Legal service insurance or employee benefits are an understudied subject in the access-to-justice literature. Michael Green discusses the different types of legal service plans, how they work, and the ways that these plans help companies avoid ethical problems that can arise from opposing unrepresented employees when mediating or arbitrating employment disputes. His chapter focuses on one company's successful experience with a legal service plan for its employees.
Many employment disputes involve legal claims brought by employees without legal representation. Inability to obtain adequate legal representation can create a significant hurdle for employees in resolving a dispute with their employer. The lack of legal representation for employees in discrimination suits has reached a crisis level as employees only find lawyers to help them about 5% of the time. When they pursue their claims, employees tend to lose lawsuits more than 90% of the time. Even if an employee obtains that rare court win, a strong chance of being reversed on appeal makes the overall prospects even worse.
This chapter describes one way that employers can bridge this legal representation gap for their employees. Legal-service plans can be a reasonable and affordable employee benefit that resembles a group health plan. If employees can obtain legal counsel through legal service plans, they can fairly overcome the hurdle to employment dispute resolution that the lack of legal representation currently presents. Lawyer participation in legal service plans offered to public groups or organizations continues to rise.
LEGAL SERVICES PLANS: A PARTIAL SOLUTION TO THE NEED FOR LEGAL REPRESENTATION AND A VALUABLE HUMAN RESOURCES BENEFIT FOR EMPLOYEES AND EMPLOYERS
In 1975, the organized bar stopped opposing the use of legal service plans, and instead embraced the concept by including them in the Model Rules. Legal service plans can bridge the significant legal representation gap for the working class who cannot normally afford legal services. A 2001 report stated that “[e]mployer- paid [legal service] programs cover 7.6 million Americans, with Hyatt Legal Plans and the United Auto Workers being the largest providers.”
There are typically two types of legal-service plans, either access plans or comprehensive plans. Access plans exchange a prepayment for “advice and consultation” and charge additional fees for services beyond that.