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Paralegal or a Legal Document Preparer

By: Jo Jo
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Do I need a Paralegal, or a Legal Document Preparer?

 Recently I accompanied a friend to a consultation with an Attorney. She needed help with a no-fault divorce. The Attorney was very pleasant and helpful. Listening thoughtfully as my friend explained her situation. Then he began to tell her what he could do for her. My friend was very excited to have found this amazing Attorney who was so understanding, and who knew exactly what the step were that needed to be taken.

She continued to be excited until he told her that her would need a $2,500.00 dollar retainer before he could start any work on her behalf. My friend clasped back into her chair and with her hands over her face and quietly began to cry. She composed her self long enough to thank the Attorney for his kindness and time, then explained that there was no way that she could come up with that amount of money. On the way out of the office the Attorney handed my friend a card that read, Affordable Paralegal Solutions. He explained that a friend of his was a Legal Document Preparer. He said, "Give her a call. I'm sure she would be happy to help you".

We had never heard of a Paralegal or a Legal Document Preparer before. That is were my quest to untangle the differences between the two began. The card my friend received from the Attorney had both terms on it, but do they preform the same services? This is what I was able to find out.


 A paralegal is often referred to as a legal assistant, and that may be a more accurate description of the service they provide. A paralegal in most cases works under the supervision of an Attorney assisting them in almost every aspect of their work. A paralegal is not allowed to accept legal cases, give legal advise, or represent clients in court. A paralegal in many cases has a degree in paralegal studies, on the job experience or, preferably both.

Is some cases the paralegal started out as a legal secretary, then went on to get a Degree in Paralegal Studies. Paralegals can also work as independent contractors providing services to smaller law firms and private practices. So given this information, how could my friend receive help from a paralegal who can only work under the supervision of an Attorney? The confusion come from the intermingling of the two terms, Paralegal and Legal Document Preparer.

Legal Document Preparer

 Legal Document Preparers in my state have only been recognized since 2004. They are required to pass many standards and take a state test to become Certified by the States Supreme Court. It should be said at this time that not all states recognize or certify Legal Document Preparers, and for the states that do not all standards are the same.

In our state someone applying to take the test must be finger printed, have a Degree in Paralegal Studies and intern under a licensed Legal Document Preparer for a certain number of years, or they must have been preparing legal documents under the supervision of an Attorney for 8 years or longer. Once licensed the Legal Document Preparer must complete an ongoing education requirement. Once Certified by the State Supreme Court  Legal Document Preparers do  not need to work under the supervision of an Attorney, and they can with out violating the law prepare and file legal documents under the direction of their client.

Like the Paralegal they can not give legal advise or answer legal questions. Legal Document Preparers help individuals who are representing them selves by correctly filling out forms and in many cases filing those form with the correct court. So in my friends case the Legal Document Preparer was exactly who she needed to help her file her no-fault divorce, and she could do it for around $500.00 dollars. That is $2,000.00 less than the Attorney.

So why the confusion over the names?

 Paralegals have been around for a long time. The term is familiar and in some cases they may prepare legal documents under the supervision of an Attorney. The Legal Document Prepare is simply borrowing this familiar term to help describe the service they provide to the public, and the public is catching on quickly.

Legal Document Preparers are springing up all over the country providing an affordable alternative to high priced Attorneys. They can provide a wide range of services all under the direction of their client. Some of the services you might receive from a Legal Document Preparer are, No-fault or Uncontested Divorce, Annulments, Family Law Issues (Paternity, Child Support, Custody, and Modifications), Wills and Trusts, Deeds, Name Changes, Business Formations, LLC's and more depending on the state you live in.

So my friend got her divorce prepared by the Legal Document Preparer. She was extremely  satisfied with the service she received, and it only cost her a fraction of what the Attorney would have charged. 

About the Author: Starri Knytes - Sr. Information Officer of Affordable Paralegal Solutions -  Providing Fast, Low Cost, legal document preparation services to all of Arizona!

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