Many people would benefit from legal support about once a year. Unfortunately, most people don’t seek legal counsel when these situations crop up.
In 2001-2002 the American Bar Association commissioned a study on the public perceptions of lawyers to be conducted by Leo J. Shapior & Associates. This research had some interesting conclusions that can help us understand the reasons for the disinclination of the typical person to get legal assistance.
The survey found that most Americans think lawyers are capable of navigating through the complex legal system and the majority of those who had experience with lawyers were pleased with the service they received. Nonetheless, lots of Americans also think lawyers can be materialistic, even crooked. Americans do not feel at ease with the associations lawyers have with politicians, the courts, and big business. They also think that the legal profession isn’t self policing.
Many Americans feel hesitant to deal with lawyers since they feel they cannot tell a high-quality lawyer from a poor one. And, most people are unclear about precisely what a lawyer can do for them or the price of that service.
Since many hold these views and uncertainties lots of people who would benefit from a lawyer do not make contact with one. The Shapior research found that roughly 70% of households in any given year encounter a situation for which communication with a lawyer would be beneficial. However, most people indicated they still would not use a lawyer.
Compare this to seeing your family physician. If you have health insurance, when you or your children become sick you do not hesitate to see your medical doctor. If you have several children, you might visit your doctor’s office 5 or 10 times in a single year. You are familiar with your doctor, the office, and possibly even members of the nursing staff. You’ve watched your doctor work with your children and realize the consideration that he or she has for you and your family’s health.
Contrast your visits to your doctor with seeing a lawyer. You probably never visited a lawyer’s office. Maybe you’ve searched through the Yellow Pages and haven’t the slightest idea which lawyer would be best for you. Plus, to top it off, you do not possess legal insurance that will pay for most of the cost of your lawyer’s fees. No wonder you are reluctant to make use of a lawyer.
It seems clear that the common citizen is unfamiliar with individual lawyers. Watching Boston Legal, Law and Order or reruns of LA Law or Perry Mason is not going to get the average person to visit a lawyer even if they could benefit from their help. Perhaps the best tool to encourage more contact with legal professionals is legal insurance. By becoming familiar with a lawyer in less serious situations, a person can have more comfort about contacting a lawyer for more important matters.
You could already have a legal plan available as a benefit from your employer. If not, there are a number of providers that offer prepaid legal plans.
Prepaid legal plans typically cover the costs for you to contact your lawyer by phone any time you have a potential legal situation arise. Additionally, you can normally visit your lawyer to have a will drawn up, or modifications to your will on an annual basis. You can also have your lawyer review legal forms you need to sign to verify that everything is in your best interests.
When you do need extensive legal help, your plan may include a number of hours of your lawyer’s time for pre-trial and trial activities. Beyond the time provided by your plan, you will normally receive further assistance at a discount.
If a year goes by and you don’t need legal support you can deem yourself lucky. One day, similar to fire insurance on your residence, your prepaid legal plan may come in real handy.