I have noticed that, in general, people do not know certain information about the legal industry, and can be harmed because of the lack of knowing what resources they have at their disposal. If you find yourself in need of legal assistance, please read on.
If someone has offered to create legal documents for you, please ask yourself, “Are they properly licensed or certified to do so?”
If you need an attorney, please look at the publicly available website: https://azbar.org, or the phone book is still a good option. The State Bar of Arizona has a “Search” box feature where the name of an attorney can be entered and it will show if they are currently licensed in Arizona. Don’t be afraid to look.
Arizona is also fortunate to have a program overseen by the Arizona Supreme Court to allow certification of a legal document preparer (CLDP). The list of CERTIFIED legal document preparers can be found at: https://www.azcourts.gov/cld/Legal-Document-Preparer-Program. If you look at the very center of the page, you will see a link “PUBLIC INFORMATION” that will direct you to another page showing a title for the list, “Directory of Legal Document Preparers.” Don’t be afraid to look.
Process Servers are in the business to get legal documents formally served on a party that has an interest in your legal matter. They must be certified in order to provide that service. That list can be found at: https://www.azcourts.gov/cld/Private-Process-Server. If you look toward the bottom of the page, you will see a title “Directory of Private Process Servers.” Don’t be afraid to look.
Just because someone offers to help you, or opens an office offering those services, does not mean they are properly licensed to do so. Also, if you look at the State Bar of Arizona website, their Home Page has a drop-down menu under “For the Public” that will direct you to a link titled the “Unauthorized Practice of Law.” Here’s a direct copy and paste from their website, including some of the identifying items:
“What is the ‘practice
The practice of law is defined by Arizona Supreme Court Rule. Rule 31(a)(2)(A) states:
Practice of law means providing legal advice or services to another by:
• Preparing an document in any medium intended to affect or secure legal rights for a specific person or entity;
• Preparing or expressing legal opinions;
• Preparing any document through any medium for filing in any court, administrative agency or tribunal for a specific person or entity; or
• Negotiating legal rights or responsibilities for a specific person or entity.
Attorneys are licensed to practice law and are the only entities able to give legal advice.
Certified Legal Document prepareres are authorized to prepare legal documents for the general public without the supervision of an attorney. They are NOT allowed to give legal advice, only general information regarding court processes and document information.
Paralegals can only work under the supervision of an attorney. Paralegals are NOT licensed to work for the general public. That means that anything they produce must have an attorney’s name and bar number on any document or communication.
In short, the preparation of any document in any medium intended to affect or secure legal rights for any specific person or entity cannot be done by your buddy, your business office manager, or your uncle’s brother’s cousin. You are taking a HUGE chance of making a big mess of things if you are not familiar with the court rules and statutes that may afect your rights.
You CAN represent yourself and do your own documents and research. Most popular fill-in-the-blank template documents are being offered by the Courts.
Sherrene Caley is a Certified Legal Document Preparer in Show Low.