According to Legal Services Corporation, in the United States, nearly a million poor people seeking legal services from attorneys are usually turned away by attorneys for lack of adequate resources.
Additionally, in New York City, an estimated 91% of petitioners and 92% of respondents lack legal representation in child support matters. Further damning are the figures for tenants representing themselves in eviction proceedings, which stand at 99%. The foregoing is that a lack of legal representation increases the chances of a tenant getting a possessory judgment.
With this in mind, one needs to hire the services of a lawyer. However, they are costly. And so, people often take the route of self-representation.
Nonetheless, if you are taking the route of self-representation, hiring a legal document assistant increases your chances of having a successful outcome in your case.
In this article, I will explain what a legal document assistant does, the types of documents they prepare, and the benefits of engaging their services.
What is a legal document assistant?
A legal document assistant is a non-lawyer who prepares or provides legal documents for people doing their own legal tasks, such as representing themselves in a lawsuit.
Sometimes the term “legal document assistant” is a substitute for “legal document preparer”.
A legal document preparer is thus an important person for people who wish to represent themselves in the courts or other judicial tribunals.
In general, their work is to help one prepare legal documents and file these documents with the appropriate courts.
How does a paralegal differ?
A subtle difference exists between the tasks done by a legal document assistant when compared to those of a paralegal
However, unlike a paralegal, a legal document preparer can make documents without the supervision of an attorney.
In addition, since paralegals work under an attorney, they have more research and court preparation experience.
Why do I need a legal document preparer?
The advantage of seeking the services of a legal document preparer is that they help in typing and filing the necessary and required paperwork
A certified legal document assistant follows a pre-instruction sheet prepared by a licensed attorney, which specifies the types of forms that need to be filled out with the court in a particular lawsuit.
Thus, they cannot advise on exactly what form is needed for what matters; they simply rely on the guidelines provided by an attorney.
What documents can a legal document assistant help prepare?
A Legal document preparer can help with almost all legal documents.
However, it is important to engage them to know their limits.
Where they can’t help, chances are they will refer you to one who can handle your document.
Among others, legal document assistants will help with the following documents:
- Adoption papers
- Marital Settlement Agreements
- Modification of Settlement agreements
- Name change
- Child support and child support calculation
- Child custody
Why should I hire a legal document preparer?
There are several reasons why you should hire a legal document preparer.
Here are 5 benefits of hiring a legal document preparer
- First, the cost of hiring the services of a legal document preparer is cheaper as compared to that of an attorney.
- Second, a legal document preparer is a certified and experienced professional who can help you avoid errors when making a legal document.
- Third, statistics reveal that most people who represent themselves in courts have little to no success. For example, their case might get struck out due to incorrectly filed forms,
- Fourth, as stated in the paragraph above, legal documents are complex and you might fill out the forms wrongly, hence delaying your case for a long time. Thus, engaging a legal document preparer can help you avoid such anisate as they provide top-quality typing assistance
- Lastly, it is time-saving, as one visit is enough to get your documents ready.
Precautions when engaging a legal document assistant
However, before agreeing to hire a legal document preparer, take note that they are not lawyers. Hence, it is illegal for them to give legal advice or to represent one in court.
In addition, ensure that the legal document preparer is bonded and registered in their county of work.
How do I become a legal document preparer?
The laws on how to become a legal document assistant vary according to state laws and regulations. For example, some states such as California have much more stringent requirements whereas states like Florida have no requirements.
Therefore, if you want to become one, make sure you check the specific state laws.
Nonetheless, I would advise you to have a formal education.
This is because clients would prefer a legal document preparer who has undergone some form of training.
Also, the lack of the necessary training can jeopardize one’s chances of getting clients.
Therefore, regardless of the state you are in, it is important to have formal education and accreditation as a certified legal document assistant.
This will increase the client’s confidence in your work and further increase the chances of getting referrals.
Generally, for one to become a legal document preparer, they would need to have one of the following requirements:
- A High school diploma or its equivalent and two years of experience working under a licensed attorney
- Any Bachelor’s degree plus one year of experience working under a licensed attorney
- Evidence of completion of twenty-four college credits through an accredited program
- Evidence of completion of an ABA-approved legal document preparer program
In California, to qualify as a legal document preparer you need to register in the county of work, post a $25000 bond, and establish that you have the minimum level of experience and education.
to note, if you want to become a legal document preparer you should have the willingness to learn, be passionate about research, and develop the ability to work independently without supervision.
In short, legal document assistants are experienced in making legal documents for people who require such documents.
Additionally, if you are planning to represent yourself in court, it is important to involve a legal document assistant,
As I have discussed above, failure to hire one can delay your lawsuit due to technicalities. Consequently, you also increase the chances of your lawsuit being unsuccessful.
I hope the article has been of help to you,