Legal Services Benefits — During the Pandemic and Beyond
70 percent of full-time U.S. workers experienced some kind of “legal life event” in the past year. Of these, 20 percent said they were less productive at work, and one-third took time off work to deal with legal needs
The value of group legal services for employees has increased exponentially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, even before the pandemic, legal services have been an important part of many comprehensive benefit plans.
Group legal services were first offered in the late 1970s and have become common since the 1990s. Having a network of law firms “on retainer” gives employees access to legal advice for a fraction of the cost of most attorneys outside of such plans.
Many people won’t call an attorney, even if they need one, because they fear high hourly fees. For instance, when hiring an attorney without the help of legal insurance, hourly rates can range from $50 per hour to $1,000 per hour or more. Plus, some attorneys require a retainer to be paid up front. With group legal services, though, alternative pricing models, such as prearranged flat fees, eliminate surprise charges. Also, these fees usually are discounted.
Group legal services are considered a voluntary benefit. With voluntary benefits employees choose from a wide variety of benefits to meet their individual needs. According to a 2018 Willis Towers Watson survey, 75 percent of organizations particularly like voluntary benefits because of their ability to provide personalized options to staff, allowing for tailoring to different generational or income brackets as opposed to the one-size-fits-all benefits packages of the past.
The COVID-19 Effect
Forced government shutdowns have wreaked havoc with individuals’ incomes. Some of the reasons employees appreciate having easy access to legal representation include:
- Chapter 7 & 13 bankruptcy services and legal help with bankruptcy filings.
- Foreclosure help and assistance with keeping a home or vacating it in a way that has the smallest financial impact.
- Landlord/tenant issues, such as eviction notices (Centers for Disease Control’s eviction moratorium only lasted through the end of 2020).
- Estate planning, including basic estate documents, such as last wills and testaments; living wills; financial and health care powers of attorney; or simple trusts.
- Family law issues ranging from child support payments to spousal support.
COVID-19 complications aren’t the only reason employees need affordable legal services. Here are a few of the popular services offered through group legal plans:
- Real Estate Transactions: Even though real estate agents usually handle most of the details for home buyers, they are not permitted to give legal advice. For instance, unless the real estate purchase agreement includes it already, a buyer may want to include a contractual clause that lets the buyer cancel if an inspection reveals serious flaws. Or an attorney may be necessary to protect a seller if a buyer backs out of a deal.
- Family Law: Some of the services included under this category include prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements; paternity issues; adoption proceedings; child custody issues; child emancipation proceedings; and divorce.
- Traffic Violations: An attorney can be helpful when an individual believes a ticket is unfair.
- Personal Injury: Victims of a traffic or workplace accident may need the services of a personal injury attorney to receive fair compensation through a settlement; mediation/arbitration; or by filing a lawsuit.
- Identity Theft Protection: Identity theft can have a serious impact on an employee’s credit score, making it challenging to buy a home or car; apply for a credit card; or rent an apartment. Tax return fraud can cause an employee to not receive the money owed them.
Most people don’t think they need legal services, until they do.