Duties of a Legal Document Preparer
A legal document preparer, or legal document assistant (LDA), helps prepare documents for the public. Basically, if someone wants to represent themselves in court or another legal matter, an LDA assists them with handling documentation. They can help with cases like guardianship, trademarks, wills, and more.
However, LDAs cannot represent clients or offer legal advice. Instead, they can provide factual information related to their client’s situation.
Majorly, a legal document preparer is a great alternative for cases where an attorney is too costly or simply unnecessary. Indeed, not all civil cases need an attorney. LDAs deal with simple and straightforward matters or may be used at the beginning of a case to save money.
LDA vs. Paralegal
The most notable difference between a legal document preparer and a paralegal is that only paralegals work under an attorney. Sometimes, LDAs are referred to as “independent paralegals” for this reason. However, their responsibilities vary quite a bit.
In most firms, paralegals perform substantial legal work, including preparation for court cases and attorney-guided research. They may also interview clients and witnesses, investigate a claim, and make recommendations to attorneys. On top of their main duties, they also prepare and review documents. Ultimately, they are very involved in the legal process.
LDAs are limited to preparing, storing, and filing legal documents. They may do some research to provide information to clients upon request.
However, both jobs are important in the legal field. As we mentioned, legal document preparers are often hired to avoid the high fees that come with an attorney. These professionals provide vital, affordable work that helps the public resolve important matters.
How to Become a Legal Document Preparer
So, how does someone become a legal document preparer? It majorly depends on your state and jurisdiction. You may need to enroll in a college program, register in your county, or just have experience in the field. For example, California has strict standards before you can practice as an LDA, while Florida has none. If you’re interested in this career, you must first research your area’s requirements.
Education and Registration
Even if your state doesn’t require any formal education, it’s recommended you have some sort of experience or training. Legal documents are sensitive. Thus, mistakes can severely impact someone’s life. If you’ve worked as or taken paralegal courses, you may be prepared to work as an LDA. If you have no prior experience, you might consider taking a paralegal diploma course or related classes. Notably, some colleges offer programs specifically designed for prospective LDAs.
If your state requires registration, you’ll need to show proof of your education or experience. For example, in California, you must meet one of the following requirements:
- High school diploma or equivalent and two years of experience under a licensed attorney
- Any bachelor’s degree and one year of experience under a licensed attorney
- ABA-approved legal document preparer program
- Completed twenty-four college credits through an accredited program
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, paralegal and legal assistant jobs will see higher than average growth at twelve percent. In other words, many new openings and opportunities will appear over the next ten years. Legal document assistants can expect to find work and clients as attorney fees continue to rise.
Notably, law is one of the more stable industries. Getting in as an LDA allows you to find steady employment in the future.
The salary of this position depends on your location. According to ZipRecruiter, most legal document preparers earn between $31,500 and $42,500 annually. In some areas, you may find that the average starting salary leans closer to $50,000.
Growth and Opportunities
As a legal document preparer, your growth will mainly depend on how many clients you bring in. Indeed, with experience and word of mouth, you’re more likely to earn more, and you’ll be able to charge more.
Since the legal field is highly regulated, there isn’t much of an opportunity to move upwards in this position. However, you can use your experience to become a paralegal. Paralegals earn a median income of $56,230 annually. Alternatively, you may use your knowledge to move around in the court system or even start your journey to become an attorney.
Lakewood University offers a variety of online and accredited paralegal and legal assistant programs. Our legal document preparer program consists of twenty-four credit hours and provides the knowledge necessary to excel in the field. Additionally, you’ll learn the basics of paralegal studies, study torts and contracts, and explore legal analysis and writing.
Interested in entering the field of law? Don’t hesitate – reach out to our admissions department today!