Today, we will be discussing the Considerations when choosing an online legal service or getting legal advice and Reviews for Top Legal Services.
Considerations When Choosing an Online Legal Service
When hiring an attorney or other legal advisor, the cost may seem prohibitive. However, the Internet has made it easier than ever to find an affordable attorney. Different sites have different payment options, so consumers can find a service that works best for them.
- Membership: Some legal service websites offer monthly, semi-annual and/or annual memberships. The membership price includes access to the services of an affiliated lawyer. Memberships cover the total cost of some legal services; however, more complicated legal activities, such as a criminal defense at a trial, require the member to pay additional legal fees.
- Per-service: If you only need an attorney for a simple task, such as creating a legally binding will, a website that offers flat fees for a single service may be right for you. You can purchase a single document or have a brief session with an attorney and pay only for that service.
- Free: Websites that refer customers to lawyers are usually free to use. These websites don’t sell anything to customers. Instead, attorneys may pay a fee to be listed on the website.
You might need a variety of legal services at different times in your life. Some sites offer many services, and others focus on just a few services. Knowing what kind of service you need will help you select the best legal website to use.
- Personal: If you want to create personal legal documents or simply learn about a legal issue, any site that sells document services will probably meet your needs. If your needs are fairly straight-forward, the documents available online should be sufficient.
- Business: If you want to establish a business or get help managing a businesses’ legal paperwork, consider using a company that caters to business owners and entrepreneurs. These sites may be less expensive than an attorney, but they may not offer the same detailed legal advice as a consultation with a lawyer.
- Legal: If you have a complex estate, are making major changes to your business’ structure, are a party of a contested divorce and/or need legal counsel for a trial, you should hire a local attorney who specializes in the type of law you’re dealing with. Unless you already have a membership subscription, you will likely be best served by using a referral service.
Most legal websites allow users to create legal documents, whether for personal or business use. Consider how and where you want these documents stored.
- Cloud-based: Cloud-based storage lets users store things in the cloud, so they can access them anytime and anywhere. This service makes it easy to access documents, but you will need to make sure someone you trust can access the account if necessary.
- Secure: Any document storage service should offer top-grade security and encryption services. Make sure the website explains what security protocols and measures are in place so your personal information doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.
- Unavailable: Some sites only allow you to download and print documents. This service is good for anyone concerned about the safety of their online documents or who wants to make sure others can access them in an emergency. Legal documents should be stored in a secure location, like a home safe or safety deposit box, or left with an attorney.
Communication between an attorney and client is protected by attorney-client privilege. However, the presence of a third party can sometimes negate the confidentiality. Make sure to read any service’s fine print to determine whether communication sent through their website is legally protected.
- Covered: If you are highly concerned about the confidentiality of your communication, consider using a referral site so you can talk to a local attorney in person.
- Not covered: Many sites only work to connect lawyers and clients. Information you send through these website is likely not protected. Questions that you post on online legal forums are not protected.
Many legal documents can be prepared and submitted without the help of an actual attorney. Make sure you understand who will be helping you and what kind of credentials they have.
- Attorney: Membership sites and referral sites will direct you to a lawyer who is licensed and in good standing with the bar association in your state. Attorneys have attended law school and are qualified to answer your legal questions and represent you in court cases.
- Customer service representative: The credentials of the website’s customer service representatives will vary greatly depending on the company’s policies. These representatives will be able to help you prepare a variety of documents and refer you to an attorney if necessary.
If you’re looking for an attorney, you should be aware of how a referral service or subscription program selects lawyers to include in their directory or to partner with.
- Licensed: Websites should have a system in place to ensure that the providers they recommend are actually licensed in the state where you live. Consumers can always visit the website for the bar association in their state to confirm an attorney’s credentials.
- Qualified: Like doctors, many lawyers have a particular specialty. Use a website that clearly indicates whether they can match you with someone who has experience working with cases like yours.
- Professional: You want an attorney who will return your calls or emails in a timely manner and behave professionally. When using a referral website or membership program, check to see if they have a policy that dictates what they expect from recommended attorneys.
Types of online legal services
Websites that refer visitors to lawyers in their area typically display relevant information, like fee types and specialties, in addition to a lawyer’s contact information. Referral sites that have some sort of screening process and/or offer additional information and reviews may give potential clients a better sense of whether or not an attorney will be a good fit for them.
Sites that provide legal advice or help might do so in a variety of ways. Some websites offer a membership that lets members contact select attorneys to receive free legal advice from. Some sites also have public forums or features that allow a user to ask an attorney a question. These services are limited to more basic questions and services.
Many sites that cater to business owners offer very little legal advice. Instead, they simply help entrepreneurs file the necessary documents to incorporate their businesses or maintain legal compliance with the local, state and federal agencies.
Sites that only serve as directories are similar to an online phonebook. They provide consumers with local attorney’s contact information, but they do not screen the law firms or offer consumers any guidance about whether a particular lawyer/firm is suitable for their needs.
Clients who can use online legal services
Entrepreneurs and business owners should have a lawyer or legal consultant to help them make sure their business is complying with all local, state and federal laws. They will also want documents in place that protect them from personal liability.
Those without a significant other who is recognized by law and/or without children should make sure they have an advanced healthcare directive and a will in place so that their wishes are known if they are persistently unconscious or pass away.
Parents should make sure that they a will that protects their assets for their children. If their children are under 18 then they should also specify who they wish to care for their children in the event of their own death.
Individuals who have amassed a large number of possessions or investment accounts during the course of their lives should make sure they have a clear will so their possessions and money go to their desired beneficiary. They should also have an advanced healthcare directive so their caretakers know their wishes if they cannot care for themselves.
Individuals who rent an apartment or home may wish to have an attorney review their lease before signing it. They can consult the same attorney if any disputes arise with their landlords.
Anyone named as a plaintiff in a lawsuit should obtain legal counsel or consult with an attorney to make sure their interests are appropriately represented.
Anyone who has been charged with a crime should seek legal representation.
Legal services FAQ
- How much does prepaid legal cost?
- Prepaid legal plans are roughly $300 a year, usually including a monthly billing plan ranging from about $10 to $25 a month.
- What do prepaid legal services cover?
- Although legal services through a prepaid plan can vary, they usually cover:
- Legal consultations (by telephone or online chat)
- Legal writing
- Legal research
- Drafting things like cease-and-desist letters
- Estate planning
- Document review
- Can I get legal advice for free?
- Yes, you may be able to get free legal advice through a few methods:
- Look for pro bono programs.
- Contact Legal Services Corporation, a nonprofit established by Congress to provide civil legal aid to low-income Americans.
- Search the American Bar Association’s (ABA) website for legal resources.
Remember, each state has its own requirements for legal assistance, so check for local help — especially if you are a veteran, disabled, an immigrant or a senior citizen.
- Does Prepaid Legal still exist?
- Yes, under a new name: LegalShield (an Accredited Partner). In 2011, MidOcean Partners acquired Pre-Paid Legal Services, and the name changed.
- Are online living wills legally binding?
- As long as the online living will meet the legal requirements of the state, an online living will is legally binding.
- Does prepaid legal cover divorce?
- Yes, some prepaid legal services cover divorce. However, since divorces are complex issues, legal experts recommend hiring a lawyer who specializes in divorce law.
- Is there such a thing as legal insurance?
- Yes, legal protection insurance (LPI), sometimes called legal expenses insurance (LEI), is considered legal insurance. LPI is a specific type of insurance that provides legal assistance to an individual, usually for specific legal issues like wills or contracts.