Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Using Legal Document Services

Question: Can a business pay an individual or legal document preparation service to fill out and file debt collection forms like wage garnishments, etc.?

Answer: You can hire anybody you want, but the real question is whether the person or service you hire is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Unless the service is provided or supervised by any attorney, legal document preparation services are generally limited to filling out forms and filing them. They cannot legally advise you how to fill out the forms or what forms to file. There are certain areas of the law where you can be represented by a non-attorney or have your documents prepared by a non-attorney, but legal document preparation services generally should not be providing any specific advice.

In its most general sense, the practice of law involves giving legal advice to clients, drafting legal documents for clients, and representing clients in legal negotiations and court proceedings such as lawsuits, and is applied to the professional services of a lawyer or Attorney at Law. However, there is a substantial amount of overlap between the practice of law and various other professions where clients are represented by agents. These professions include real estate, banking, accounting, and insurance.

Moreover, a growing number of independent paralegals are offering services which have traditionally been offered only by lawyers and their employee paralegals. Many documents may now be drafted by computer assisted drafting libraries, where the clients are asked a series of questions posed by the software in order to construct the legal documents. Custom and practice vary by state, so the best advice is to at least ask an attorney for an opinion before completing any important transaction

About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.

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