Two-thirds of employers who don't offer a group legal plan as part of their voluntary benefits would consider adding it if granted additional information, according to a MetLife survey.

For example, many worry about a legal plan offering increasing administrative burdens. Of those surveyed, however, 99% find group legal plans at least as easy to handle as other voluntary benefits - if not easier.

MetLife polled hundreds of human resource and benefits professionals about legal services in a voluntary package, and the top reason given among those who make the offering is improving employee satisfaction (69%). Also among the top listed reasons: upping retention and loyalty (44%) and competing with other firms' benefits programs (32%).

"The interest in legal plans by both employers and employees has been steadily building," says Bill Brooks, CEO of Hyatt Legal Plans, a MetLife company. "This is a benefit that spans the generations and suits a diverse workforce because there is a broad range of situations where an attorney can help. Quality legal assistance at a cost of about $216 a year - less than some attorneys may bill per hour - can be an effective way to generate employee loyalty."

Brooks notes that 71% of people will encounter a legal issue each year, according to the American Bar Association.

Seventy-four percent of surveyed employers say one of the primary positive results of their legal plan's availability has been helping employees achieve peace of mind when dealing with a legal issue. Other boons included reducing workers' level of stress (68%), lowering the cost of legal services (62%) and cutting back on work time spent on personal issues (58%).

Nearly a third of respondents who don't provide a legal plan say they are unsure of employees' interest. Persistency rates are high, however, with Hyatt Legal reporting a 90% re-enrollment rate.

"I really believe legal plans add to our workforce's health and productivity," says Julie Herr, benefits program manager at Sprint. "Those who use it really seem to appreciate it."


Top categories

According to Hyatt Legal Plans' 2012 usage data, the top five accessed prepaid legal service categories were:

1. Wills and estate planning (42.3%). This category comprises the creation of wills, codicils, powers of attorney, living wills, and revocable and irrevocable trusts.

2. Civil law and related services (14.5%). This includes small claims assistance, immigration assistance, civil litigation defense, demand letters, document review and elder law document review.

3. Real estate (11.3%). This category includes foreclosures, home sales or purchases, refinancing, tenant negotiations, eviction defense, boundary and title disputes, property tax assessments, deeds and mortgages.

4. Traffic offenses and criminal matters (7.7%). This includes misdemeanor defense, traffic tickets, driving privileges restoration, expungement of criminal record, juvenile court proceedings and habeas corpus.

5. Debt matters (5.1%). This category includes debt collection defense, identity theft defense, negotiation with creditors, personal bankruptcy, tax audit representation and tax collection defense.

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