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Outside Job

Prepaid legal plans are a big help to smaller firms.

Growing businesses lack some of the amenities big businesses enjoy, including the convenience of an in-house lawyer. There are so many times in day-to-day business when you might want to have a contract reviewed or ask about the legal repercussions of a decision, but when is it worthwhile to call a lawyer?

One way to address these concerns is with a prepaid legal plan. These plans are often offered to employees as a benefit, but some providers also offer legal protection plans for small businesses. You pay a monthly premium of about $25 to $50, which entitles you to a list of basic legal services such as unlimited telephone consultation and advice, initial office visits, review of contracts, preparation of collection letters, ensuring compliance, and correspondence on your behalf. For additional legal help, members get discounted hourly rates.

A prepaid legal plan can help you overcome your hesitance to call a lawyer over minor matters, so you may resolve issues before they become major. Of course, you'll want to learn about the lawyers in the plan's network and whether you can switch lawyers if the one assigned to you isn't working out. For links to legal plan providers, contact the American Prepaid Legal Services Institute, a branch of the American Bar Association, at www.aplsi.org.

Jane Easter Bahls is a writer in Rock Island, Illinois, specializing in business and legal topics.

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This article was originally published in the January 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Outside Job.

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