I am not a lawyer, I am a judgment referral expert (Judgment Broker). This article is my opinion, based on my experience in California, and laws vary in each state. Nothing in any of my articles should ever be considered legal advice. If you ever need legal advice or a strategy to use, you should contact a lawyer.
In this article, when LDP is used, it means a Legal Document Preparer or Legal Document Preparation. In this article, LDP also means Legal Document Assistant (LDA), which means almost the same thing – a person with education and training, who is usually state licensed. What a LDP can or cannot do depends on which state they are operating in. In some states, State Bars have stopped LDAs from helping people.
LDPs do not offer a legal service, however they can help you fill out the court’s or the Sheriff’s legal forms. Sometimes LDPs are also process servers, court researchers, or court runners – and can sometimes file or serve your documents.
LDPs do not, and cannot offer legal advice. Most will not even give you their direct opinion, because that might be too close to being considered an Unauthorized Practice Of Law. (See Business and Professions Code Section 6400 A.) LDPs usually will not select forms for you. Instead, they can refer you to pre-printed brochures and flyers, with the same information that a web search would show.
The legal situation when at LDPs, is similar to when you are at a court clerk’s window. Neither of them can give you legal advice, but both can show you to where you can learn what to do, and then you can come back and tell them what you want done. (Usually they will tell you when you fill out something wrong, however they still cannot give you legal advice.)
Depending on which state, some people hire LDPs for do-it-yourself divorce, unlawful detainer, lawsuits, bankruptcies, wills, judgment enforcement, and many other tasks where one wants help to do the legal forms or tasks themselves.
The primary advantage of using an LDP is they can save you money. If your needs are simple and there are no complications, and you know what you are doing, you can save a lot of money using a LDP.
In some states, where lawyers take very few judgment recovery cases on contingency, and collection agencies charge too much upfront and too much as a percentage, and/or judgment enforcers have been put out of business by state bars (or have become too picky), or where small claims judgments cannot be assigned, LDAs can be a solution to try to get judgments recovered.
There are many disadvantages to using a LDP:
1) If your case or task has any kind of complication or opposition, you may have to pay a lawyer the same, or more money, than if you went to them first, and you will also have already paid the LDP.
2) Just because you can do something legally does not mean you should. A good lawyer can advise you about whether it is worth trying something, a LDP cannot.
3) Lawsuits can be won, and judgments can be recovered on a contingency basis. Contingency is an important concept and LDPs are are not on contingency. Contingency lets you spend no money and no time, and someone else works and pays to get your goal accomplished. LDPs are always pay as you go.
4) If you pay for a LDA to help you recover your judgment, often you must also pay for a private investigator, and pay courts, sheriffs, and process servers.
Good web sites to learn more are: Wikipedia, and in California, www.calda.org/Information.asp