Richie Whitten, owner of Speedy Legal, (located on S. Jefferson Street in Athens,) had the great privilege of going to law school at Southern Methodist University, which is considered one of the top schools in the country. He graduated in 1989, clerked for Judge Suttle of the 11th Circuit Court in Florence, and since then, has concentrated his practice on helping folks get Social Security and other types of benefits that they justifiably have coming to them as taxpayers. Before going into private practice, he worked for the Social Security Administration writing legal opinions for five years.
Recently he became aware that there was both a need as well as a market for legal services that could be the most easily described as “simple and straightforward.” The goal became to give clients top quality service for situations such as an uncontested divorce, or preparation of a will without undue expense. I asked Rich why he opened Speedy Legal, and he gave me several reasons. Believe it or not, sometimes practicing law, just like any other business, can become very predictable and somewhat intellectually confining. “I wanted to meet new people,” he said. “Fair enough,” I thought, and then he told me that he wanted to “provide more legal services to more people.” And, as anyone knows, in this economy it is more than smart to have several streams of income, because nothing is certain, and our nation’s financial and business future is, at the very least, looking a bit rocky. In a word, the third reason was to “provide some
I asked him his opinion of some of the online legal document preparation services that have sprung up in the past few years, and his response was, “It’s a good way for people to get in trouble.” Then he explained that filling in a bunch of online blanks in a template without a professional to watch your back, as well as “dot your ‘I’s and cross T’s” could end up being very expensive
and land you in court.
“If you know what it is that you want, why pay more?” He asked. Seeing as Speedy Legal sets their prices ahead of time, there are no surprises. “If I can help you, the price is set,” he said.
He gave an example of what can go wrong when people try to prepare and file documents either completely on their own or with “help that is not help.” A 44 year old teacher felt it was time to get his affairs in order by preparing his will himself. He was not at all aware of the need for the will to be bonded and named his bank the executor of the estate. The bank charged the estate 5,000 dollars and 3,500 dollars to bond it! He cost his family nearly 10,000 dollars trying to save 50 bucks.
By contrast, Rich’s fees for living wills are pre-set at 50 dollars, and simple wills are 75 dollars. Also, there are no surprises. If either your estate or your particular needs end up being too complicated, you’ll know beforehand, and you can get help from another attorney.
He gave another example when it comes to divorce. “If a couple has been married for 8 years, and has a couple of kids, they want standard visitation schedules and the mandatory child support guidelines are followed, I can save them a great deal of money”. Now, most folks, (myself included,) believe that divorce is dreadful, and many times is made even worse for everyone by unnecessary legal fees. A divorce of the sort described above is 300 dollars.
Most documents can be made available within 24 hours, which is nearly unheard of. Recently I had the uncomfortable experience of qualifying for the senior citizen rate while taking some guests from out of town to Helen Keller’s home in Tuscumbia. I was reminded
that the clock is indeed ticking and my will needs to be drawn up. I am glad that there is something like Speedy Legal and someone like Richie Whitten who will help me get my affairs in order at rates that are more than reasonable. Now, to quote a famous sports shoe company, I need to “just do it!”
By Ali Elizabeth Turner