State of the Group Legal Services Industry: What’s Trending Today

The Group Legal Services Association (GLSA) is co-hosting its upcoming Annual Educational Conference in New Orleans later this month. As I have written in the past, the panel kicks off the Group Legal Services Association annual conference, held in conjunction with the GP Solo Spring Meeting. The conference organizers want to balance presentations from the industry leaders with questions from the attendees.

Moderator Stephen Ginsburg provided background, “We have come full circle. In Louisiana, in 1971, access to justice was jolted by the birth of the Shreveport Plan for Prepaid Legal Services—the first comprehensive group legal services plan in the USA, financed in part by the ABA. Over 45 years later, and the basic concepts haven’t changed; only the sophistication with which they are applied. Plan design, marketing, technology, AI and seed money have led to the exponential growth of our industry.”

This year’s panel includes the following speakers: Riyad Bacchus, Sykes Assistance of London, Ontario in Canada; Jeff Bell of LegalShield; Jean Clauson from ARAG North America; Gerald “Pat” Monks, Attorney at Monks Law Firm; Sally Robertson of LegalZoom, and Ingrid Tolentino representing Hyatt Legal. To prime the audience interactivity, questions were gathered from GLSA Board members to start the discussion and a few of the more interesting are below.

  • What are the biggest threats to the legal plan industry?
  • How are legal plans regulated? What States are giving you headaches, and why?
  • What are the technology priorities at your company to better serve your members?
  • Why should an attorney join a legal plan and accept legal plan referrals?
  • What are the ethical considerations of working for a legal plan?

I had the pleasure of chatting with a few of the participants as I wanted to hear their opinions on a couple of questions that impact the industry and technology.

What is preventing legal plans from becoming as mainstream as other benefits such as health insurance, employee assistance plans, or disability insurance?

Riyad Bacchus: The easy answer. As costs rise for established benefits such as employee assistance programs and health insurance, there is little interest in adding another benefit and the associated cost (I think that is why you see distribution of legal plans as an optional employee benefit that the employee pays for in the US). If there is little interest in legal plans, distributors of benefits do not know much about them and the cycle continues.

Jeff Bell: Technology! Consumers demand accessibility and convenience through technology. The medical profession is ahead of the legal profession with services such as health insurance mobile apps, Teladoc, and various pharmacy apps. Lawyers must do the same thing.

Sally Robertson: Legal plans are not a mainstay in America as other benefit plans primarily because so many people are not aware that so many of their problems are legal in nature. As a result, they often don’t believe that they’ll have enough legal issues to benefit from having a legal plan. However, the exact opposite is true and legal plans provide an easy, affordable way for the majority of Americans to get legal help.

What are the technology priorities at your company to better serve your members?

Riyad Bacchus: Improving the web portals that members can access for service and that the networked attorneys use. 

Jeff Bell: At LegalShield, we created a mobile app to connect our members with actual attorneys at the touch of a button. We continually add useful services to the app, like Snap, allowing a member to send a speeding ticket to their law firm any time, day or night. This is just the beginning. We are focused on making access easier for everyone, whether they are members or not. At LegalShield it is really is about the bigger mission of Access to Justice. Enhancing our mobile app for everyone is going to move the needle!

Sally Robertson: One of LegalZoom’s priorities is using technology to not only improve its customers access to legal help but also create a better customer experience along the way.

GLSA mission includes access to justice as outlined above however, the state of the industry panel always invites an attorney to comment on how legal plans can help practicing attorneys. This year Pat Monks of Monks Law will be presenting that perspective, “I’m dedicated to the field. LegalShield, Hyatt, and ARAG have been a tremendous help to my practice and bottom line. I have generated a successful practice since I joined the GLSA from the continued support of these firms.”

This panel is always both informative and sometimes provocative; I look forward to reporting on how technology will impact plan participants. More information on the GLSA and the conference is available here. #onwards.

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