When Will Something Be Done?
Every time legal document assistants join together the subject of illegal document preparers is discussed and at length. They are everywhere, people advertising as paralegals offering skills such as drafting legal memoranda with "guaranteed results." The ads scream "Low Cost!!!" across the page - "Divorce, Custody, Wills" - the list varies, the words often misspelled "Judgement (sic) Collection!" CraigsList is one of the most common venues for these illegal advertisements, the PennySaver another. Even the telephone directories contain listing after listing, down the page, paralegals selling services to consumers.
This is not even the worst of it, there's the clerk who works in the legal department of the DMV who calls himself a paralegal and sells his "paralegal" services to "help" his community - the non-English speaking immigrants. This guy has no idea what he is doing and has a whole drawer of files with one-third completed divorces that will never be finalized. The people will never know that their files languished and that they are not divorced.
And almost in every city where there is a courthouse there is an "Everytown Paralegal." This is an office close to mine -- and yours -- that sells legal documents to consumers. Everytown advertises in all the directories and has been around for years. It is a sole proprietorship owned by a "paralegal." Everytown's letterhead contains the name of the "supervising attorney" which would appear to be legit, however, in my particular case the attorney is not a licensed attorney and is in fact, inactive; and, my particular Everytown has mucked up one family law matter so much that now the lady who is now paying me to prepare her documents has to spend an additional $360 in filing fees alone to correct Everytown's mistakes. The filing fees for her dissolution of marriage, $720 total - for her uncontested dissolution!
There is the illegal (unregistered/unbonded) Immigration Consultant working out of a closet in an economically depressed area of town, taking cash from people without providing contracts or receipts and possessing their birth certificates, marriage certificates, and other personal and private documents and information. Immigration fraud is prevelent thoughout the immigrant community. The serious nature of the process, and the private information required to process these types of documents creates a situation where people can be seriously harmed.
I could go on and on. I have heard so many stories from legitimate legal document assistants and it is sad but true, when we all get together the main topic is stopping the illegals - what can be done? These unregistered rogues are taking advantage of the undereducated, less fortunate, unwary souls who really need appropriate assistance, not more worries. Illegal document preparers harm our profession. They make us all look bad. Once a client has a bad experience, they are not going to differentiate between a legitimate legal document preparer and a rogue - they will think we all must be bad.
Paralegals should know the California Codes and should also be aware of the California statutes concerning the paralegal profession. Any paralegal advertising and selling legal services to consumers is an unregistered legal document rogue - not a paralegal. Under California law paralegals can only work under the direct supervision of a licensed attorney. Paralegals cannot provide their services directly to consumers.
California's current legislation defines the profession of a legal document assistant, immigration consultant and paralegal. The provisions contain the requirements, processes, and punishments for violations. The legislative implementation of consumer protections at present seemingly serve only to protect the consumer from LDAs who are compliant with the laws and who maintain compliance. The consumer protections are listed in the LDA contract which is in turn provided to the client by complying LDAs. Rogues have no use for consumer protections such as posting bonds and registering, providing contracts and receipts. Rogues are free from the expense and time it takes to become legitimate and will continue to harm the public until the government takes necessary action by appointing a governing body to enforce the laws and eliminate rogue legal document preparers.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
When Will Something Be Done?