Who are legal document preparers?
Legal document preparers, known in different settings as legal technicians, online legal document providers and independent paralegals, are not lawyers and do not offer legal advice. They are professionals, qualified through education, training or work experience, who provide the public with a simple and affordable option in handling their legal affairs.
Legal document preparers help consumers represent themselves in undisputed legal matters by preparing the necessary legal documents to court standards, bypassing the often unnecessary hiring of an attorney and avoiding accompanying high-cost attorney fees. According to USA TODAY, Americans could save $3.3 billion a year by using independent paralegals instead of lawyers to handle routine legal matters.
What is a legal document?
A legal document is any official document that provides legal information, states a contractual relationship, or grants some right. Most legal matters require that official forms-which are often complex-are filled out and filed with the courts. Incorrectly filled out legal forms will delay your case, often for long periods of time.
What does a legal document preparer do?
A legal document preparer is an experienced professional who is authorized to prepare legal documents for a client, but only at the direction of the client. Because legal document preparers do not practice law, they cannot make suggestions as to what a client should do in a particular matter, but they provide invaluable assistance with routine legal tasks that can be confusing and overwhelming to untrained citizens. They can provide legal information to a client, not legal advice.
A customer who has decided on a legal course of action uses an attorney-approved instruction list to provide all of the necessary information to pursue their matter, which the legal document preparer subsequently uses to complete, verify and often submit the corresponding legal documents. An experienced legal document preparer can help you avoid incorrectly filled out forms. With the knowledge and experience to make sure every important detail is accounted for, legal document preparers are a smart choice for your legal endeavors.
Legal Information vs. Legal Advice
Legal document preparation is the distribution of legal information to the public. The distribution of legal information is different from the distribution of legal services and is the legal basis for the industry. Understanding the difference between “legal information” and “legal advice” is crucial for understanding how non-lawyers can provide legal information services without violating state unauthorized practice of law statutes.
Legal information is general in nature and not tailored to the unique facts of a customer’s situation. Legal information is neutral and does not recommend a strategic course based on the judgment of the individual offering the information. Thus, the person offering the information might tell a customer of options that are available in response to the legal problem, but would not suggest what option to take. Similarly, legal information might inform an individual of forms that are appropriate to use and the general information about what to include in a statement of facts or a request for relief. A legal information provider, or legal document preparer, cannot suggest the specific facts to put on the forms.
Legal advice, in contrast, is specific to the unique circumstances of the client. It is strategic in that it offers an approach that is tailored to the factual situation of the client and goes beyond mere general advice appropriate for all persons who confront the same issue. The giving of legal advice is legal representation and creates an attorney-client relationship.
Is a legal document preparer the same as a paralegal?
No. Although definitions vary by state, paralegals generally work under the direct supervision of lawyers, while legal document preparers, legal technicians, online legal document preparers and independent paralegals do not. Paralegals do not work independently for consumers while Legal document assistants (LDA's) work directly with consumers and are trained to assist in the process of producing legal documents when a lawyer is not necessary.
LDAs 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 (Business & Professions Code 6400). The registration is valid for two years, at which time it must be renewed.
Can a legal document preparer help me?
If you do not know your legal rights in a situation, you should see an attorney; but not all legal matters require an attorney. If you have already decided on a course of action and the matter is undisputed, a legal document preparer is an efficient and affordable alternative to hiring a lawyer. Or, if you have purchased a self-help legal book, a legal document preparer may be especially helpful in finishing, verifying and filing your paperwork.
Who uses legal document preparers?
There is no one type of person who uses legal document preparers; for some, it is avoiding the high-cost of legal fees; for others, it is avoiding the often unnecessary hassle of hiring a lawyer, and for others it is for an added peace of mind when filing their own court documents. What they all have in common is the desire for an affordable, efficient and effective solution for their self- representation needs.