How to Become a Legal Document Assistant

Interested in knowing more about what a Legal Document Assistant is? Want to know how to become one in California?

The Basics

A. Why Become an LDA?

  1. Looking for a career change
  2. Access to Justice for self-represented litigants
  3.  Rewarding work that makes a difference
  4. Make money running a successful business

B. Minimum Requirements

  1. Meet Education Requirements (see Bus. Professions Code 6400, et seq.)
  2. Obtain a bond from a bond agency (approx $400 for a 2 year term)
  3. Register with the County clerk where you have your principal place of business

C. Business Essentials

  1. Office Space
  2. Client Management Software
  3. Calendaring
  4. Phone System
  5. Email
  6. Software (form preparation, postage, etc).
  7. Equipment – efac, shredding
  8. Membership in a professional organization

D. Master Your Craft

  1. Read BPC sections 6400, et seq.
  2. Join organizations such as (CALDA) to get guidance on being an LDA
  3. Work with other professionals in your subject area (Attorneys, mediators, other LDAs)
  4. Network with other Legal Document Assistants)

E. Expand your Knowledge with MCLE

  • LDAs are required to take MCLE before renewing their registration every 2 years
  • Proof is a Signed Declaration submitted to the county clerk


F. Marketing

  • Business Cards
  • Google “My Business” Page (free!)
  • Advertise – Facebook, Yelp, LinkedIn, Craigslist

G. Want More Info: 



P.O. Box #2751
Granite Bay, CA 95746

Here’s a presentation that I did regarding how to become a Registered Legal Document Assistant in California, as the membership chair for CALDA in May 2020.





What are you committed to?

I’m committing to being the best version of me. During this coronavirus pandemic, I had the opportunity to take a step back from my business and try to identify what has worked in the past, and what needs improvement. What are you committing to?





Money Doesn’t Fix Money Problems –

ABA’s Consideration of alternatives to high cost attorney fees to increase access to justice

“In November, the ABA published Formal Opinion 484. From the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, the opinion approves of some forms of attorney fee financing, believing that they can help close the access-to-justice gap, defined as those who need but can’t attain legal support.

e and again, the proposed solutions to close the gap—whether loans, technology, professional rule changes, process and business model improvements—are missing the larger point. The access-to-justice gap doesn’t exist because of absence of loans or the lack of technology or the intractable billable hour. It exists—and continues to grow—because the cost of life in America has increased dramatically while wages for most Americans have been stagnant or even falling for decades.”

Read Full Article here:

State Bar of CA Hearing

Click here for video:



Task Force on Access Through Innovation of Legal Services (ATILS)

Saturday, August 10, 2019

2:00 p.m.- 5:00 p.m

The State Bar of California
180 Howard Street
Board Room, 4th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105


Committee Members: Andrew Arruda, Simon Boehme, Tara Burd, Hon. Wendy Chang, Abhijeet Chavan, Jean Clauson, Johann Drolshagen, Margie Estrada, Lori Gonzalez, Bridget Gramme, Andrew Kucera, Joanna Mendoza, Kevin Mohr, Heather Morse, Joyce Raby, Daniel Rice, Allen Rodriguez, Toby Rothschild, Daniel Rubins, Mark Tuft, Joshua Walker.

This is the Notice and Agenda for the Task Force on Access Through Innovation of Legal Services’ Public Hearing on the 16 concept options for possible regulatory reforms circulating for public comment.

Additional Task Force information can be obtained at

Please Stand By. Meeting will begin at approximately 2PM.

I. Open Session
A. Public Hearing
1. Introduction
2. Call for Public Comment
II. Closed Session
A. None

Short Break. will resume shortly.

2. Call for Public Comment

Short Break. will resume shortly.Public Hearing Adjourn. Thank you for Watching.

California is Considering New and Improved UPL Rules – Will it Happen?

You know those three little letters that you hear at every paralegal seminar. It causes experienced paralegals to cringe. It makes attorneys nervous. Yes, you guessed it, U.P.L., the all too familiar “Unauthorized Practice of Law,” the rule that states that a paralegal cannot practice law, establish attorney-client relationships, set fees or split fees with attorneys, give legal opinions or advice, or represent a client before a court or agency. Well, the State Bar of California has sought public comments to proposed regulations to create exceptions to allow licensed professionals to provide specified legal advice and services.
In response to a Legal Market Landscape Report commissioned by the State Bar of California, the Task Force on Access Through Innovation of Legal Services (ATILS) has decided to propose new regulatory changes to loosen the current UPL rules in the hopes that it will close the “justice gap,” the gap that exists between those who need legal assistance and the resources (or lack thereof) available to them.
Three of the task force’s 16 proposed regulatory changes and “recommendations for specific exceptions to the current restrictions on the UPL,” include:
• 2.0 – UPL Exception for Individual Legal Service Providers to Provide Specified Legal advice and Services with appropriate regulation

• 2.1 – UPL Exception (with appropriate Regulation) for Entities Composed of Lawyers, Legal Service Providers or a combination of the two, and

The State Bar announced that they were open to receiving public comments regarding the new proposals and that there would be a public hearing on August 10, 2019 at the State Bar of California in San Francisco to discuss same. Shortly after the 60 day public comment period began, the online comments in support and in opposition to the proposed UPL reform options started rolling in. As of August 5, 420 comments were received by over 200 commenters. About 200 of those comments were submitted in opposition to the UPL regulatory proposals, and only about 15 were in favor.
Those in favor stated:
If we are educated enough to give our lawyers advice on the law, and in turn they use our research to inform the client, then under certain circumstances we should be able to deal with the public directly… [C]ontract paralegals bring clients to the attorneys and should be able to share in the proceeds, especially if they are doing all the work. . . This will only allow the attorney and paralegal to build a firm and both parties mutually benefiting. I completely support this agenda!” – Contract Paralegal in CA

It would help keep the flow of cases in the courts because so many people are representing themselves as per pro without basic knowledge of the law or legal abilities to file the proper motions to meet deadlines, which impact their rights to a fair and impartial judicial process.“ – Supporter from San Leandro, CA.

As other states move to allow nonlawyers to provide legal services, it is time for California to move in this direction too. Many Californians are currently denied legal services because they cannot afford to pay [attorneys].” Supporter in CA

In order for law firms to innovate and become more efficient, it is needed [sic]to have skills of different viewpoints in ownership level decisions.” – Law firm in Mountain View, CA

Not everyone was as optimistic about legal service providers practicing law–those in opposition stated:
Non-lawyers do not operate under the same ethical obligations or with any comparable training/education, and as such, are not obligated or qualified to give competent legal advice … an unrestricted non-lawyer giving any kind of erroneous legal advice would undoubtedly harm the public.” – Anonymous commenter from Glendale, CA

“… non lawyers [are] dragging down the practice of law.” – Anonymous worker’s comp attorney in Orange, CA.

This is going to erode the quality of legal services in the state by allowing unlicensed individuals to give legal advice and own law firms. It is going to devalue my license and hurt the public.” – CA Attorney

California is already overrun with too many lawyers, as the state allows non-traditional, non-accredited paths to the profession. As a lawyer, I have invested a significant amount of RESOURCES (financial, time, etc.) to be able to practice my profession and to do so competently. It is a high bar for a reason. I have worked hard to get where I am at. Your suggestion to allow non-lawyers to provide legal advice is wrong for so many reasons. I would like my profession to at least maintain the little bit of respect and dignity it has left here in California. Not to mention, you are cutting into the livelihoods of people who have made the investments. Many of us incurred massive debt to be able to provide legal advice.” – Attorney in San Bernardino County, CA

With non-lawyers investing in and driving the practice model, clients will be all but guaranteed a profit-driven experience with their lawyers, where the handling of their matters will be affected more by the “bottom line” than their best legal interests.” – Lawyer in Oakland, CA

On August 10th, 2019, the time came to give verbal comments. I went to the State Bar of California, it was my first time there. Given that I had read that many people opposed the proposed regulations, I was expecting many attorneys to show up with pitchforks, but to my surprise, just the opposite happened.
Many people at the hearing gave testimony thanking the task force committee for putting the topic on the discussion table. The committee received words of encouragement, and generally many, including attorneys, talking about how they could see this working. I was surprised to see that many of the people who showed up were actually speaking of non-lawyers in a positive way. The State Bar video recorded the hearing.

While it’s still early and we don’t know how this will end, one thing is for sure–if these regulatory proposed changes are approved, it will dramatically change the traditional legal landscape as we’ve known it in a radical way. Stay tuned.

~ Elizabeth Olvera is the former president of the San Francisco Paralegal Association, she is a Paralegal, Registered Legal Document Assistant, and Immigration Consultant at Olvera & Associates, and is proud that she directly impacts her community to gain access to affordable legal assistance.
Webcast of August 10, 2019 hearing at the State Bar of California

Note: These are the opinions of the author, and not the opinion of any board or association that she is a member or director of.

CALDA’s Newest Board Member – Me!



Elizabeth Olvera was recently elected as a board member of CALDA and is the Membership Chair. Elizabeth first became a member of CALDA in 2014 as a Legal Document Assistant. Previously Elizabeth was the President of the San Francisco Paralegal Association.
Elizabeth’s legal career began when she received a paralegal certificate from city college and started working at a civil litigation law firm as a file clerk, and eventually working her way up to being the lead trial paralegal. Twelve years later she went to work at the District Attorney’s office, and eventually opening her Legal Document Assistant & Notary business, Olvera & Associates in 2015.

Elizabeth Olvera
CALDA Board Member
Membership Chair
& Legal Document Assistant
415 985-7080

Potential Consequences For Paralegals Not Meeting Their MCLE Requirements In California/

Since January 1, 2007 paralegals have been required to certify that they have completed a certain number of hours participating in mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) workshops. According to Business and Professions Code section 6450(d), paralegals must complete the following MCLE hours every two years:

  • 4 hours of legal ethics
  • 4 hours of general law or specialized law

Unlike attorneys, paralegals are not required to submit their certifications to the state bar or any other overseeing entity. Paralegals are only required to provide those certifications to their supervising attorney. There is no specific format in which the certifications must be presented to the supervising attorney.

Given the lack of oversight over the paralegal certifications and the strenuous demands of a busy paralegal’s workload, it can become easy for a paralegal to not be in compliance with 6450(d).

There may be consequences for a paralegal who has not met all of their MCLE hours. For example, opposing counsel can dispute paying the firm’s professional fees for a paralegal’s billable time. Given that paralegals perform a majority of the tasks on his certain cases the amount of money that can be discounted from the professional legal fees, due to lack of certification, can be large.

Also, the local rules of certain courts require that fees requested for time billed by a paralegal must be supported by the attorney’s declaration regarding the paralegal’s compliance with Business and Professions Code section 6450.

In addition this issue may also come up if a well informed client disputes the paralegal’s billable time and decides that they don’t want to pay the legal fees.

Furthermore, many job postings looking to hire paralegals, indicate that candidates must be in compliance with Business and Professions Code section 6450, which includes the MCLE requirements of section 6450(d).

But most importantly given the way that the Business and Professions code is written, a paralegal is someone who is in compliance with the requirements of Business and Professions Code section 6450, which include subsection (d), and therefore, if a paralegal has not met the hours requirement, they can’t call themselves a paralegal.


Business and Professions Code section 6450(d) states: Every two years . . . a paralegal shall be required to certify completion of four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in legal ethics and four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in either general law or in an area of specialized law. All continuing legal education courses shall meet the requirements of Section 6070. Certification . . . shall be made with the paralegal’s supervising attorney. The paralegal shall be responsible for keeping a record of the paralegal’s certifications.

Although paralegals are only required to do a total of eight hours of MCLE within two years, it is advisable that a paralegal take as many MCLE courses as possible to ensure that they stay current on topics that are relevant in the fields that they practice in.

How to get Freelance Paralegal work on Craigslist

Hello, I’ve created a video to share my Craigslist post that gets me projects from attorneys. The best ways to get work is through referrals from other attorneys that are familiar with your work product and work ethic. However, until you start getting those kinds of referrals from attorneys, you can try this!

This worked for me, it can work for you. You should probably start figuring out how much to charge for certain projects, or what your rate will be.
This does not replace other traditional ways of finding employment, such as cold calling,  sending out flyers, networking, etc.

Has It Been A Year Already?

Today marks the one year anniversary of me starting my freelance paralegal services business, Olvera & Associates.

Saying that it has been a struggle would be an understatement. My income has been “surely” but not steady, I’ve been living constantly out of my comfort zone. However, I wouldn’t give any of it up.

Being self-employed has afforded me things that money can’t buy. It has given me the ability to see my daughter’s smile everyday that I pick her up from school. I have been able to attend professional development events that I previously could not have attended. It has allowed me to volunteer at the court legal clinic. It has allowed me to make more meaningful relationships with my colleagues and those whom I love. It has given me great satisfaction to know that every dollar I earn, was because of the value my work provided to others.

But most of all, self-employment has allowed me to grow. It has been a winding path of self discovery. Opening my own business brought my fears and weaknesses front and center. I had nowhere to hide them.

By facing my fears and having the right guidance (e-books, mentors, family, etc.), I have not given up and I’ve pushed through. I came to a point where I knew that I couldn’t give up because I didn’t want to go back to working as an employee. Also, my kids were watching my every step. They were looking to see how I handled challenges, I didn’t want to teach them to give up the first instance something became “too hard”. Now I know that whatever I’m afraid of, is exactly what I need to confront directly and overcome.

I know that I’m far from where I want to be, but I have definitely come a long way from where I was. I’ve been a year in business. I must be doing something right!

This post originally appeared on my blog at:

Access to Justice



Legal Market Landscape Report, Legal Market Landscape Report (July 2018) by Prof. William D. Henderson

Info re: Task-Force-on-Access-Through-Innovation-of-Legal-Services

Excerpt from State Bar of California Board Minutes of March 12, 2020.

“Proposed Paraprofessional Program Working Group Charter

March 12, 2020
Proposed Working Group Charter

The State Bar’s recently published California Justice Gap Study: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Californians, found that while 55 percent of Californians experience at least one civil legal problem in their household each year, Californians received inadequate or no legal help for 85 percent of these problems. A lack of knowledge about what constitutes a legal issue and concerns about legal costs lead many Californians to deal with problems on their own rather than seek legal help. A thoughtfully designed and appropriately regulated paraprofessional program is an important component of the solution to the access to legal services crisis in California by expanding the pool of available and affordable legal service providers.
The California Paraprofessional Program Working Group is hereby established and charged with developing recommendations for consideration by the Board of Trustees for the creation of a paraprofessional licensure/certification program to increase access to legal services in California. In carrying out this charge, the Working Group will balance the dual goals of ensuring public protection and increasing access to legal services.
The Working Group will develop specific recommendations regarding the following:
1. The eligibility requirements to apply for the program, including the competencies required of licensed/certified paraprofessionals and the ways in which candidates can demonstrate those competencies. In developing these recommendations the Working Group will consider different pathways for licensure/certification for applicants based on their general academic and experiential qualifications, including but not limited to, candidates who might fall in one of the following categories: immigration consultants, Legal Document Assistants, Unlawful Detainer Assistants, paralegals, law school graduates, law students, and/or participants in or who have completed the State Bar’s law office study program.
2. Selection of practice areas that will be included in the program. Practice type decisions should be informed by data sources, including but not limited to the California Justice Gap Study, California Attorney Practice Analysis Study, and court self-help center utilization data.
3. The types of tasks, by practice area, that paraprofessionals will be permitted to perform. The Working Group should consider and propose any requisite changes to the rules and statutes governing the unauthorized practice of law, and any other requisite changes to the rules of professional conduct that may be needed, to permit the performance of these types of tasks.
4. Business requirements, including financial responsibility requirements such as insurance or contribution to a client security fund.
5. A licensing/certification and regulatory model including consideration of rules of conduct for the new paraprofessional licensees.
6. Metrics and data collection methods to enable assessment of the program’s effectiveness and to facilitate possible auditing and other proactive risk-based regulation.
7. Increasing awareness about how to seek legal help.”





Tools to use as a Legal Document Assistant

For instructions on the Rules and how to get started. go to for more info.


Below is a list of various tools that are handy when conducting a Legal Document Assistant business. I am not affiliated with any of the companies or links below, I’m just trying to share my knowledge with other LDAs. I just wish that I knew about these when I was first starting out.

  1. Software
  • Forms WorkFlow (American LegalNet, Inc.) –
  • Martin Dean’s Essential Docs –
  • Westlaw Doc & Form Builder (Thomson Reuters) – Software
  • Legal forms software is a must have for legal document assistants to manage their work and cases. Forms software allows the LDA to type directly onto legal forms and save their work. Many of these programs have a feature that allows you to store detailed information that enables you to auto-populate certain fields on additional forms, thus saving you lots of time so you are not retyping the same information over and over. Although most forms are available free of charge online or directly from the court, these programs provide additional benefits that you can’t get elsewhere, such as “shrink-to-fit” and auto-fill across various forms. One of the benefits of this software is that the software updates their forms to conform to the always changing law. Please note: some programs send you the updated forms automatically free of charge with your purchase, other programs may charge you for the updates.
  • CutePDF Writer (Acro Software)-
  • Allows you to “print” files and save them as PDFs without having to print a hard copy first. The documents can be saved directly from the application that created it. My favorite part about this printer is its name. Gotta love it!
  • eFax –
  • Google Voice –
  • This program allows all of your devices to ring when your customers call one number.
  • With eFax you can send and receive faxes through e-mail, share large files and digitally sign your faxes.
  • DropBox
  • OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) (Microsoft) –
  • These programs allow you to save large amounts of documents to a drive that you can access from the web or any other device. When you make edits to the document on one device, the changes are automatically updated on all your other devices.
  • Laptop
  • Printer/Scanner
  • Copier Dymo LabelWriter Mobile Printer (optional)


How I became a paralegal

I have been a paralegal since 2003. I love what I do, it’s rewarding on so many levels and I don’t see myself doing anything else. However, I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a paralegal.

It all began in 2002, when I attended a legal employment training program called L.E.A.P. (Legal Employment Action Program). This vocational training program taught others and I some of the skills that we needed to work in the legal field, but mostly the trainings were about soft skills. As part of the training program, we were given the opportunity to interview at three separate law firms in order to be placed in a three month internship. After a stressful interviewing process at three different firms, I finally obtained a position as a file clerk for a busy trial team handling construction defect cases. The law firm told me that there was not any possibility to be hired permanently, so I planned to learn everything that I could in the short time that I was there.

As a file clerk, I was responsible for distributing the mail, faxes, and pleadings that came to the attorneys. I received training from a legal secretary and a paralegal manager. Because I really loved the people, the environment, and the work that I was doing, I decided to go to night school and become a paralegal. It was great because I was learning how to be a paralegal at night, and practicing the skills by day.

As a file clerk, I read every piece of paper that came through my desk. Because I proved myself and showed them that I was eager to learn and highly motivated, after the internship was over, I was offered a full-time position as a file clerk. I was thrilled.

In December 2003, I obtained my Paralegal Certificate. I asked to be promoted from a file clerk to a paralegal within my firm, and in early 2004, they promoted me to paralegal and gave me a small increase in pay. I’ve been doing paralegal work ever since and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I love my profession and it has afforded me with many opportunities that I may not have had any other way.

P.S. Although this was a successful training program and placed many people in the legal field, unfortunately, the training program no longer exists, due to lack of funding.