Subscriber Beware: Are Lawyer and Legal Subscription Services Worth It?

By George Khoury, Esq. on December 28, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Unfortunately, the cost of legal help can often be prohibitive for most people. Consumers are often forced to forgo legal help because they cannot justify the immediate high cost, despite the potential for even higher costs over the long term. In order to capitalize on this insecurity of consumers, businesses have popped up offering consumers access to legal forms and legal services using low-cost subscription models. However, these services can often hurt consumers more than they help.

While many service industry jobs can easily be replaced by automation and outsourcing, legal services require a professional's touch. That is because each legal situation is different, and standardized documents and services frequently fail to account for individualized situations.

While the legal subscription services may sound like a good deal, usually there is a good deal of fine print that a consumer should read. More often than not, the fine print for services that promise to provide legal representation contain a plethora of exclusions and caveats that would make even the least savvy consumer wonder what they're actually paying for.

While some services may claim to provide consultations or representation, those services are generally limited to particular situations and frequently only cover a small portion of the costs. Shockingly, many do not cover the most common criminal matters, or provide for reduced fees that may be higher than one could find on the open market. Additionally, a consumer may not be free to choose their own lawyer and therefore may be stuck with a lawyer who cannot adequately represent their interests.

In contrast to the live legal services, there are many document preparation services that promise to provide legal documents like wills, contracts, or leases for a flat fee. While these services may be better than nothing, often, they may include provisions or terms that a consumer may not understand, and might not actually be in the consumer's best interest. Using these forms can be an effective way to cut legal costs, but it is highly advisable that after the form is completed, a consumer has the completed legal document reviewed by a local attorney.

Traditional insurance services, such as auto insurance, or renters or home-owners insurance, provide for legal representation as part of the insurance benefits depending on the type of claim made against an individual. In addition to these types of insurance, a person can purchase personal liability insurance which will cover them in the event they are sued for damages due to an injury or damage that they cause.

Despite the reputation for being inaccessible to those of modest means, many lawyers do offer sliding scale rates. Additionally, countless bar associations and non-profit organizations offer legal assistance at low or no-cost to consumers, and often maintain referral lists for attorneys that offer discounted services for those who qualify.

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