A New Profession in California
For the first time, a new California law known as SB1418 authorizes non-lawyers to prepare legal documents for people doing their own legal tasks. Effective January 1, 2000, these non-lawyers, called Legal Document Assistants, may:
Every Legal Document Assistant is required to use a Contract. The Contract will provide appropriate notice to the Legal Document Assistant’s customers regarding the scope of the customers’ rights and the Legal Document Assistant’s duties. This Bill was passed for your protection. When you look to hire a Legal Document Assistant after January 1, 2000 be sure to ask if he or she is bonded and registered.
Legal Document Assistants were once commonly known as Independent Paralegals. However, as of January 1st, 2000, only those Paralegals working directly for attorneys may now be referred to as Paralegals. Those formerly known as Independent Paralegals are now officially known as Legal Document Assistants (LDAs). LDAs often have the same educational background as a paralegal and are REQUIRED by law to be registered and bonded in the county in which they have their principal place of business. Please Note:
An LDA is an experienced professional who is authorized to prepare legal documents for a client, but only at the direction of the client. In other words, an LDA is there to assist the “self-help” client handle their own legal matters without the cost of an attorney. Since even the best legal, self-help books can be confusing and overwhelming, your LDA can provide invaluable assistance with routine legal tasks, such as typing and filing the paperwork for uncontested divorces, bankruptcies, wills, and many other types of documents. Again, because an LDA is forbidden to practice law of any sort, they cannot make suggestions as to what the client needs done for a particular matter, or what forms that the client must file with the state or the other party to the action.
For example, to file an uncontested divorce in California, there are approximately 6 different forms which must be filled out exactly. Naturally, the average client doesn’t know what forms he or she needs. The LDA is not allowed to suggest to the client what forms would be necessary for an uncontested divorce, because that requires legal know-how and legal judgment, and it constitutes UPL(unauthorized practice of law). The LDA is, however, allowed to have a pre-printed instruction sheet or list, prepared by a licensed California Attorney, which specifies what forms are needed for an uncontested divorce. The LDA can merely hand over the sheet and tell the client: “Here is what a lawyer says you need for a divorce. Would you like me to fill out THESE forms for you?”
The same goes, naturally, for ALL other services the LDA provides. They must have a detailed guide, approved by an attorney, stating exactly what forms are needed. The LDA is not allowed to use his or her judgement and say, “Well, really you’re talking about this type of case instead of that type of case. Therefore, you should follow this course of action and file THESE forms instead.” The CLIENT must know what he or she wants, and what forms to use (or decide on the forms based on the attorney-approved instruction list), and the LDA is there to fill in the forms. However, just because an LDA is only there to fill out forms doesn’t mean they aren’t an invaluable resource for your legal matter. Many, if not all, legal forms are very confusing; incorrectly filled out forms will delay your case, possibly for a long time. An experienced LDA can help you avoid the pitfalls and also make sure every important detail on a form is accounted for. This alone makes them the best choice for your self-help legal endeavors. As all certified LDAs are professionals trained in multiple fields, there are a number of services they can provide.
LDAs are often trained in many areas and frequently specialize in multiple fields. This means that your LDA may be able to help you prepare your documents for:
Few LDAs provide every service above. Each LDA in our Directory has his or her own listing of the services that LDA can perform. In order to make your search as fast as possible, you can also perform a search on just the Legal Self-Help service you are in need of!
What Legislation Involves Legal Document Assistants?
One of our goals is to provide as much education and information regarding LDAs as possible. Click here for detailed information about the legislation that deals directly with Legal Document Assistants. Independent Paralegals are now referred to as Legal Document Assistants. All LDAs and UDAs now have to identify themselves on each document they prepare as well as in other areas such as advertising, etc. Section 6408 of the Business and Professional Code is amended to read:
The registrant’s name, business address, telephone number, registration number, expiration date, and county of registration shall appear on any solicitation or advertisement, and on any appropriate papers or documents prepared or used by the registrant, including, but not limited to, contracts, letterheads, business cards, correspondence, documents, forms, claims, petitions, checks, receipts, money orders, and pleadings. If an applicant has an office in more than one county where the work is performed in that county then they will have to register and provide a copy of the bond.
The basic requirements to be an LDA are:
To be eligible to apply for registration under this chapter as a legal document assistant, the applicant shall possess at least one of the following:
- A high school diploma or general equivalency diploma, and either a minimum of two years of law-related experience under the supervision of a licensed attorney, or a minimum of two years experience, prior to January 1, 1999, providing self-help service.
- A baccalaureate degree in any field and either a minimum of one year of law-related experience under the supervision of a licensed attorney, or a minimum of one year of experience, prior to January 1, 1999, providing self-help service.
- A certificate of completion from a paralegal program that is institutionally accredited but not approved by the American Bar Association, that requires successful completion of a minimum of 24 semester units, or the equivalent, in legal specialization courses.
- A certificate of completion from a paralegal program approved by the American Bar Association.
The history of CALDA can be found on our About Us page. Read our Mission Statement to learn more about CALDA’s goals.
You can find the best person to handle your question by visiting our Board of Directors page. Other CALDA Members can be found in our Search Engine. If you have a complaint about a specific CALDA Member you can fill out our Complaint Form.
If you are looking for an LDA to help you, the fastest and easiest method is by visiting our Member Roster Search Engine.