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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.
For example, 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. However, just 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.