Every second Monday of the month, the Hayward Branch of the Alameda County Law Library hosts a volunteer session from 3-5 p.m. with a Legal Document Assistant (LDA). This is to aid patrons with their legal paper work, showing them resources they can use to answer their questions and some samples of filled out forms. This session is led by a member of the California Association of Legal Document Assistants (CALDA), Helen Bellamy. She has been the LDA volunteering for South County patrons since 2010. She has a wonderful demeanor with many patrons appreciating her assistance and kindness.
Helen came to working in the legal field through her own foray in to family law issues. After handling a personal child custody situation, she realized she wanted to be able to help others with their legal challenges. This led her into going to law school and, after trying to pass the bar a few times, deciding being an attorney wasn’t meant to be. So she made the switch to being a Legal Document Assistant and in this capacity, she feels she’s better able to help people.
In the past, Legal Document Assistants were known as Independent Paralegals until 1994. That is when the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1994 was signed into law and the term “legal” was no longer useable with with regard to people who did bankruptcy preparation work. See the law, http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c103:1:./temp/~c103zKuoee:e95627. With this change, many Independent Paralegals, who often did bankruptcy paperwork on behalf of clients, had to get a new name. In 1998, Pete Wilson signed into law, SB1418 which codified the position. California is the first state to regulate the profession of Legal Document Assistant.
Legal Documents Assistants are legally obligated to register with the county in which they work and are bonded and governed by the California Business & Professions Code Sections 6400-6415 and 6450-6456. They do their work independent of attorneys, unlike paralegals, who work under the direction of an attorney. California Legal Document Assistants was established in 1986.
Bellamy prides herself on being able to help people understand the process of doing a legal case and how to find out how to help themselves. If you would like to learn more about her, she has a webiste: http://www.selfhelplawservices.com