Editor’s note: On July 18, the Vanguard published an article, “Bar Wants Supervision and Control of Legal Document Assistant Professionals, Union Says.” In response, Leah Wilson, the executive director, sent a letter that was published on July 20. This letter is in response.
by Richard Lubetzky
I am writing on behalf of the California Association of Legal Document Assistants (“CALDA”), as its General Counsel, to clarify some misstatements made by Leah Wilson, the Executive Director of the State Bar of California, in her recent letter to The Davis Vanguard concerning CALDA.
Ms. Wilson stated in her letter that CALDA’s leadership has not evidenced a collaborative spirit to work with the State Bar to enable Californians to safely access reputable legal services. This is entirely untrue. CALDA has made a number of suggestions for making reasonable enhancements to protect the public, such as requiring background checks for legal document assistants, but the State Bar is unwilling to accept any such suggestions, short of being the regulatory body for legal document assistants.
Ms. Wilson makes much of the State Bar’s mission to protect the public, but fails to mention that the State Auditor issued a report in April, which found that the State Bar was doing an inadequate job of dealing with attorneys who persistently violate ethical standards, thus failing to deter future misconduct. Is this really the type of agency that we want to regulate legal document assistants? Additionally, a large number of complaints made against legal document assistants come from attorneys who are seeking to have legal document assistants put out of business.
Indeed, the State Bar has denied a public records request made by CALDA to review these complaints.
Any member of the public may call the local county clerk to find out if a particular legal document assistant is registered and has posted the required bond. The county clerk may deny the registration application of a legal document assistant if it is determined that the legal document assistant does not meet the qualifications for registration, and may revoke a legal document assistant’s registration for good cause. In both cases, the decision of the county clerk is subject to review by the Department of Consumer Affairs, the same agency that is responsible for drafting the contract that legal document assistants are required to use, and for drafting the consumer notices that legal document assistants are required to provide to their customers. And if a legal document assistant fails to properly perform, a complaint can be filed with the county clerk, county consumer affairs office or Better Business Bureau, the local prosecutor, the Department of Consumer Affairs, and yes, even the State Bar.
In short, CALDA has never been opposed to reasonable regulation, just not regulation by the State Bar, which the organization believes is not in the best interest of either practicing legal document assistants, or the general public.
Richard Lubetzky is general counsel to California Association of Legal Document Assistants (“CALDA”)