Paralegal v Legal Document Assistant (LDA)?
The Law Office of Margaret D. Wilson now offers document preparation services for divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, and marital settlement agreements. The divorce process can be very complicated, especially if children are involved. Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to hire an attorney who can guide you in the right direction to prepare your documents for you? In addition, there are timelines and deadlines that must be met when filing and serving certain legal documents.
Why should I hire an attorney over a legal document assistant / independent paralegal?
First, there is no such thing as an independent paralegal to the public. An independent paralegal by definition is “a person who holds himself or herself out to be a paralegal, who is qualified by education, training, or work experience, who either contracts with or is employed by an attorney, law firm, corporation, governmental agency, or other entity, and who performs substantial legal work under the direction and supervision of an active member of the State Bar of California” California Business and Professions Code §6450(a). As a result a “paralegal” cannot provide assistance to the public directly and must work under the direct supervision of an attorney.
Those who used to hold themselves out as “independent paralegals” were given the opportunity to continue providing services to the public but must now refer to themselves as “Legal Document Assistants”. A Legal Document Assistant (“LDA”) is a person who provides assistance to the public in filling out documents. A LDA cannot provide legal advice and must fill out documents at the customer’s specific direction. In order to qualify as an LDA a person must meet certain educational and/or experience requirements and are required to be registered and bonded. California Business and Professions Code §§6402-6415.
The benefits of hiring an attorney: (1) in general attorneys have substantial legal education and expertise; (2) an attorney can give you advice; (3) an attorney can appear and represent you in court; (4) experience dealing with Judges in court; (5) experience dealing with opposing counsel; (6) ability to do legal research and give you advice on their findings; (7) attorney’s answer to the California Bar for their conduct; and (8) attorneys have to pass a morals application to be admitted to the bar.
The benefit of hiring a good LDA is that they can prepare court forms and preprinted legal forms for the public usually at a fraction of the cost that most attorneys charge. Should you need (1) legal advice or (2) representation in court, then a good LDA will refer you to the State Bar for an attorney referral. Some LDAs have a working relationship with attorneys and at times may suggest that you set up a free consultation to see if you like them before hiring the attorney.
Be careful when hiring a legal document assistant to make sure they are registered and bonded, as all good LDAs are. If you encounter a legal document assistant or document preparation company that does not understand that they need to be registered and bonded then we suggest that you do not give them your business for your own protection. While our prices are comparable to most LDAs for legal document assistance, if you really want to hire a LDA we recommend that you contact CALDA at www.CALDA.org to find a reputable LDA in your area.
What kind of documents can you prepare for me?
- Divorce (Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Response)
- Documents to establish or modify Child Custody, Support, and/or Visitation
- Documents to establish or modify Spousal Support / Alimony
- Petition to Establish Paternity / Father’s Rights
- Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
- Regardless of your document needs owe can provide you with the help you need from start to finish.