Back to the Future in Legal Services: 40 Years and Counting

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    Pre-Paid Legal Services vs. Private Practice Delivery Model





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ADA, Okla., May 19, 2011 /CNW/ -- As Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. (NYSE: PPD) approaches its 40th year anniversary, the legal profession (and industry) in the U.S. is undergoing profound change. As noted in the April 2, 2011 "Report of the Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession," sponsored by the New York State Bar Association, there is a "sea change" taking place in the legal profession and in "the value proposition upon which the relationship between lawyers and clients is based."

Although much of the report focuses on corporate law and major law firms, the industry as a whole is changing. According to a May 5, 2011 Economist story, "Ultimately, lawyering is becoming more of a business than a profession. Some lawyers decry this. Others welcome it. Few deny it."

Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. (PPD) and the network of independent provider law firms embrace the concept. As the professional and academic debate about the future of "big law" continues, PPD provider attorneys are delivering practical, cost-effective and efficient legal counsel and solutions in a plan-based format for the everyday legal issues that affect members (customers) throughout the U.S. and four provinces of Canada.

Attorneys from among the 38 independent law firms that provide legal services to PPD members were asked to offer their perspectives on the PPD business model and delivery practices compared to traditional, private practice law.

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    Differences in delivery models

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"The private practice and the Pre-Paid Legal delivery models are as different as night and day," said Jim Merritt, of Merritt, Flebotte, Wilson, Webb & Caruso, PLLC, the Durham, North Carolina-based law firm and PPD service provider.

"The differences in these business models and the way the services are delivered reflect the revolution now under way in the legal services industry. The Pre-Paid Legal delivery model provides for quality legal service at lower cost, increased responsiveness, customer-oriented service and access to the legal system for many who otherwise couldn't afford it," Merritt said.

As an example of such responsiveness, Merritt says that 90 percent of the time his firm's attorneys respond to member calls as they come in rather than requiring a return call to that member. Throughout 2010, PPD provider law firms responded to an estimated 2.1 million member requests for legal services.

Merritt, Flebotte, Wilson, Webb & Caruso, PLLC (www.carotennlaw.com) has been a PPD provider law firm since November 1995.

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    Billing is not the issue

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"In a traditional law firm, a lawyer is only as good to the firm where he or she works as the amount of billable hours he or she produces. In addition, an initial consultation with a lawyer usually requires a fee," said Joseph Lombino, senior partner at Lombino Martino, PS, the provider law firm for PPD in the state of Washington. "When a PPD member calls into his or her Pre-Paid Legal provider law firm for consultation, the Pre-Paid lawyer is not concerned with billable hours or money. The focus is directly on the member and how to resolve their legal issue."

"Simply stated, money does not get in the way of a Pre-Paid Legal member obtaining the legal advice that is required," Lombino said.

Lombino has practiced law for 27 years, 13 of which he has spent providing legal services to PPD members. Lombino Martino, PS (www.lm-wa.com) has been a PPD provider firm since October 2005.

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    Access to the legal system

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Michael Fiffik, an attorney with Welch, Gold & Siegel, P.C., says economic conditions are eating away at the middle-class's ability to access the legal system.

"We're seeing more pro se (self) representation in court hearings and it's not only a growing problem, but an untenable situation," Fiffik said. "All too often, the justice is producing perverted results because litigants lack access to legal counsel and representation," he said.

Fiffik believes Pre-Paid Legal Service plans are helping to reset the balance by making legal counsel available to those in the middle-class. "The 'prepaid model' is revolutionizing the way people access legal services and it continues to impact the way law is practiced and delivered," Fiffik said.

Welch, Gold & Siegel, P.C. (www.wgspc.com) has been the PPD provider law firm for the state of Pennsylvania since April 1996.

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    An ounce of prevention

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"Unlike traditional private practice law, which is generally 'reactive,' to an existing problem, the Pre-Paid Legal Services model provides for a 'preventative' approach," said Melvin Hall, a partner with Riggs, Abney, Neal, Turpen, Orbison & Lewis Inc. (www.riggsabney.com), PPD's Oklahoma-based provider law firm since 1987.

Based on 23 years of experience as both a PPD and private practice attorney, Hall said people often contact an attorney only as a "last resort" for legal issues that have become too significant to ignore. "The PPD delivery model allows members and attorneys to deal with legal issues before they become major problems," Hall said.

"In much the same way as with physical illness, early detection of legal problems leads to the best possible outcome. With the prepaid model, members have more incentive to contact their attorney and deal with the 'symptom' of distress rather than unwanted effect. Pre-Paid Legal Services offers its members not only legal solutions, but stress relief. It's plain, simple and effective," Hall said.

The "Report of the Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession" points to one of the fundamental driving forces in this "sea change," noting, "Clients are seeking more efficient services, predictable fees and increased responsiveness to their needs." Pre-Paid Legal Services and its provider law firms have practiced this approach to legal services for decades.

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    About PPD

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We believe our products are one of a kind, life events legal service plans. Our plans provide for legal service benefits provided through a network of independent law firms across the U.S. and Canada, and include unlimited attorney consultation, will preparation, traffic violation defense, automobile-related criminal charges defense, letter writing, document preparation and review and a general trial defense benefit. We have an identity theft restoration product we think is also one of a kind due to the combination of our identity theft restoration partner and our provider law firms. More information about us and our products can be found at our homepage at http://www.prepaidlegal.com.

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    Forward-Looking Statements

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Statements in this press release, other than purely historical information, regarding our future plans and objectives and expected operating results, dividends and share repurchases and statements of the assumptions underlying such statements, constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The forward-looking statements contained herein are based on certain assumptions that may not be correct. They are subject to risks and uncertainties incident to our business that could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties are described in the reports and statements filed by us with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including (among others) those listed in our Form 10-K, Form 10-Q and Form 8-K. Please refer to pages 20 - 23 of our 2010 Form 10-K for a more complete description of these risks. Additionally, these risks and uncertainties may include changes in associate recruitment and member retention. We undertake no duty to update any of the forward-looking statements in this release.

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SOURCE Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc.

For further information: George Snyder, PR Director of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc., +1-580-421-6339, cell, +1-580-310-4067, georgesnyder@pplsi.com Web Site: http://www.prepaidlegal.com

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Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc.

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