LegalShield Review: Is It a Legitimate Company?
Nothing in life is constant, other than change. And when it comes to money, things can change for the worst in an instant.
One day you may be driving to work and have someone hit you, then spend the next 8 months in a lawsuit. You're now on the hook for eight months of legal representation, which is easily 1000's of dollars.
But what if you could buy legal insurance the way you buy health insurance? That's the idea behind LegalShield. But do they deliver?
We're letting you know with this LegalShield Review.
- 1 LegalShield Review: Is It a Legitimate Company?
- 1.1 The History of Legal Shield
- 1.2 Company Values
- 1.3 Pros and Cons of LegalShield As a Consumer
- 1.4 Cons of LegalShield
- 1.5 Reviews of LegalShield
- 1.6 Is it Worth It?
The History of Legal Shield
In the terms of business names, it seems this company has had a little bit of an identity crisis. What do we mean? They've changed names three times in the last forty or so years.
The first time they came on the scene was in 1972, forty-six years ago. At that time they were known as Sportsman's Motor Club. The founder, Harland Stonecipher was the CEO until the early 2000s.
His motivation to create the business came out of an unfortunate car accident he was involved in during 1969. Though he was lucky enough to have health and car insurance – he didn't have the money for a lawyer for what turned out to be a long case.
Why couldn't he pay a fee like he did every month for his other insurance plans and retain a lawyer he pre-paid for if something happened?
It didn't make sense to him, so he set out to change that. At Sportsman's Motor Club you could pre-pay for legal services, just like you pre-pay for car insurance.
Most of the time you don't need to access the services, but when an emergency strikes – you have money in your corner.
It wasn't until a few years later, in 1976 when they changed the admittedly confusing founding name to Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc.
It stayed Pre-Paid Legal until 2011 when the company was bought by mid-ocean partners.
It was, for a long time, the first legal insurance company of its kind. No other legal firm or insurance agency caught on until at least the early 2000s.
The company ran into some trouble in the 1980s, when they started using an MLM or multi-level marketing strategy.
Pre-Paid Legal MLM
Multi-level marketing is usually referred to as a scheme, but it can work in some circumstances. Like the way, it did for Pre-Paid from 1986 – 2001.
Before 1986, clients who had plans through Pre-Paid Legal could pick their own legal representation. But after they started using an MLM structure, the company was routing clients to specific law firms that they chose.
We believe that the lawyers would pay Pre-Paid Legal to have access to their clients, while the clients paid to have access to that list of lawyers.
When they got in trouble with the Wyoming Attorney General in 2001, the terms were that they used “prohibited income representation to promote their multi level marketing program”. They paid a four thousand dollar fine to the state, along with other legal costs and fees.
One would hope the company had taken out a policy on itself.
But that wasn't the last time they got in trouble, they were involved in a long string of lawsuits from 2001 – 2006. Some of them as far south as Mississippi and Alabama.
Those Mississippi cases proved costly to the company, or at least the later one did. They were found at fault for the second case and had to pay $9.9 million in damages.
They did, eventually, settle or successfully dismiss all the lawsuits filed against them in this time period.
The legal troubles went on and on for Pre-Paid Legal, including an investigation by the FTC starting in 2007. They searched for three years but didn't end up taking any action, punitive or not.
The fact that the FTC didn't take action may be linked to the company's buyout by MidOcean Partners in 2011. The buyout completely changed the board and the name of the company to what we know it as today: LegalShield.
After changing their leadership and revising the legality of the original MLM program, there have been fewer lawsuits in recent years.
Unlike the competition, Rocket Lawyer and the like, LegalShield does not have a very flushed out company mission and values page on their site.
They do list a mission statement – which is to provide “a straightforward, practical approach to legal coverage”.
Their values can be summarized as giving people access to legal representation, which is a constitutional right in the US. They also believe that their services help their customers “worry less, live more”.
At their core, they do that. There are clients who pay and have been paying for a legal shield coverage plan for a long time. They have positive reviews for their services, as well as a large customer base.
But they also have more negative reviews than any company CEO would like to admit. More on that later. Right now, let's talk about the pros and cons of getting a LegalShield policy.
Pros and Cons of LegalShield As a Consumer
Sordid history or not, the company did try to make amends and changes whenever the courts alerted them to a business problem. To their credit, not all companies do that.
So, let's inject some positivity into this LegalShield review and start with their Pro's. Get some faith below.
They Offer More
Other companies like LegalShield have two types of plans- purely personal and purely business. But LegalShield has developed an add-on to their personal plan for those who run businesses from home, like freelancers.
These are people who couldn't necessarily afford the smallest business plan and don't need that range of coverage. So, if you're a freelancer looking for legal representation, LegalShield may be for you.
Once you pick (and hopefully like) a law firm that works through LegalShield, that's now your firm. You won't always get the same attorney, because their caseloads differ.
But you will always get attorneys and consultations from the same law firm. This means you don't have to fax or transfer files to another firm and waste your time.
They Have an App
If you have a quick question that came up after reading an email sitting at your kid's soccer game, you don't have to haul out your laptop. All you need is your LegalShield app and you can talk to your attorney via your smartphone.
You can even download and fill out forms from your palm as well.
They'll Get You Money
If you're a business or a person that works with others, and they haven't paid you, you're in luck. Not that you didn't get paid, but in that, your lawyer will send debt collection letters for you.
These letters are actually official and much more fear-inducing than texts or emails.
They'll Help You if You're Sued
People can sue businesses as quickly as they can sue individuals and the other way around. If you are sued or involved in a lawsuit, your lawyer will help you prepare for your case.
This is a step further than most legal services sites, which don't offer things in-person or in-courtroom.
Cons of LegalShield
Now that you know what people like about the company, it's time to flip the coin. The cons touch on the content in our next section (reviews) but we'll lay them out anyway.
They Don't Offer a Free Trial
Almost every online legal site gives you some sort of free access for a certain amount of time. But LegalShield does not. If you think about it, though, neither do other insurance providers.
You don't get your first seven days of care or health insurance free, so why should it be different with legal?
That said, you're paying for coverage from day one. They do have a flexible cancellation policy, which you can talk about with a customer service rep.
They Have Limits
If you pay for a certain plan, with certain benefits – that's all you're going to get. When it comes to coverage, there's no wiggle room or workarounds for an additional service.
The same goes for the allotted time you pay for in your plan – the lawyers time that is. It will cost you more if something takes the attorney more time than your plan allows.
Their Charging is a Little Wonky
A lot of the negative reviews talk about how members canceled their plan with a customer service representative, then continued to get charged.
Add that to the fees from additional times or services above, and your bank statement could look a lot different than you'd expected.
Their Customer Service Isn't Great
This is a trend with online legal representation companies in general, so we'll say that first.
Their representatives aren't highly educated or highly motivated to find out answers they don't know. You can email them, which is nice, but their reply time is longer than 24 hours.
If you'd like to call, you're out of luck on the weekends and need to call between 7am and 7pm in central standard time.
Reviews of LegalShield
There are two main places people leave reviews about businesses on the internet. Either on the company's website itself or on third-party sites like Google or the Better Business Bureau.
What we see on the company's site is usually more positive than the third party sites. LegalShield is no different in this regard.
They have an A+ rating with the BBB, which is no easy feat. According to the BBB site, their average client rating is three stars.
Some reviews are glowing, saying that the concept of the site has saved them thousands of dollars. Those who write positive reviews and like LegalShield are repeat customers. In that respect, they're doing well on happy-customer retention.
The trick to having a good experience with LegalShield, say these happy customers, is to really understand the level of coverage you're buying. That way you won't be angry if you see additional fees or you can buy the next plan level up.
But if you don't, they say, that's where the negativity comes in. Which leads us to our negative LegalShield reviews.
The Unhappy People LegalShield Review
There are two main sentiments of unhappy reviews. They are either that people feel they were overcharged and nickel and dimed. A lot of people mention that they canceled their membership and still received charges.
Or, it's that they feel like they received inconsistent and low-quality service. One reviewer claims that a LegalShield employee went out of their way to find out information about the unhappy reviewer.
Another mentioned that they were told a lawyer would contact them about their case, never did, and they were still charged their membership fee.
You can read BBB reviews here. There are also BBB complaints, which are official cases the BBB and LegalShield solve together. They have had 194 complaints in the last three years and closed 68 complaints this year.
The majority of the complaint types are “Problems with Product & Services” followed by “Billing and Collections”.
Is it Worth It?
If you're considering getting a LegalShield membership, then we hope this review helped.
It seems that the key to a happy experience and a glowing LegalShield review is to make sure you really know what you're buying. Take a moment to look at the benefits and even the time limits of the plan you choose.
If you need to cancel your plan, be consistent and spend the time on the phone with customer service. In the end, it's up to you. Take a look at our other reviews for legal services before you choose.