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Legal Assistant

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWER TO ADDRESS ALL CONCERNS THAT YOU MAY HAVE.

Getting Started & Using a Legal Document Assistant

How much do you charge?
I need your help. How do I get started?
Can you help me file and serve my papers?
What is the difference between the documents I get from you and those prepared by an attorney?
What is a Legal Document Assistant (LDA)?
What is the difference between a Paralegal and an LDA?
Can an LDA or Paralegal tell me how to proceed with my case?

Business Entities & Non-Profit Organizations

Should I incorporate my business?
What are the benefits of forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC)?
Do I need a formal, written Partnership Agreement?
My business is losing money. Can I form a non-profit organization?

Civil Litigation & Small Claims

How do I initiate a civil lawsuit?
In what court should I file the complaint?
What is the statute of limitations?
What are “DOE” defendants and should I include them in my complaint?
What is a cause of action?
What are elements?
I’ve been sued as a defendant in a civil lawsuit. What now?

Using a Legal Document Assistant VS an Attorney or a Combination of the two can greatly reduce costs and maximize the results ? Our fee structure includes hourly, flat fee and payment plan schedules.

How much do you charge?

Our affordable, flexible fee schedule ensures that you receive (and pay for) only the services you actually need. Many of our services include published legal information to help guide you through the process — often straight from the same legal practice guides the attorneys subscribe to — at no additional cost to you. You can also manage your costs effectively through “unbundled legal services” (also called “limited scope representation”), utilizing the services of an attorney for advice and strategy, and hiring a legal document assistant (LDA) to carry out your legal tasks. Click here for more information about unbundled services (will open a new window).

I need your help. How do I get started?

Once you’ve decided to handle your own legal matter with Loss Mitigations LLC Legal’s assistance, we will have you sign a contract and, for most services, complete a questionnaire. We use the Legal Document Assistant (LDA) contract required under California law, which was written by the Department of Consumer Affairs, and is for your protection. The questionnaire is specific to the type of document or service you are requesting, and contains a series of questions that will enable us to accurately and completely prepare your legal document. You will receive a draft of your completed legal document, and our fees include up to two revisions at no additional charge.

We encourage all new clients to thoroughly review the LDA Client’s Bill of Rights and the Legal Document Assistant Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility before beginning any relationship with a professional legal document preparer.

Can you help me file, serve and represent me Nationwide?

Yes! Our attorney network service can economically file, serve documents anywhere in Nationwide. For rush documents, fax filing or representation its available for an additional fee. Courier services, digital document management and other services are also offered.

What is the difference between the documents I get from you and those prepared by an attorney?

The short answer is: Nothing! Loss Mitigations LLC utilizes the latest legal technology, including the same software packages used in most law firms.

Now for the longer answer: When you retain the services of an LDA, you are essentially acting as your own attorney; you must know what you want your documents to say. We cannot draft legal arguments for you or give you specific legal advice. We have many self-help legal reference materials available in our office to guide you, and our services include legal information from published resources to help you make your own choices. You may also visit our Legal Research page for our collection of self-help legal articles and links to free online legal reference materials. If you still have questions, we are happy to refer you to an attorney.

What is a Legal Document Assistant (LDA)?

A Legal Document Assistant, or LDA, is an experienced professional who is authorized under California law to prepare legal documents for consumers at the direction of the client. An LDA is not an attorney and cannot provide legal advice or represent a client in court. The Legal Document Assistant fills a critical role in our judicial system, enabling individuals to represent themselves in their own legal matters, with the help of a qualified professional legal document preparer to ensure their papers are properly prepared, filed and served.

LDAs are required by law to be registered and file a bond of $25,000 in the county where they have their principal place of business. Loss Mitigations LLC is bonded, registered and insured in San Francisco County.

What is the difference between a Paralegal and an LDA?

Legal Document Assistants are sometimes incorrectly referred to as “Independent Paralegals.” California law restricts the term “Paralegal” to those who are employed by an attorney. Paralegal services may only be provided to a licensed attorney who directs the work and compensates the paralegal; and it is illegal for a paralegal to advertise to the general public, or to provide services and accept compensation from anyone who is not an active member of the California State Bar. A registered and bonded LDA is specifically authorized to provide legal information, resources and document preparation services to any consumer who is representing himself or herself in a legal matter.

Unlike LDAs, paralegals are not required to be registered or licensed by any governmental authority, and do not post a bond for the consumer’s protection (because they are not permitted to work for consumers). Many LDAs have a paralegal background, and some, like us, provide paralegal services to attorneys while also providing LDA services directly to members of the public. While LDAs are not required to participate in continuing legal education, state law mandates that all paralegals maintain a minimum number of continuing education credits in both general law and ethics. Loss Mitigations LLC maintains compliance with all laws pertaining to both the LDA and paralegal professions.

For more information, please see California Business & Professions Code § 6400 and § 6450, or visit the Alliance of Legal Document Assistant Professionals (will open a new window).

 Can an LDA or Paralegal tell me how to proceed with my case?

While legal document assistants are prohibited from giving legal advice to clients, they are permitted to provide published legal information to assist consumers in directing their own legal matters. An LDA (or any non-attorney) is prohibited from suggesting a course of action based on the facts of the client’s specific situation, which would be the unauthorized practice of law (UPL). Many LDAs maintain an extensive collection of self-help legal reference materials to assist consumers in making their own decisions, or direct clients to the public law library for further information.

Paralegals are not permitted to provide any services or offer any advice to members of the public. Paralegal services may only be provided under contract with a licensed attorney.

Business Entities & Non-Profit Organizations

Should I incorporate my business?

The primary advantages of operating as a corporation are liability protection and potential tax savings. Like any important decision, choosing whether to incorporate involves weighing the pros and cons, and should only be done after careful research and consultation with a legal or tax professional.

Once incorporated, the business assets of the corporation are separated from the owner’s personal finances. As a result, the owner’s personal assets generally can be shielded from creditors of the business.

To maintain this legal separation (and avoid “piercing the corporate veil”), the corporation must observe certain formalities, including:

  • Keeping corporate assets and personal assets separate (no commingling of funds)
  • Holding shareholder and director meetings at least annually
  • Maintaining a corporate record book including bylaws, minutes of shareholder and director meetings, and shareholder records
  • Filing annual information statements with the Secretary of State
  • Filing a separate tax return for the corporation

Many people are concerned about “double taxation” of income, but you should do your own research, and compare the features of the C-corporation and S-corporation. The double taxation results when a C-corporation has profit at the end of the year, and that profit is then distributed to the shareholders. That profit is taxed to the corporation, at the corporate tax rate, and then the dividends are taxable income to the shareholders on their personal tax returns. However, the corporate tax rate is typically much lower than the individual tax rate that a sole-proprietor will pay on a 1040 Schedule C, and a competent accountant can help the corporation minimize double-taxation (or eliminate it completely).

For example, a small C-corporation will likely have a shareholder who is also an employee. Paychecks to the shareholder/employee are, of course, tax deductible to the business. To the shareholder/employee, they are taxable income (as would be the case with a paycheck from any employer). A bonus could be paid to the shareholder/employee in order to lower the corporation’s taxable profit, eliminating the double-taxation. These calculations should be performed by your accountant or tax advisor, but shifting income from the corporation to the shareholder/employee (or vice versa, depending on which has the lower tax rate) can be a great way to lower your overall tax liability. In addition, there are certain advantages that are only available with a C-Corporation, such as full tax-deductibility of medical benefits for a shareholder/employee.

The S-Corporation avoids the double-taxation by offering a tax structure similar to the Limited Liability Company (LLC, which is not an option for businesses that are required to hold a license, certification or registration). A corporation with 75 or fewer shareholders can elect to be treated as an S-Corporation. If the corporation is profitable, the shareholder/employee must draw a reasonable salary (and pay employment tax on it), but then all remaining corporate profits flow through to the shareholder’s personal tax return (thereby avoiding the FICA tax on the portion of profits that is taken as a dividend).

Before deciding to incorporate, you should seek legal and tax advice on what type of ownership best suits your business. An experienced attorney and tax advisor can help you decide which form of ownership is best for your business. For the do-it-yourselfers, we highly recommend “Own Your Own Corporation” by Garrett Sutton, Esq. (part of the Rich Dad series).

 What are the benefits of forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC)?

A Limited Liability Company, or LLC, is a hybrid business structure, combining the pass-through taxation of a partnership or sole proprietorship with the limited liability of a corporation. The term “limited liability” means that LLC owners (called “members”) are only liable for debts of the business to the extent of their investment in the company — provided the LLC is properly established and managed according to the operating agreement. Click here for some of the advantages and disadvantages to consider when deciding whether to form a Limited Liability Company.

 Do I need a formal, written Partnership Agreement?

 The law does not require that a partnership be created or governed by a written partnership agreement. In fact, under the Uniform Partnership Act, simply the association of two or more persons to carry on as co-owners a business for profit forms a partnership. However, without a formal partnership agreement, your business arrangement will be governed by state law, which may or may not be the most favorable to you or your business. Creating a formal partnership agreement enables the business owners to establish the expectations and obligations of each partner, define each partner’s role in managing the business, determine the apportionment of investments and profits, and lay the groundwork so you avoid potential misunderstandings in the future.

My business is losing money. Can I form a non-profit organization?

 No. For-profit businesses and non-profit organizations have some similarities, for example both can be organized as corporations, hold assets and transact business as an entity separate from the owners or employees. However, there are key differences between the two and they have nothing to do with how much money you make. Non-profit (“nonprofit” or “not-for-profit”) organizations are typically created for charitable, educational or religious purposes. Most non-profit organizations are exempt from federal and state income tax, but must follow strict rules requiring that the funds raised or earned by the organization are spent for charitable, educational or religious purposes, and do not directly benefit an individual or a for-profit company.

Civil Litigation & Small Claims


How do I initiate a civil lawsuit?

The lawsuit is commenced when a plaintiff files a complaint against one or more defendants with the court. The person filing the complaint is the “plaintiff.” The party whose actions are being complained about is the “defendant.” In California state courts, the plaintiff must also file a civil case cover sheet and have a summons issued. Once the complaint has been filed and summons issued, the plaintiff must then have the documents served on the defendant(s). You cannot serve the papers yourself. Generally, the defendant must be served within 60 days, and a proof of service must be filed with the court. We urge you to use a registered process server to serve your papers.

In what court should I file the complaint?

There are two factors to consider in determining the proper court to hear your case. “Jurisdiction” refers to a court‘s power to hear and determine a particular lawsuit. To have jurisdiction, a court must have authority over the subject matter of the case and the court must also be able to exercise control over the defendant (or the property involved must be located in an area under the court‘s control). “Venue” is the geographic area or the county in which the court is located. The proper venue is determined based on the defendant‘s residence or business location, the county where a contract was entered into or should have been performed, or where the injury or damage occurred. Many counties have local court rules that specify which branch (court location) is the appropriate location to file a complaint based on the type of claim being made and/or the defendant‘s zip code.

What is the statute of limitations?

A statute of limitations is a law that specifies a timeframe within which a lawsuit must be commenced. Generally, after that statutory time period lapses, the plaintiff loses the right to file a lawsuit (unless a specific legal exception is applicable). Each type of civil lawsuit has a different statute f limitations. For example, an action for breach of a written contract must be filed within 4 years and an action for breach of an oral contract must be commenced within 2 years. Click here for more information about the statutes of limitations applicable to cases filed in California. Generally, the clock starts ticking on the date of the incident that is the subject of the lawsuit, or the date the plaintiff knew or reasonably should have known of the incident

What are “DOE” defendants and should I include them in my complaint?

"DOE” defendants essentially serve as “place holders” in a civil complaint when the plaintiff does not know their true names. The plaintiff can later amend the complaint to substitute the actual, true names of defendants for the “DOE” defendants after those names have been ascertained. If it is even remotely possible someone whose identity you don't yet know has contributed to your damages, you should name “DOE” defendants in your complaint. This enables you to ensure you complaint is timely filed (before the statute of limitations expires), even if you have not yet discovered all of the individuals or organizations that contributed to the incident that is the subject of your lawsuit.

What is a cause of action?

The “cause of action,” is the set of facts upon which the plaintiff basis his or her request for relief. “Relief,” or “remedy,” is the assistance or benefit that the party seeks from the court. Some common causes of action include: Breach of Contract, Fraud, Negligence, Premises Liability, etc.

What are elements?

An element is a point that a plaintiff must prove in order to win a particular type of case. Different causes of action each have their own elements that must be proven, and to win the plaintiff must prove every element. For example, to prevail on a Negligence claim (cause of action), the plaintiff must prove: 1) Duty (the defendant's legal obligation to do something); 2) Breach (the defendant breached that duty); 3) Causation (the defendant's breach has harmed the plaintiff); and 4) Damages sustained by the plaintiff as a result of the breach.

I’ve been sued as a defendant in a civil lawsuit. What now?

Unless extended by court order or stipulation, a defendant must file a response within 30 days of the date she or he was served with the complaint. The defendant may file an answer, or may attack the complaint (by filing a demurrer, motion to strike, motion for judgment on the pleadings, or other challenge to the complaint). Some challenges can be filed concurrently with an answer, others are filed instead of an answer.

For more information about how courts operate, please click here. 1-888-LOSS-MIT

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