There is now another reason it pays to be a UFT member.
The union has negotiated a free legal service plan for members only. The program gives UFT members access to an attorney who can, among other things, answer legal questions, write letters on their behalf, review documents, prepare a will and provide legal representation.
There is no charge to belong to the plan if you are in the union, although discounted fees are charged for some more-complicated matters handled by plan attorneys.
“This is a phenomenal program we are proud to be able to offer our members,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said. “Being able to access an expert whenever legal issues arise gives peace of mind.”
UFT members are automatically enrolled in the plan, offered through Feldman, Kramer & Monaco, P.C. The plan also covers members’ spouses or domestic partners who live with them, as well as dependent children under 19, or under 25 if the child is a full-time student fully dependent on the UFT member.
Members looking for assistance on a legal matter should call 212-331-6325 to be connected to an attorney at the firm. UFT retirees should call 212-331-6314.
Among the services offered for free through the plan are:
- Advice and consultation by phone or at the office.
- Document review.
- Letter writing.
- Wills, trusts, power of attorney and health care proxy.
- Special needs trust for dependents.
- Residential lease review.
- Identity theft advice and assistance.
The plan, for a discounted fee, can also offer bankruptcy advice and assistance, help obtaining veterans benefits, elder law representation and advice, and help for senior citizen abuse for the covered member, their parents or grandparents.
If the law firm can’t solve a legal dispute under the free plan, it will refer UFT members to a local referral attorney who will give legal representation at the reduced rate of $285 per hour.
When Dan Lupkin, the chapter leader at PS 58 in Brooklyn, became a dad on May 1, he and his wife thought it would be a good idea to create a will and establish health care proxies.
“I remembered hearing at a Delegate Assembly that the union had started this service and that we could get this all done for us for free,” Lupkin said.
- He called the firm, filled out some paperwork, and he and his wife signed their documents at a location near their Brooklyn home.
“It couldn’t have been more seamless,” Lupkin said. “This is really an excellent service the union provided. We probably would have done this anyway, but having it free and coming from the union makes so much sense.”
Joanne Carillo, the chapter leader at PS 186 in Brooklyn, first used the firm in 2016 for her divorce, paying a fee through the UFT’s state affiliate, New York State United Teachers. She was provided a referral attorney at the discounted rate and said she received the same service as others she knows who paid much higher fees elsewhere.
Now that all UFT members have access to the plan at no charge, Carillo said, it’s a no-brainer to continue to use it for other services.
“I really appreciate that the union is providing this for us,” she said. “I know it’s a reliable plan. I have the paperwork to do my will through them, and it’s on my to-do list today.”
The law firm’s Steven Kramer says that phone advice and letter writing are the two most-used services offered by the plan.
“It can be a simple problem like ‘My neighbor’s dog won’t stop barking’ or ‘I have a speeding ticket I’d like to fight,’ to something more complex like, ‘My mom is being discharged from a rehab facility and I don’t know how to get Medicaid to pay for her care,’” Kramer said.
Letters can be written if a company won’t honor its warranty or if you want to get out of a gym membership, or other similar problems.
The firm will also represent UFT members in the purchase or sale of a primary residence, with fees ranging from $850 to $1,950, depending on the sale price, and $425 for a refinance of your primary residence.
“If you want to talk to a lawyer in New York City, it’s $500 an hour,” Kramer said. “And something like a will or power of attorney for a couple with a child could cost $1,000 or maybe more.”
Learn more about the Legal Plan.