Paralegal Career Option: Finding Your Niche As a Legal Document Preparer

My career path has been a winding road that has led me back on the path of my destiny. As a result, making a career choice to be a Legal Document Preparer (for non-lawyers), Virtual Paralegal and Blogger (for attorneys in good standing with the state bar), and Bankruptcy Petition Preparer (non-lawyer bankruptcy) required extensive research and expertise. 



A person may be thinking that you are simply typing legal forms so what is the difference? Before someone chooses a career in any or all of the above document preparer services, it is important to understand the difference between the titles in order to be in compliance with your state's laws.

By law, individuals who type legal forms are restricted from using certain titles under certain circumstances. Each title requires specific qualifications which are regulated by statute and the state bar association. Also, each specific title is for a consumer's protection to ensure that each consumer understands who they are dealing with for services.

Using the wrong term or advertisement language may lead to a 3rd degree felony with the charge of the unauthorized practice of law (UPL). As a result, it is imperative that a website be set up with the intention to be in compliance with Federal and State law no matter which state you plan to do your business.

WHEN TO USE THE TITLE OF LEGAL DOCUMENT PREPARER

In some states, the title for non-lawyer document preparers of legal forms is called a Legal Document Preparer. When the Legal Document Preparer title is used it informs the consumer that the Legal Document Preparer is not supervised by an attorney. The title is intended to inform the consumer that the individual is a non-lawyer.

For example, in some states, before a Legal Document Preparer can begin inserting the information in a state's approved court forms for a dissolution of marriage, he or she must:

Have the client sign a Disclosure from Non-lawyer form. In the state which I reside in they require a Form 12.900(a) to be executed before beginning to fill in the forms.

In some states, a Legal Document Preparer needs to obtain a hand written client intake or questionnaire that was relied upon to fill out the Court-approved forms.

NO legal advice or recommendations regarding choice of legal forms for a consumer to choose is to be provided. Otherwise, it is construed as the unauthorized practice of law (UPL).

Fill out the nonlawyer section of each document that was prepared by the Legal Document Preparer.

Retain a copy of all legal documents prepared for 6 years.


PARALEGAL TITLE REQUIREMENTS

When the Paralegal title is used it informs the consumer that the document preparer is working under the supervision of a licensed attorney authorized to practice law in the state of the business. Therefore, in certain states an individual may only use the Paralegal title when working for lawyers. In a law office setting, with supervision of an attorney, you may identify yourself as a paralegal in most states.

If you decide to start your own document preparer business without attorney supervision, you may be required to clearly inform the consumer that you are a Legal Document Preparer and not a Paralegal in some states.

BANKRUPTCY PETITION PREPARER TITLE

When the Bankruptcy Petition Preparer title is used it informs the consumer that the petition preparer is a non-lawyer. Notice that there is no reference to the word "legal" in the title. A Bankruptcy Petitioner Preparer is defined as: "[B]ankruptcy petition preparer means a person, other than an attorney for the debtor or an employee of such attorney under the direct supervision of such attorney, who prepares for compensation a document for filing." 11 U.S.C.  110(a)(1).

You may not advertise using the word legal or advertise under the title of legal services.

As with any business venture or career move, it is a good idea to do some of your own research. For certain people this type of career is lucrative while for others it may be a means to support their family while working from home.






Susan M Signer Services is a multi-service company located in Florida providing Legal Document Preparer services for nonlawyers, notary public services, wedding officiant, web designer, and article writer. If you need any assistance you may go to [http://www.signerservices.com]Susan M Signer Services site. 

1 comment:

Olga Aquino said...

Thank you for this information. I like reading about how other paralegals use their education and experience to branch out into work outside of a traditional law firm office.

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