Lawyers for hire
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Lawyers for hire

April 7, 2011, 4:10 am
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Pre-paid legal taking root among working people.
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By Reynold N Mason JD

Atlanta, April 7, 2011.    Last summer a friend spoke with me about legal insurance. But like most Americans, the concept of paying an insurance premium, small though it is, for the privilege of calling a lawyer should I be caught doing 53 in a 35 zone,-- this actually happened to me-- did not resonate with me. After all I am a lawyer capable of representing myself. Without much ado, I politely turned down my friend.  That was until my run of the mill speeding ticket turned into a marathon of court appearances and postponements.

I am not a lawyer for nothing and, I quickly realized that it was costing me precious time sitting around traffic court listening to lame excuses from speeders facing their reckoning.  I enrolled in the plan and turned the nightmarish little annoyance of a speeding ticket over to the lawyers supplied by PPL.  To my pleasant surprise I received three calls from a law office within four hours of my call to the number on the back of my membership card.  I told the attorney my story, the true one of course, and left the matter  in his hands. On the date of the court appearance I was in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  My cell chimed, I answered, and it was the PPL lawyer.  He had been to court on my behalf and had good news to report:  case settled, no points, no mark on my record, fine $#***%.

Now mind you, I was at one time in private law practice and there was no way I could make calls to clients to update them on developments in their case.  As a solo, that was entirely out of the question.  My experience impelled me to pay a visit to the office of the PPL attorneys here in Atlanta.  And I had an opportunity to pose questions to one of the partners, incognito, of course. It turned out that the PPL law firm is AV rated, four stars if you understand movie ratings, two thumbs up.  “How” I asked “are you able to handle the flood of calls from the hordes of speeders who get busted on I-285?

It turned out there are lawyers assigned to traffic court who make it their specialty.  They troop to the far flung counties of the Atlanta metro area, getting speeders out of jail and others out of jams. I came away impressed.

Most people have health insurance, and they go to great lengths to secure it just in case a migraine hits in the middle of the night. But as an attorney, I found that my clients were woefully unprepared to tackle their legal demons, which are bound to haunt the dreams of any father who tosses the car keys to his son for the first time. Most of my clients were working people and could not afford my hourly rates.  I was compelled to resort to novel payment plans to get my fees.    I still have thousands out there that I have given up on collecting.  These were good people, they meant well but simply could not afford my fees and the mortgage at the same time.

When the call came that little Johnny was in the clink, hard working people, like my clients, did not know where to turn or whom to call.  They knew it would cost more than they could afford. But they were caught on the horns of a dilemma confronted by working people day in and day out.  They earn too much to be entitled to legal aid, but not enough to afford a good lawyer. In the ordinary case, most people would ignore the problem or sign documents they did not fully understand and pray for the best. But a problem like Johnny’s demands attention pronto.

That’s genius of PPL.  It alleviates the money worries associated with seeing lawyer.

I have seen clients brought to ruin by the burden of a crushing legal dilemma. Clients who “co-signed" notes for their nieces and nephews sought my help after the niece filed bankruptcy and auntie was left holding the bag. True story. In this case, the niece’s creditor sued auntie and hounded her until she coughed up the money to make good her niece's obligation.

It is my experience that clients who sought out my advice in advance of committing such legal hari Kari generally stayed clear of such deleterious entanglements.

PPL is preventive a well as palliative. It’s like an aspirin for the headache or an annual physical.  It could prevent the bigger problems from taking root.

PPL is the brain child of an unfortunate driver, who in 1969 was involved in a crash. The idea occurred to him after his auto insurance covered his medical and the damage to his car. But what of the legal bills? He shelled four grand out of pocket. His misfortune has come to represent an idea whose time has come. Like health insurance, auto insurance, homeowners insurance, if you have legal insurance, help is just a phone call away.

Author: Reynold Mason
Reynold N. Mason teaches law courses at Zenover Educational Institute In Atlanta, Georgia. He has been a judge on New York City Civil Court and, a Justice on New York State Supreme Court. Mason has been an adjunct professor of law at Medgar Evers College and Monroe College in New York. He has authored several legal opinions published in New York Miscellaneous Reports and New York Official Reports as well as the New York Law Journal. He lives in Atlanta.
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