How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Law Educator, Esq. Your Own Question
Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 111600
Experience:  All corporate law, including non-profits and charitable fraternal organizations.
10285032
Type Your Business Law Question Here...
Law Educator, Esq. is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

Would a site like which sells blank loan forms and a

Customer Question

Would a site like http://www.Customer.com, which sells blank loan forms and a customized loan agreement users create themselves by filling out a series of web forms, fall under the CA code for "legal document assistants".
The relevant code is here: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=bpc&group=06001-07000&file=6400-6401.6
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Business Law
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Posted by JustAnswer at customer's request) Hello. I would like to request the following Expert Service(s) from you: Live Phone Call. Let me know if you need more information, or send me the service offer(s) so we can proceed.
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 11 months ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.
If they are actually drafting customized forms, then that would not fall under legal document assistant. If they are assisting a pro se litigant with publicly available forms or filling out available forms then that would be within the document assistant. Drafting an actual customized contract would require an attorney or someone who is representing themselves to draft on their own. Under California law, the practice of law includes the preparation of contracts and other documents that secure legal rights, whether the matter is pending in court or not. Preparation of stipulations and releases constitutes the practice of law. See: In re Garcia (9th Cir.BAP 2005) 335 B.R. 717, 728.)
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
What if they use template forms that attorneys drafted and fill in the information based on user input? As I said in my question the user creates a custom loan agreement themselves by filling out a web form that collects information that's used to populate the final document from a template form drafted by attorneys.
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 11 months ago.
Thank you for your reply.
This is a technicality argued by sites like legalzoom.com that do just that. The key is that the site is not actually advising the customer on the form, the customer is giving data that is plugged into the preprinted form and that is allowed as document preparer. Some bar associations do not agree with that argument and hold it to still be unauthorized practice of law, but these cases have not gotten to courts yet as everyone seems to be treading lightly as this is an emerging use of technology so everything right now is based on interpretations and legal theory, not on case law or court rulings.
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Unfortunately this doesn't really help provide any further clarity as to whether or not a business likeCustomercan operate without being an attorney or a legal document assistant. I realize that this isn't an attorney/client situation exactly but I think that's what I need to get in order to come to a conclusion about the legality and requirements of providing the above described service. It sounds like you're saying that if anything the process I described would be considering practice of law but the reality is that this is software that is generating the document.
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 11 months ago.
Thank you for your reply.
Unfortunately, in many instances law is not black and white like some people would like. This is one of those grey areas and the court has not ruled on it yet. Technically, if you are making suggestions and writing the form, that is practice of law and it is illegal. If you are merely providing the forms and people fill them out themselves without you telling them how, then it is considered document preparer and it is legal.
Legalzoom is using the argument you are saying above, the customer is entering the information and the software is printing the form based on the entry of the customer and thus they are just a document preparer. So far, this argument has kept legalzoom from being charged with unauthorized practice of law.
It is a very fine line you need to walk and be careful to not provide advice to customers on how to fill out the forms.
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
OK that helps, but one final follow up which was the original reason for the question. When I read the code I pasted in the original question it sounds like the action of charging for a software service that does what I described, even without providing any guidance, may be construed as requiring a "legal document assistant" license. LegalZoom and a couple of other services have that license but I'm wondering if it's because they also have a paralegal review the customer's data. If it's strictly an attorney prepared template that is then populated by a software service with no further guidance can that service be provided by a non-attorney or a non legal document assistant? That's the big question I'm trying to get an answer to.
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 11 months ago.
Thank you for your reply.
No it is not because they have a paralegal review the documents. Nobody reviews the documents, customers enter the information and the software creates the form for the customers based on the information that the customer provides. So this is why they have the preparer license. They would not need a license if it was attorneys doing the preparation, if the attorney was licensed in that state.
The big deal you need to do is make sure it is the CUSTOMER who is creating the document, not you personally creating it. So the customer has to enter the information and create the document without any advice from you.

Related Business Law Questions