Beat the high cost of lawyers -- Page 3
6. Lawyer-referral service
Many local bar associations have set up lawyer-referral services
that match clients with a local attorney in the area of law that
suits their need. There are currently over 300 such services sponsored
by bar associations.
For a nominal fee, generally between $30 and $50,
an individual can get a 30-minute consultation with an attorney
who will assess the merits of the case and offer suggestions on
how to proceed.
"Our attorneys are pretty good at answering all
a client's questions and providing options," says Margarita
Flores, director of the lawyer-referral program in Maricopa County.
"For $35, you can find out if you really have
a case worth pursuing. You have an opportunity to get something
off your chest and find out if there's really a legal issue to pursue,"
Check with your county bar association to find out
what referral programs are offered. Click
here for a listing of state bar associations.
7. Legal hotlines and 'elawyering'
It's possible to get legal advice without ever leaving your
home using either of these services.
On a legal hotline, a person can expect to get answers
to some questions by phone. Whether operated by a not-for-profit
legal aid society, as a facet of a prepaid legal insurance program
or as a for-profit venture, hotlines typically will focus on giving
legal advice and preparing forms.
"Elawyering" goes a bit further by offering
services. Legal Advice Line offers several services at flat rates.
For $34.95, you can talk to and get specific advice from a lawyer
in your state with no time limit to the call. You can submit questions
online and get answers either by phone or by e-mail. You can have
a lawyer in your state review a document for $49.95 or you can have
a legal document created for you online, starting at $3.95.
Other major legal-service providers on the Web include
LegalZoom.com, co-founded by O.J. Simpson "dream
team" attorney Robert Shapiro, offers a variety of services,
including handling all the paperwork for an uncontested divorce
with children for $299 and without children for $249.
CompleteCase.com is an online legal-document preparation
service for divorce only. They do the paperwork and then e-mail
it to you to download and print. Cost is $249.00 for uncontested
8. Legal Aid societies and the
Legal Services Corporation:
These are nonprofit legal-service providers that serve a lower-income
population with free legal representation. These organizations can
offer assistance in areas such as landlord-tenant disputes, family
law matters, fair housing, elder law and more.
Funding is provided through various federal, state
and local sources as well as philanthropic grants. To qualify for
legal assistance, clients meet a means test usually averaging 125
to 150 percent above the poverty level which translates to an approximate
yearly income of $15,000 to $18,000 in a household with one breadwinner
and $25,000 to $30,000 with two breadwinners.
The best place to find a legal aid or legal service
organization is to check the phone book. The Legal Services Corporation
is a nonprofit corporation established by Congress in 1974 to provide
legal assistance to those who would otherwise be unable to afford
it. The Legal Services Corporation funds programs that serve every
county in every state in the United States although they do not
have offices in every county. To find a program near you, go to
and click on your state.
9. Group or prepaid legal service
A prepaid legal services plan is similar to health insurance
-- the individual pays a fixed amount monthly in exchange for future
benefits on an as-needed basis. The typical prepaid plan provides
legal advice and consultation over the telephone and may also include
office consultations, document review, and the preparation of simple
wills, letters or phone calls on behalf of the plan member. More
extensive plans may include representation for civil and criminal
matters such as traffic tickets, marital and family issues, bankruptcy
and real estate.
According to the American Bar Association, at least
18 million Americans were enrolled in some form of legal services
plan as of mid-1995.
Plans generally cost between $9 and $25 a month and
can be charged to your credit card, taken as a payroll deduction
or may even be free as a fringe benefit through an employer or membership
in a union, credit union or other organization.
To find out if a plan may be available to you, ask
your employer, union or other organization of which you are a member,
such as the AARP, if a legal services plan is available. Or, you
could log on to the American Bar Association's Prepaid
Legal Services Institute where you can find a listing of group
and prepaid legal plans.