Legal Document Assistants in the State of California are still sometimes incorrectly referred to as "independent paralegals" or "freelance paralegals," even though it has been more than a decade since those terms became obsolete by law. 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 (LDA).
While many LDAs have paralegal education and experience, in California 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, 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.
LDAs 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 California Association of Legal Document Assistants was established in August 1986, and was formerly known as “California Association of Independent Paralegals” (CAIP). CALDA is the time-honored organization for legal document preparation professionals and supporters of this profession. CALDA promotes and encourages high standards of ethical and professional conduct while offering its members educational opportunities, professional alliance, a website business listing, member forum exchange, and attorney approved printed brochure materials. Commitment is given to increasing public access to the legal system and CALDA recognizes the Legal Document Assistant’s professional responsibilities to the public, to the legal system, and to colleagues.
CALDA promotes growth, development, and recognition of the Legal Document Assistants’ profession as an integral partner in the delivery of legal services. Membership consists of registered and bonded California Legal Document Assistants, Bankruptcy Petition Preparers, Social Security Disability Advocates, SSI Advocates, and sustaining members who support and enhance the LDA profession.
CALDA’s Board of directors is composed of members who volunteer to help run and manage this organization: Nancy Newlin (President), Connie Crokett (Vice President), Jeannie Bruins (Chief Financial Officer), Carol Ludlow (Secretary), Robin Schumacher (Vice President of Central Valley Chapter-CALDA), Angela Grijalva (Newsletter Chair) and (President of the Capital City Chapter), Jim Wilroy (Legislative Chair) and Carlo Perez (Educational Chair).
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