What Every Florida Consumer Should Know About Legal Services Plans
Legal Services Plans are one means by which consumers can gain better access to the legal system by obtaining affordable legal services with qualified attorneys.
The Need for Legal Services Plans
Although studies have shown that 7 out of 10 people experience some sort of “legal event” in any 12-month period, most people do not hire an attorney to represent them because they are:
- Unaware that they are experiencing the occurrence of a “legal event”
- Unable to adequately determine the qualifications of an attorney
- Unsure of the type of services the attorney shall perform for and on their behalf
- Fearful of the high, and sometimes uncertain, cost of legal services
On the other hand, by their very nature, Legal Services Plans:
- Provide easy access to attorneys
- Encourage members to access legal services at an early stage in the occurrence of a “legal event” when a favorable resolution may be more reasonably obtainable
- Generally, provide for a free initial in-office consultation
- Provide cost certainty in determining the amount of attorney fees
- Provide an interface by and between members and attorneys by use of a customer service department
Types of Legal Services Plans
Voluntary: Individuals who choose to enroll in a Legal Services Plan upon personally making payment of the plan’s premium or membership fee.
Mandatory: Persons who are automatically enrolled in a Legal Services Plan by virtue of being a member of a “Group” — e.g., an Employer — who furnishes the Legal Services Plan at no cost. Includes employees enrolled in an “Employee Assistance Program” offered by their Employer.
Telephone Access: Provides easy access to an attorney and encourages use for “preventative” legal services, including:
- Unlimited telephone advice and consultation with an attorney during normal business hours
- Document review
- Document preparation
- Third-party letters
Comprehensive: Provides for legal services greater in scope than “Telephone Access,” including, e.g., legal representation in court proceedings.
In general, depending upon the type and kind of coverage provided, the cost to belong to a Legal Services Plan is within the range of $9 to $25 per month.
Benefits of Legal Services Plans
- Reduces employee absenteeism
- Increases employee productivity
- Provides a valuable low-cost employee benefit that is attractive in both the hire of new employees and retention of old employees
- Promotes a stress-free work environment
- Reduces health care costs associated with the onset of stress related medical issues due to the occurrence of a “legal event”
- Ease of mind that access to an attorney is available simply by telephone
- Affordable opportunity available to better gain access in and to the legal system
- Ability to have access to “preventative” legal services in order to resolve early on in the process “small” legal issues before becoming “major” legal problems
- Cost certainty in determining the amount of attorney fees
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON LEGAL SERVICES PLANS
- Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, Chapter 9, Legal Services Plans Rules and Regulations, 9-1.2 Statement of Policy and Purposes.
- Florida Statutes Chapter 642, Legal Expense Insurance, 021. Certificate of Authority
- Prepaid Legal Services Committee of The Florida Bar
- Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (search using company type “Legal Expense Insurance”)
The material represents general legal advice. Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this posting may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities regarding your legal situation.