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:
To qualify as a Legal Document Assistant, a person must:
- Distribute to their customers legal materials that have been published or approved by a lawyer
- Prepare the customers' legal documents under the direction of their customers
- File the customers' legal documents in the appropriate courts
Every Legal Document Assistant is required to use a
Contract. The Contract will provide appropriate notice to the
Legal Document Assistants customers regarding the scope of the customers
rights and the Legal Document Assistants duties.
- Register with each County in which they work
- Post a $25,000 Bond
- Establish that he or she has a minimum level of experience and/or education
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.
Who are Legal Document Assistants? (LDA)
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.
- A Legal Document Assistant is NOT a Lawyer.
- By law, they cannot give you legal advice or
represent you in the courts in any matter.
- If you need to consult with an attorney, your LDA will be able to provide
you with a referral.
- We always suggest that you be sure to ask the LDA you are thinking of
retaining if he or she is bonded and registered in their county. This is for your protection.
All LDAs listed on our Member Search Engine are registered and bonded by their counties.
If a person is acting as an LDA but is not registered and bonded, then they are operating illegally
in California. The Bond is for your protection!
What does an LDA do?
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.
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.
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.
What is the advantage of hiring an LDA?
- LDAs provide a low-cost alterative to hiring an attorney for routine paperwork.
- In many cases, one visit will usually be sufficient for you to be able
to handle most matters.
- LDAs will provide you with top-quality legal typing assistance.
Do I need an LDA?
- If you do not
know your legal rights in a situation, chances are highly likely that
you may need to see an attorney.
- If you already have decided on a course of action, but are uncertain
about how to fill out the paperwork, you may need your own personal LDA.
- If you recently bought a legal self-help book, an LDA may be especially
helpful in helping you finish and file your legal paperwork.
How can an LDA help me?
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:
- Assignment of Personal Property
- Case completion
- Certification of Trust
- Child Support Calculation
- Child Support
- Child Custody
- Corporations, partnerships, LLCs
- Civil actions
- Divorce and other "Family law" matters
- Emancipation of Minor
- Health Care Directives
- Immigration and Citizenship (Only LDAs that carry the additional required IM Bond and who are registered with the Secretary of State may help with this type of service.)
- Marital Settlement Agreements
- Modification of Child Support
- Name changes
- Orders to show cause
- Pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements
- Powers of Attorney
- Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO)
- Quit Claim Deeds
- Small Claims
- Living trusts
- Settlement Agreements
- Spousal support
- Typing documents
- Unlawful detainer / eviction
- Wage garnishments
- and MANY others!
Few LDAs provide every service above. Each LDA in our Search Engine 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 thry 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) 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.
(b) 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.
(c) 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.
(d) A certificate of completion from a paralegal program approved
by the American Bar Association.
What exactly IS CALDA?
The history of CALDA can be found on our About Us page.
Read our Mission Statement to learn more about CALDA's goals.
What's the best way to contact CALDA?
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.
How can I get a Referral for an LDA?
If you are looking for an LDA to help you, the fastest and easiest method is by
visiting our Member Roster Search Engine. However,
if you can't locate what you need there, visit our Referrals page to contact our
Membership chairperson, and he or she will try to find an LDA in your area with the experience you need.