By Leah Wilson
I wanted to point out some inaccuracies in the article, “Bar Wants Supervision and Control of Legal Document Assistant Professionals, Union Says.” First, the State Bar of California is not seeking to supervise or control Legal Document Assistants (LDAs), and has not been involved in any discussions regarding the sunset clause referenced in the article. CALDA, a voluntary membership organization that does not represent all LDAs, indicates that the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) supervises LDAs. This is inaccurate. LDAs are not currently regulated by the DCA or any other entity.
Instead, they are required to register with county clerks’ offices, but there is no way to look up registration information. Similarly, there is no clear way to file a complaint if an LDA does not perform. These shortcomings negatively impact both LDAs who seek to grow and professionalize their field, and the consumer, who is currently unable to do something as simple as go to a website and find a registered LDA.
In light of these realities, the State Bar’s mission to protect the public, and the legislative interest outlined in the article, the State Bar has been willing to partner with the LDA community to establish the kind of regulatory infrastructure that is needed for both the profession and the public.
The State Bar supports regulatory changes that would create a robust continuum of legal services in California, because most Californians don’t have (and can’t afford) meaningful access to legal help when they need it. LDAs should be part of that continuum, acting within the scope of their license to assist consumers in preparing forms. A licensed legal paraprofessional, who could provide legal advice–regarding which forms to complete, for example–could be another important component.
Regulatory reform, including basic regulation of LDAs and expansion of the types of individuals authorized to deliver legal advice, could increase public protection. It would also benefit LDAs, whose career opportunities would grow if their services were understood as part of a broader legal services delivery continuum.
I believe that the State Bar and LDAs both want a future where more Californians can safely access reputable legal services. We should be working together for the benefit of all Californians. It is unfortunate that CALDA’s leadership has not evidenced this type of collaborative spirit.
Leah Wilson is the Executive Director of the State Bar of California