Don't Do It Yourself

Does It Make Sense to Use Prepaid Legal Services?

Gavel & StrykerStarting a business requires a lot of paperwork, and sometimes you need a little legal advice. And, later on, you might need to consult with a lawyer about contracts, partnerships, hiring, or other issues.

Paying an attorney can get expensive; the costs add up, and some lawyers charge hundreds of dollars an hour. I am fortunate in that I don't have to worry too much about legal fees. There are four lawyers in my extended family, so contract reviews and representation usually isn't a problem for me.

But I know that for others, the situation isn't as convenient. When looking at the cost of lawyers, it's easy to see why prepaid legal services are often considered a viable alternative.

What are Prepaid Legal Services?

The idea behind prepaid legal is that you pay a monthly fee, and then have access to lawyers. You basically pay in advance, and when you need help drafting documents, or when you need a consultation, an attorney is supposed to assist you.

By paying monthly, you spread out the cost of legal services, making them more affordable overall. For some entrepreneurs with moderate needs and without complex issues to address, prepaid legal services can make sense.

Serious Problems Calle For More Advanced Help

The reality is that more serious problems require the help of a dedicated attorney. Usually, your prepaid legal services don't cover help in court. It's one thing to have a lawyer perform a consultation with you, or draft a cease and desist letter on your behalf. It's another thing altogether for a lawyer to build a case and then defend you in court.

If you find yourself sued for some reason, prepaid legal just isn't going to cut it. You might need to pay extra to have a lawyer represent you, but at this point it usually makes sense to just hire an attorney from your area who has expertise that you can rely on to improve your chances of winning your case.

Consider Low-Cost Legal Web Sites

Rather than signing on to a prepaid legal plan, it can make sense to make use of low-cost legal services and templates for the mundane items, and then set money aside in the event that you need to hire a lawyer down the road.

Web sites like Legal Zoom can provide you with templates for contracts and agreements. Sites like Rocket Lawyer charge you a monthly fee, but you have access to lawyers (including business specialists) you can answer most simple questions and point you in the right direction when it comes to paperwork.

These low-cost sites offer a nice medium. You have the ability to get basic questions answered and make sure that you are on the right track, and it doesn't cost you very much.

In the end, there is no substitute for an attorney that is working on your case. Use a low-cost site to help you get set up, and to help you with the basics. Later, if it becomes necessary to hire a lawyer, you can do so. The reality is that complex and thorny legal problems aren't going to be solved through prepaid legal services. You should have an attorney for those types of problems.