By Harry C. Alford

NNPA Columnist

Legal Shield was first known as PrePaid Legal and that is where this story begins.  This is a story of a relationship between the National Black Chamber of Commerce and this network of top legal firms and the company’s representatives selling the services it provides.  Only in America could this relationship have happened.

My first encounter with the firm was back in the early 1990s.  We were based in Indianapolis with the start of our first experiment, The Hoosier Minority Chamber of Commerce.  We hired a photographer to cover one of our events.  The guy went well beyond scope and demanded pay for that mistake.  I told him I will accept only the pictures I requested and will pay for only that.  A week later I received a demand letter from renowned local attorney Linda Pence.  The matter concerned $400 and I quickly decided to pay it rather than go head to head with this fierce and reputable legal ace. After that I called the photographer and asked, “How did you get Linda Pence to represent you?”  He said:  “Easy! I have PrePaid Legal coverage. They have my back.”

Years later, I was attending a board of directors meeting at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce when one of the officers approached me and said, “Harlan Stonecipher, CEO of PrePaid Legal, wants to talk to you after the board meeting.”  He pointed out Harlan and I approached him after the meeting.  Harlan explained to me that he has a very important form of legal service for common citizens.  It provides insurance like service which clients can use whenever they have a need for legal service.  It is affordable and gives them the use of top notch legal firms to serve their needs.  “We are successful but, still, I want to share this service with more of the Black community.  Can I and you figure this out and work together?”  I agreed.

Soon I had lunch with one of PrePaid Legal’s top performers, Darnell Self, who happens to be Black. We mapped a strategy.  I would go on the road motivating their representatives and Darnell would meet the NBCC Board of Directors and present at our conferences.  Before long, that developed in my speaking via DVD’s and keynoting at their annual events.  I even testified before Congress (Congressional Black Caucus African American Male Initiative) about the advantages of PrePaid Legal in the Black community.

It was an easy sell for me.  I was witnessing Black males and females gaining wealth through the selling of this great service.  Former postal workers, unemployed, ex-offenders, etc. were now making $150,000-plus per year selling this fantastic service.  While the service was answering the needs of many people with problems, quandaries and other legal aspects (saving a lot of youngsters from jail for example), the representatives were being compensated well.  Many had been living in poverty their whole lives but were now buying homes, sending their children to college and building long-term wealth for their families.

The NBCC started telling the world about this phenomenon. Darnell’s division of the network is called Team NuVision and it is about 90 percent Black.  At one of their regional meetings, I keynoted before 4,000 Team NuVision representatives.  I got so motivated that I declared them all to be members (gratis) of the NBCC and to put that in their bios.  They all jumped up and cheered for eight minutes.  This gave them credibility as they worked in their communities.  At this time, Darnell had about 40,000 representatives in his network.  Today, he has more than 470,000.  His representatives are based from the island of Tonga to the east coast of the United States.  We put him on our board of directors and gave him our prestigious “Entrepreneur of the Year Award.”

At this time, PrePaid Legal was publicly traded.  Some “short sellers” on Wall St. wanted to defame them so that their stock would lose value.  The New York Post would call me and rant why I supported them.  In the end, even Black Enterprise wrote a very scathing and unfair article about them.  We were appalled and went to “war” with these naysayers.

Soon, Harlan Stonecipher would sell his company for $650 million. Only in America can a boy from the Ozarks turn a dream into a fortune.  The company is now privately owned and is known as Legal Shield.  A few weeks ago, we met with the new executives of the company, including Darnell Self, and have decided to join together and promote their new product. Before, they concentrated on personal or family service but now they also have a plan for small business owners and that excites us immensely.  Stay tuned as we take it to another level serving the needs of business owners throughout our great nation.

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO, of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®.  Website: Email: