|Headquarters||Ada, Oklahoma, United States|
|Area served||United States, Canada|
|Key people||Rip Mason (CEO)|
|Products||Pre-paid Attorney, Legal services|
|Services||Legal services, Identity theft restoration|
LegalShield is an American corporation that sells legal service products through multi-level marketing in the United States and Canada. The company was originally founded August 8, 1972 as the Sportsman's Motor Club. In 1976 it was incorporated as Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc., and made its initial public offering in 1984. Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. was acquired by MidOcean Partners in 2011 and changed its name to LegalShield.
LegalShield develops and markets pre-paid legal service plans through a network of more than 6,900 independent provider attorneys across the U.S. and Canada. The Company also markets an identity theft monitoring and restoration services through its partnership with Kroll Inc.. The company's service plans are sold through it's business-to-business channel (B-2-B), it's employee benefits division, and also through it's multi-level marketing division. Products are also sold as an employee benefit through payroll deduction. The company has legal service plans for small businesses as well as GoSmallBiz plans advertised with NFL Hall of Fame player Fran Tarkenton as spokesman.
Today, LegalShield has its headquarters in Ada, Oklahoma. The company owns several subsidiaries. Pre-Paid Legal Casualty, Inc. operates in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Montana, Nebraska, Tennessee, & Wisconsin. There are three subsidiaries that serve individual states: Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. of Florida, National Pre-Paid Legal Services of Mississippi, Inc. and Legal Service Plans of Virginia, Inc. The primary purpose of these subsidiaries is to comply with different insurance laws in those states; they consider the product to be an insurance product, while the other U.S. states consider legal service plans to be a service product. PPL Legal Care of Canada Corporation operates in the country of Canada.
On July 11, 1969, former CEO and founder Harland C. Stonecipher of Ada, Oklahoma was involved in a motor vehicle accident and was hospitalized. Although the other party was cited for fault, they filed a suit against him for the accident. He hired a lawyer to defend himself in court, but in doing so, depleted his life savings. After researching the industry of European legal expense plans, Stonecipher created Pre-Paid Legal's predecessor, The Sportsman’s Motor Club, on August 8, 1972. The club offered legal expense reimbursement to its members. Pre-Paid Legal began utilizing "network marketing" (multi-level marketing or MLM) in 1983. Pre-Paid Legal went public on the NASDAQ National Market System in 1984. In 1987, Pre-Paid Legal bought The People's Network (TPN), a satellite television network dedicated to personal development. Two years later, the company moved to the American Stock Exchange and then on May 13, 1999, Pre-Paid Legal was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
In 2001, the Wyoming Attorney General issued a press release announcing "When we discovered that Pre-Paid was using prohibited income representations to promote their multilevel marketing program, we warned them that the representations were prohibited by Wyoming law". Pre-Paid paid $4,000 in lieu of civil penalties, reimbursed the state for $1,000 in costs, and refunded $2,000 to participants who claimed to have been misled. In July the same year, the company was forced by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to stop counting the commissions they paid out to sales associates as assets, instead of expenses, the same way other types of insurance companies do, though they did not release their updated, halved, 2000 earnings figures until February 2002.
Pre-Paid Legal has faced ongoing troubles in Missouri. After the company settled complaints in 2001, a number of similar suits arose. The company won in a jury trial against two plaintiffs, but after losing others, including one in which a former customer was awarded $9.9 million settled with more than 400 others. The company, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of which Pre-Paid Legal CEO Harland Stonecipher is a director, have described the lawsuits against the company as "frivolous" and "abusive".
Pre-Paid Legal reported to the SEC that less than 25% of its sales representatives sold more than one insurance plan in 2005, but avoids reporting such information to prospective sales representatives.
In October 2009, Tulsa World reported that Pre-Paid Legal had been subpoenaed by the SEC for various documents including those pertaining to a stock repurchase program that Pre-Paid started in April 1999. (And in 2006, the company said it would repurchase $27.4 million of shares owned by executives.) The SEC reported that thus far that its demand for documents is a "fact finding" mission.
On November 19, 2009, Pre-Paid Legal announced that it received a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The proposed draft complaint alleged that Pre-Paid's "ADRS program and related materials violate Section 5(a) of the FTC Act regarding asserted misleading representations, express or implied." On July 27, 2010 the FTC ended its three-year investigation of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. without any action.
Forbes magazine again in November 2010 ranked Pre-Paid Legal Services as number 78 out of the 100 best companies in America.
In January 2011, Pre-Paid Legal agreed to merge with entities formed by MidOcean Partners, a private equity firm headquartered in New York which it says is "focused on the middle market." The transaction would result in the company becoming privately held. The deal closed on June 31, 2011.
On September 10, 2011, the company announced  that it would change its name to LegalShield. The new corporate name for the 40 year old company was said by the company to be part of an overall re-branding initiative following the acquisition of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. by MidOcean Partners.
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- "U.S. Chamber of Commerce - Nov 24 - Chamber Joins Miss. Case against Frivolous Lawsuits - Pre-Paid Legal Services Targeted Improperly". USChamber.com. November 24, 2004. Retrieved October 23, 2009.
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- "Pre-Paid Legal Services Becomes LegalShield". Pre-Paid Legal Services. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
- Official website
- Prepaid Legal to Merge with MidOcean Partners, Acquisition for $650 Million July 2011
- CBC News Report on PPL
- Pre-Paid Weathers Guilty Verdict
- Pre-Paid Legal's Colorful Workforce
- Attorney General’s Office Nets Refunds From Multi-Level Marketer
- Forbes Best 200 Small Companies in America #120
- Forbes 2008 Best 200 Companies in America
- Forbes 2009 Best 200 Companies in America #68
- Forbes 2010 Best 100 Small Companies in America #78
- Information on the Pre-Paid Legal MLM business
- Pre-Paid Legal Services Becomes LegalShield