The Differences Between a Legal Document Assistant, a Paralegal, and an Attorney

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In California, if you are looking for legal services, you will come across individuals advertising as legal document assistants, paralegals, and attorneys. When you spend your hard earned money on someone that you expect to help you, you want to know what you get is what need. Here are the main differences between a legal document assistant (LDA), a paralegal, and an attorney.

Legal Document Assistants

Legal document assistants can help people with filling out specific legal documents. The legal documents are to be filled out at the client’s direction. An LDA can only charge up to a set amount for the documents they are completing on behalf of the person that hires them. LDAs cannot give legal advice and cannot represent others in court. If a legal document assistant gives you legal advice, it is against the law and you definitely should not rely on any legal advice they offer. When a non-lawyer gives legal advice, paid for or not, it is considered the unauthorized practice of law which is a misdemeanor criminal offense in California.


Paralegals provide legal services under the direction and supervision of a licensed California attorney. They cannot represent you in a legal matter nor can they give legal advice. The legal fees must be paid to an attorney who compensates the paralegal but cannot share legal fees with a non-lawyer.  A paralegal can provide more services than a legal document assistant because they work for an attorney that directs them on what to do.


An attorney is licensed by the State Bar of California. They can give legal advice and represent you in court. Attorneys often use a paralegal to assist with document preparation and other legal tasks that require particular knowledge and experience. A California attorney can provide limited scope representation which means they can unbundle the legal service they provide. They can hire non-lawyers to help them but the work must be completed under the attorney’s supervision and at their direction.

If you are searching for legal help and cannot afford to be represented by an attorney, you should consider hiring a paralegal through a licensed California attorney. A legal document assistant probably cannot answer the questions you have regarding your legal issue. Sacramento Paralegal Services is run by an active member of the State Bar of California, Justin Anton McCrea. When you call, you will speak with him. He can evaluate your circumstances and let you know what paralegal services are available for your situation.


  • Rebekah
    August 29, 2018 @ 12:51 am

    This is really helpful, thanks.

    • lawyer4life
      September 3, 2018 @ 7:31 pm

      You’re welcome.

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