Legal Document Assistants in the State of California are sometimes incorrectly referred to as Independent Paralegals or Freelance Paralegals. On September 30, 1998 Governor Pete Wilson signed California State Senate Bill SB1418, regulating the legal document preparation profession in the State of California, and creating a new formal title, Legal Document Assistant
While many LDAs have paralegal education and experience, they are not the same as paralegals. Under California law, a paralegal is prohibited from providing services directly to the consumer. Paralegals may only be employed by an attorney, law firm, corporation, governmental agency, or other entity; and work under the direct supervision of a licensed attorney within the scope of that employment.
Unlike paralegals, Legal Document Assistants (LDAs) are authorized by law to provide legal document preparation services to consumers, after complying with the registration and bonding requirements. Neither paralegals nor LDAs are permitted to engage in the practice of law.
Legal Document Assistants are not lawyers and do not offer legal advice, discuss legal strategies, answer questions of a legal nature, select forms for the consumer, or appear in court on the consumer’s behalf. They are professionals, qualified through education, training or work experience, authorized to assist consumers representing themselves in legal matters by preparing and processing the necessary legal documents.
A Legal Document Assistant, as defined by the California Business & Professions Code (Section 6400 (c)) is: Any person who is otherwise not exempted and who provides, or assists in providing, or offers to provide, or offers to assist in providing, for compensation, any self-help service to a member of the public who is representing himself or herself in a legal matter, or who holds himself or herself out as someone who offers that service or has that authority, or a corporation, partnership, association, or other entity that employs or contracts with any person who is not otherwise exempted who, as part of his or her responsibilities, provides, or assists in providing, or offers to provide, or offers to assist in providing, for compensation, any self-help service to a member of the public who is representing himself or herself in a legal matter or holds himself or herself out as someone who offers that service or has that authority
“The single biggest challenge confronting the state courts in America in the first decade of this new century is the rising number of self-represented litigants. They enter our courthouses in increasing numbers and compound our dockets,” said New Hampshire Chief Justice John T. Broderick, Jr. in his remarks at the 2008 Equal Justice Conference in Minneapolis. Broderick went on to state that, “The self-represented are no longer just the poor, but their ranks now include more members of the middle class and a rising number of small businesses.”