • When I need a quick question on a legal matter, perhaps with my business – check.
  • When my ex-employer goes bonkers and I need to take them to court– check check!
  • Or, perhaps, when the FBI shows up at my house a la Enron style and scares the bejesus out of  me! Check, check, check, check, check, please! (Long story for a longer day)

I could have used this service plenty of times over the years, but at the same time these one-offs could have been plenty less expensive too when all was said and done.  Even if you had to deal with a little extra stress of not having that subscription plan backing you up the entire time.  As sexy as that does sound…

My mind isn’t made up quite yet, though, so if any of you L.S. lovers wanna stand up and convince me something bad will happen if we don’t sign up (maybe my left testicle will fall off?) I’m totally all balls ears.  I wanna be wooed and told my life will get a ton better if I shell out $20/$50/mo, and that it’s completely and utterly worth it. And if you’re a broker for them, I wanna hear about that too!  On top of being your average consumer here, I’m also a business man fascinated with people’s hustles. And anything that generates tons of money will always have my attention ;)

In the meantime, I’m gonna go back to researching those wills and trying for real to make those bad boys finally happen… I bet you some peanuts it’ll cost a lot less than a handful of months of Legal Shield ;) What do you think?

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(Photo by Alex E. Proimos)


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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pauline September 4, 2012 at 5:38 am

I had never heard of that service and I am curious about it. I saw on their website you can pay $15 for a month with no time commitment. I’ll probably give it a try the next time I need a contract reviewed, or like your friend said “a cheap attorney”, but would definitely cancel the subscription once I am done!

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2 George September 4, 2012 at 6:27 am

This looks like a cool service, I’m in the military so I’m lucky enough to have legal service for most of my basic needs.

I was shocked to see that you don’t have a will…especially now that the wee one is in the picture. It’s not too long or tedious of a process, as a single guy it’s obviously a lot quicker, but honestly the relief on my end would be far less than if I had a family. And a HUGE benefit of the will is the detailed questions for when you’re incapacitated, so your medical care wishes are known, written, and notorized.

And hell, barring all that, you can probably get a cheap and easy version at Staples for under $20.

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3 Lance @ Money Life and More September 4, 2012 at 7:13 am

Personally at $20 a month you’re paying $240 a year and at $50 a month you’re paying $600 a year. I think good attorneys probably bill out anywhere north of $100 to over $300 an hour… something doesn’t add up to me.

My guess is 95% of the people never use them and the 5% that do don’t get the full level of service they need if it goes beyond a quick bit of assistance. Something just doesn’t add up.

Oh and where do the commissions cut into that for the people that sell it?

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4 J. Money September 4, 2012 at 8:57 am

@Pauline – Huh, I wonder how easily that can be done though? I bet there’s clauses or something in there that doesn’t allow it, or makes you pay back X amount or something, but who knows… On the flip side, what if you end up LOVING ‘em? I feel like if I used them once and I really liked their process and/or attorney assigned to me, I’d most def. keep them around so I’ve always got back up :) I don’t mind spending the money to be fully prepared, but only if I have to use them a lot… and if that were the case, I’d probably be in lots of trouble! Haha… Let me know if you end up giving them a shot. Curious to see how you like them :)
@George – I know I know, I suck! No excuse for us not to have one :( I swear it’s on the top of my list right now.
@Lance @ Money Life and More – Haha, I have no idea :) I’m sure those lawyers who participate though do so on a discounted rate and get more clients in return. And then as you say not everyone always needs legal help so just like insurance it works out for them in the end. Must be doing something right though if they’ve got over a million customers?

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5 Stephanie September 4, 2012 at 9:05 am

I feel like this would only be worthwhile if you actually expect to use legal services on a regular basis. Personally, I wouldn’t do this. I’ve used a lawyer exactly once in my life and that was when I bought a house, so paying $20 or more per month just for access to a lawyer would be a colossal waste of money for me. :-P

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6 Jen @ Master the Art of Saving September 4, 2012 at 10:42 am

I think the option of a legal subscription is a great idea. Personally, I don’t think we would really use it, but you never know (which is the point). :-)

I can see this helping lots of people and in contrast, lots of people wasting money every month on it. I think it just depends on the person and what they’re into.

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7 Pam September 4, 2012 at 11:20 am

A friend of mine just told me that he had it. It sounds like a waste of money to me. He said you could use it to fight DUI (I don’t drink and drive), speeding tickets (Last time I got one was 20 years ago) and other things.

He did use it recently when he left a job and they didn’t pay him for the last week. A lawyer sent a letter to his former employer and they drove the check over to his house. Kind of scary but he did get paid.

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8 Samantha September 4, 2012 at 11:23 am

J$: we used and are very happy with US Legal Forms. They are way less expensive than Legal Zoom, but the exact same idea. State specific templates for wills and power of attorneys. Dave Ramsey recommends them, so you know they are legit.
http://www.uslegalforms.com/dave/specials/

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9 Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager September 4, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Not sure if I would ever need this, but it sounds like an interesting business model.

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10 Adam Hagerman September 4, 2012 at 2:11 pm

I kind of have an ironic (and irrelevant) story regarding someone trying to sell me these services before.

Back when I was an IRS tax examiner (gasp!) I once audited an individual who was selling these services. He placed the income (very minimal) and expenses (very high) on his Schedule C and was selected for audit. Turns out that most of the expenses while legit, were not deductible. He even tried selling me the services during our appointment. Talk about guts!

The ironic part of this story is that he didn’t even use the services that he sold. He just represented himself in the audit.

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11 Gina September 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm

My husband and I have this legal service, Legal Access Plans LLC, it is deducted from husband’s paycheck every month for $6.95. It covers both of us and our parents too!
We have use it for making wills, settling an estate out of town, legal advice, and they offer financial advice as well. We are using it this week for legal advice for a divorcing family member. It comes in handy..

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12 Gina September 4, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Forgot to mention, they help you get a lawyer out town when needed. Husband inherited a house/estate of dead uncle. We are two states away. The service found us a lawyer that would discount their fees to help us. I think we are saving anywhere to 1-2000.00 in legal fees, compared to normal prices to settle an estate) .

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13 AverageJoe September 4, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Isn’t it funny how we never think about paying $15 a month for a service we’ll rarely use until we’re presented with the ability to buy it? Imagine what would have happened, J., if you hadn’t run into this lady. Would you have needed LegalShield?

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14 J. Money September 4, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Thanks for all the info so far guys, pretty cool to see what other people are using out there :) I’ll holler if I end up using them, but right now I’m thinking I won’t… unless I get some sort of free trial or something… Hmm….

@Stephanie – That’s what I’m thinking… though MAN is it good when you need it!
@Jen @ Master the Art of Saving – Yeah, and how comfortable they are I guess.
@Pam – Nice! Pretty cool it’s working for him :) Thx for the info.
@Samantha – Oh cool, haven’t heard of them before. Will go over and check ‘em out as soon as I post this up – thanks :)
@Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager – Def. a good biz model!
@Adam Hagerman – Oh jeez, haha… reminds me of those stock brokers who always try and sell you on their services, but when asked to see their OWN portfolios they somehow don’t like it ;) Same thing with financial managers too. My friend’s dad would only use those who would supply him with their tax returns to prove they know what they’re doing, haha… makes sense! And nice to hear from ya bud – it’s been a while :)
@Gina – Nice!! And $6.95 is a lot better than $20-$50 too :) Thanks for the info!
@AverageJoe – Right? It’s hard to tell sometimes if it’s GOOD to run into these things we weren’t expecting and/or ever thinking about, or if it’s bad cuz it just adds more complications and money out the door? If only someone tell me what kind of *sign* this was! :)

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15 Squeezer @Personal Finance Success September 4, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I remember pre-paid legal being the latest fad like 20 years ago. Its one of those fads that comes and goes, like bottled water, room air de-ionizers, vitamins, exercise equipment on late night tv, etc. Sure you may get some use out of it for civil matter, but don’t expect them to help you in a murder case.

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16 J. Money September 5, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Bottled water and vitamins are fads? Haha… Check me off on both! ;)

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17 Doug Dern September 25, 2012 at 2:42 pm

It is a tough call. I am an attorney and I offer a huge discount on my services. Like I do bankruptcy cheaprer then any one in my area. I tell people they can budget and pay me off in 3 months. It gets them ready for the future. Living on no credit.

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18 J. Money September 26, 2012 at 10:33 am

Yeah, that’s a good idea. It’s def. interesting how many different options are out there for people, I like it :)

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