How And Where To Find Professional Legal Help – Alameda County – Part 2 – Paperwork And Research

How and where to find professional legal help – Alameda County – Part 2 of 2 – Paperwork and research

(Link for Part 1 – Legal Advice – of this post can be found – HERE.)

I have decided what needs to be done.  I just need help with completing paperwork.

People can and do represent themselves in court.  They are called “pro per” or “pro se” litigants.  When they file papers with the court, instead of identifying an attorney as their representative on their papers, they write that they are “pro per” or “pro se” in the space where the paper identifies the name of the attorney who is representing them.  People also draft their own legal transactional documents, such as, deeds or simple trusts.

If you plan to represent yourself in court or in a business venture, you can get assistance with the paperwork without hiring an attorney.

Fee based services for document preparation – Legal document or unlawful detainer assistants

Legal document assistants or unlawful detainer assistants (LDAs or UDAs) are not attorneys but are professionals who can provide certain legal services under your direction.  They are knowledgeable in completing legal paperwork.  Their fees, as compared to attorneys’ fees, can be more affordable.  UDAs provide assistance in a court process during which a landlord seeks to have a tenant evicted or pay rent that is owed – an unlawful detainer action.

The profession is governed by the CA Business and Professions Code 6400 et seq.  An LDA or a UDA  must complete the legally required education, maintain a $25,000 bond, and register with the county in which they intend to work. They must inform clients that they are not lawyers in their first interaction, disclose their registration number, registration expiration date, and county of registration, and provide clients with a “Notice to Consumer” prior to conducting business, acknowledging that assistants have provided that information.  More info here.

Notaries, under California law, cannot provide legal assistance services.  A notary or notary public serves the public as an impartial witness in performing a variety of official fraud-deterrent acts related to the signing of important documents. These official acts are called notarizations, or notarial acts. Some LDAs (and attorneys) may also be notaries but not all notaries are LDAs.

Notarios or notarios publicos, who in other countries are highly trained legal professionals akin to attorneys, are not allowed to practice law under California law. Many non-attorneys conduct business as immigration consultants or notarios.  In the current session (2017) of the California legislature, a bill has been introduced to eliminate this type of legal assistance unless the individual is an attorney or authorized by federal law due to widespread fraud and abuse by many individuals.

Finding professionals
  • The California Legal Documents Assistants (CALDA) web page allows you to search and identify LDAs in your area.  CALDA is a professional organization.  Membership is not a requirement under California law.
  • Check Yellow Pages online and print.

For current LDA/UDA registration information in Alameda County, you can visit, in person, the General Business department at the Clerk-Recorder’s offices.  On the Alameda County website, you can search in the Index by name for the last filing of the required professional bond by an individual.

  • Search Official Public Records for the county.
  • Click Search Records. Click link to enter site.
  • On the search screen move to the Name field. Enter the name (last, first).
  • Click the Search button to bring up the results.
Legal aid/pro bono services for document preparation

For low or no-cost help with step-by-step completion of court or other legal forms, your best bet is to attend one of the legal clinics described within this document.

  • VLSC – If you meet income guidelines, the Alameda County Volunteer Legal Services Corporation holds monthly legal clinics for some areas of law.  The group offers clinics on family law, as well as, for low income landlords.  The landlord clinic provides step-by-step instructions on how to evict a tenant.
  • Alameda County Superior Court Self Help/Family Law Facilitators – The Hayward center provide workshops, and information and assistance with: family law child support, custody/visitation, unlawful detainers, small claims, general civil actions, name changes, guardianships, family law clinics (Spanish), restraining orders: civil harassment, domestic violence and elder abuse.  You may be referred to the VLSC clinics.  The center will help with the selection of forms, as well as, review completed court forms for filings on subjects listed above.
  • California Courts web site –  The California courts are continually adding to the information available under their Self Help Center web page.  There are guides and information sheets with instructions for completing selected Judicial Council forms.  Open the Forms tabs on the topic/issue drop down menu to see if what is available for that area of law.
  • Nolo publications – the Alameda County Law Library (and other public libraries) has an extensive collection of materials published by this legal publisher whose titles are written for non-lawyers.  Many of these publications have sections which present detailed step-by-step instructions for completing the most frequently used California court forms.  A reference librarian can help you identify a title that may help with your forms.  Alameda County residents can also access most (but not all) Nolo titles through ACLL’s web site.  The Legal Databases page  has a link to the EBSCO Legal Information Reference Center.   Information on how to access the database is available HERE.

The ACLL staff are not able to sit down with you to complete legal forms.  They provide guidance for resources that can help you complete the forms yourself.

Research sources for legal information to help you decide your next steps
  • ACLL – The Alameda County Law Library is open to the public. The library is a repository of legal information.  Our resources are available in print and online.  Staff can provide legal resource recommendations and guidance on how to use the resources. Staff can also refer you to other organizations and websites that may be able to answer your questions.
  • Lawyers in the Library – To help you get started in the right direction.  Volunteers provide free consultation and referrals on a wide variety of issues including landlord-tenant disputes, probate matters, employment problems, and other general consumer issues.  These consultations take place at public libraries on a rotating basis throughout the month.  Sessions last for about 15 minutes per patron.  More information, including a monthly calendar, available HERE.
  • California Courts Self-Help Center (online) – The Judicial Branch of the California Courts’ Self-Help Center provides introductory level legal information on many consumer law topics.

There are many websites and blogs that provide reliable legal information – too many to mention here individually.  Check with a reference librarian at ACLL for recommendations for your topic.  Or try an internet search using different browsers.  Different browsers bring up different results.  Remember that paid advertisements are placed first on results list by internet companies.  Check out different sites – looking for “.gov” or “.org” at end of a sites URL or internet address.  These will be non-profit or government websites.

Miscellaneous resources for pro pers by topic

BankruptcyPro se/Pro bono services affiliated with the United States Bankruptcy Court Northern District of California.

Oakland Public Library has a special Lawyers in the Library session dedicated to bankruptcy questions on the first Wednesday of the month.

Criminal recordsClean Slate program – The Alameda County Public Defender provides help with cleaning up your criminal record within the county.

Consumer justice – EBCLC has a clinic every Thursday 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, clients can receive advice or limited scope assistance with civil legal issues including consumer law, DMV, small claims, tort defense and homelessness

Domestic violence restraining orders – Family Violence Law Center,  1-800-947-8301

More miscellaneous

BALIBay Area Legal Incubator – new program for young attorneys getting started in their profession providing legal assistance at affordable rates.  BALI offers frees clinics, check the website.

The unauthorized practice of law

When people offer to assist you with legal advice in exchange for payment of money but are not attorneys, this is called the unauthorized practice of law (CA Business and Professions Code 6125 et seq.) and is illegal.   Contact local law enforcement, the Alameda County Bar Association, or the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office to report activity.

 

How And Where To Find Professional Legal Help – Alameda County – Part 1

How and where to find professional legal help in Alameda County

Ask yourself first – what help do I need?

  • I have a problem. I don’t know what I need to do. I need advice on my legal options.
  • I have decided what needs to be done. I need help completing the paperwork. (Part 2 of this post, coming soon.)
  • I have a problem but I would like to do some background research first before deciding how best to handle the issue. (Part 2 of this post, coming soon.)
I have a problem I don’t know what I need to do.  I need to talk to someone about my legal options.

“The law” does not always provide you with simple this-or-that or yes-or-no options.  Your situation will involve individual facts that will need to be reviewed in light of current law – cases or statutes (federal or state or even another county.)  It can be complicated.  That is why there is a legal profession.  There is a good reason that the profession and the public relies on special information collections housed in law libraries like the Alameda County Law Library.  There is an incredible amount of legislative, regulatory, and court case information that needs to be organized, retrieved, and analyzed to answer legal questions.  Lawyers and self-represented parties need to do research to make sure the law they are relying on is up-to-date.  New laws are enacted and cases decided on a daily basis.  The law changes constantly.  Just look at what is happening in Washington, DC, these days.

There are many sources of legal information but only a lawyer, who is a licensed professional, can provide you with legal analysis and advice on your options.

In the US, states license lawyers. In California, this organization is the State Bar of California.  You may hear references to organizations such as the Alameda County Bar Association but these are professional organizations.  Joining these local groups does not allow a member to practice law in the area.

In the US, the terms “lawyer” and “attorney” are used interchangeably.  A litigator is an attorney whose legal practice centers on going to court or keeping clients out of the courts.  A transactional lawyer is someone whose practice focuses on giving advice and drafting documents related to legal transactions, such as, starting a business or setting up a trust.

To begin, here are some resources that will provide you with things to think about before you hire an attorney:

How to find an attorney – Fee for services

From the State Bar’s website – “What can a certified lawyer referral service  do for you?”

        • Can refer you to a lawyer who has experience in the field of law that relates to your case.
        • Will refer you to attorneys who are insured. All lawyers who participate in certified lawyer referral services must carry malpractice insurance to protect their clients. This means that if your lawyer does something wrong, and you successfully sue for malpractice, the lawyer will have the ability to pay.
        • Will screen your call to determine whether you have a legal problem — or need some other type of assistance. And if you do need another type of assistance, the referral service can refer you to government agencies or other organizations that may be better suited to assist you. For example, you might have a problem that could be handled, without charge, by a rent control board or community mediation program.
        • Will only refer you to an attorney who has met certain standards of experience and is a State Bar member in good standing.
        • Will only refer you to an attorney who has agreed to do fee arbitration in the event of a fee dispute.
        • May be able to provide an attorney at a reduced rate. Lawyer referral services are required to make arrangements to serve people with limited means.
        • May be able to provide you with a bilingual attorney.
Lawyer directories – non-commercial
  • You can use the State Bar attorney listings to find attorneys in a geographic area.  You can also search to see who may have received any of the 11 certified legal specialty designations from the Bar Association. The California State Bar has a limited number of specialties.  The information available from this site is minimal but it can be a good non-commercial site to start your search for names.  Find certified legal specialists in your county or try the Advanced Search tool to locate attorneys who speak specific languages or practice in certain cities.

Lawyer directories – commercial directories
Advertisements

Yellow pages, TV, legal newspapers.  Caution – such advertisements are paid marketing. The TV ads with phone numbers usually will direct you to a call in-take center.

I have some names.  How do I check on the lawyer’s background?
  • Check the attorney’s California State Bar listing.  You can make sure the individual is currently in good standing – able to practice law within California. You can also check on entries for any prior issues that were reported to the Bar and made public.
  • Review information on attorney’s website or their firm’s website. The site may give you information about the types and range of legal matters (specialist or generalist) an attorney handles.
  • Run searches for the attorney’s name using different internet browsers. You may be able to find news articles written by the individual or discover newsworthy cases he or she has handled.
  • While doing you internet search, check to see if the attorney has a professional blog or is active on other social media sites – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  Reading the postings may give you a sense of whether you would be comfortable dealing with this individual.
  • No-cost searching for other court cases an attorney has handled will require searching multiple courts case info pages.  Search access varies by individual court.  There are expensive commercial databases that track this information but these are not available to the average person.
    • Currently — for Alameda County Superior Court – you can search by attorney name in the recent online criminal records.
I can’t afford to pay for professional help.

Legal Aid (low cost or no cost pro bono.  Pro bono is short for pro bono publico, a Latin term that means “for the public good.”)

Criminal – Alameda County Public Defender.  From the AC Public Defender’s website – Overview

Overview If you have been charged with a crime and cannot afford an attorney, you will be assigned an attorney from the public defender’s office. Our office’s practice consists predominantly of criminal defense litigation. We defend adults and juveniles charged with crimes ranging from petty-theft to capital murders. The office also defends individuals subject to involuntary psychiatric, civil commitments and conservatorships.

Additionally, our office represents individuals in certain specialty or collaborative courts, such as homeless court, drug court and mental health court. Most collaborative courts look to alternatives to incarceration in order to provide individuals with the services and treatment that they need.

Non-criminal – You may be able to connect to an organization that provides free or low-cost legal assistance for non-criminal matters.  Your eligibility for these services depends on your level of income and/or the subject of your legal problems.  Some organizations handle a variety of issues.  Some focus on serving certain social demographic groups.  Some offer classes or clinics to assist you in handling your own legal problems.

Alameda County legal aid organizations that handle a range of issues:

There are many others that focus on certain clientele – for example, Legal Assistance for Seniors.

Pro bono – you may receive a referral from a legal aid organization to a private attorney willing to forgo a fee or take a reduced fee for your type of case.

Pro bono should not be confused with the term “pro se” or “pro per” – a term used when a non-lawyer represents him or herself in court proceedings.  A non-lawyer can represent his or her own legal interests but is not allowed to represent another party.

The Volunteer Legal Service Corporation (VLSC) is the pro bono arm of the Alameda County Bar Association. VLSC provides free legal aid to low-income people in Alameda County through pro per legal clinics staffed by volunteer attorneys. The goal is to assist people in learning how to represent themselves.

Not all legal issues are handled by pro bono legal services.  At the ACLL Reference Desk, we are regularly asked where to find a pro bono attorney for a probate case.  The Alameda County Superior Court’s Probate Court hears cases related to personal and financial affairs of adults and children.  The Probate Division handles guardianship for children and conservatorships for incapacitated adults.   There are legal aid groups that serve members of these communities.  The Superior Court’s Self Help center will give some help for establishing guardianships and conservatorships.

Most people have heard the phrase “probating a will” – the distribution of assets when someone dies.  Or what can be more complicated for heirs –  “dying intestate”  – without having written a will.  It is not easy to obtain pro bono legal services when legal matters involve claims for valuable assets – such as a case about who inherits a house or bank accounts.  Legal aid groups do not usually handle these types of matters unless the party involved is a minor or disabled and therefore incapable of handling business matters for themselves.

 

 On Part 2 (coming soon) of this post will be covered two other approaches to handling the need for legal services:

  • I have decided what needs to be done. I need help completing the paperwork.
  • I have a problem but I would like to some research first before deciding how best to handle the issue.

Reliable And Free – Internet Legal News Resources

The staff here at the Alameda County Law Library is always on the lookout for no-cost but reliable information sources to share with our patrons.  The library is on a tight budget.  Many of our patrons are too.  Our revenue stream has dropped dramatically over the past decade.   We have had to make adjustments within our collection, making the most of what we have.  We do not have the extra funds to spend on resources that might be just nice to have.  Our patrons rely on our library because they find themselves in a similar situation.

Even attorneys – solo practitioners, members of small firms, or those newly admitted to the Bar – need to be conscious of overhead costs.  The extras that would be nice to have – business development tools such as Bloomberg, Law360, Courtlink, Court Wire and other legal industry news sources — come with a high price tag.  Those titles are marketed to the larger law firms, firms that also have marketing personnel and budgets.  For many people interested in monitoring the current developments in the legal environment even the cost of subscription to a legal newspaper, such of The Recorder or the Daily Journal, can be prohibitive.

What can a resource-challenged legal practitioner to do?  What about your average citizen who has interest but not the funds to track issues and/or cases within the US legal system?

Channeling the flow of information

Below is a curated list of free internet resources – accessible through a web sites or by email subscription – which may help anyone keep up with developments in the area of law – news-worthy new filings, activity in cases, proposed and enacted laws and regulations, developments in the legal profession – at no additional cost other than having access to the internet.

Keys for successful use of the internet as a news resource are:

  • Choose your sources wisely. Be selective.
  • Know that browsers and social media sites are looking for profits.  Browser search algorithms are guiding your search results to items they think you and their paying customers will be happy with – ads are displayed at the top of the list on Google.  Ask yourself – is the site trying to sell me something even if it is just their world view?
  • Organize the delivery of information so you can easily review lists of results, deleting or opening links depending on your interest.
  • Use an internet reader or other software to centralize the flow of posts from information web sites. (Also called news feed software or RSS feed aggregators.) Feedly provides free basic news feed software. This service allows you to gather and store headlines and links gleaned from web sites by subject category.  There are other similar software products.  Internet reader software can be very helpful if you want to monitor the discussions on individual blogs whose authors focus on specialized legal topics.  The Feedly screen also shows the age of post and popularity with other readers.
  •  You might want to set up a separate email account for news readers and to receive digest emails.  The streams of legal news information will not get tied up with work or personal emails.

Digests – Email subscriptions  

Many news organizations provide free digests, but, if you want to share in their work product, they want to know who you are.   The list below includes sources that will not spam you (too much) once you give over your email address.

  • The State Bar of California has a Daily News Digest that provides headlines and links to legal articles with a focus on California, but, it also includes links to reports on events and cases of burgeoning interest across the country.  Many of the links are to items from subscription-only publications but access is granted for some of the articles referenced.  This digest is well-curated and the articles are interesting and well-written.  Sorry, but if you want to track the politics of the State Bar organization, this is not the digest for you.
  • The California courts’ web site has recently developed a news page with links to articles of interest.  Its focus is on the California court system and judges.
  • American Bar Association news alerts and newsletters page.  You will have to give up some personal information and will need to delete a few email solicitations but the cost and quality of the information is worth it.
    • The ABA also has a legal blog directory for those who wish to find and follow blogs that focus on specific areas of law.  (They still use the term “blawg” but don’t hold that against the directory’s editors as the directory itself is very useful.)
    • The ABA Tech Journal may be of interest to those trying to keep up with technology advances in the legal field.
    • National focus.
  • Lexology – aggregates posts from law firm blogs.  Law firms, who are trying to promote their expertise, will tell you for free what they know about the developments in their practice areas.  You can select areas of interest and geographic coverage for your email digests.  Reviewing just the headlines can help you stay informed as to what issues others in your practice area think is important.
    • If you are considering setting up a blog yourself, Lexology is an excellent way to quickly review a wide range of legal blogs.  Who is good, what too much self-promotion reads like in post, what types of headlines you click on.
  • California League of Cities Local News Roundup for those interested in following local area legal news.  Reviewing the titles and links can help you track issues of interest on the community level such as  — legalization of marijuana, tax measures, Airbnb regulation.
    • California focus.

If a digest only provides a title link but not the full text, your local library can help.  County law libraries have legal newspapers and professional periodicals.

News feeds

If you want to set up a newsfeeds/RSS feeds, here are some good sites to start with:

  • Courthouse News Before the creation of many of the case filing alerts subscription services, Courthouse News was the go-to company for keeping informed of new filings.  They now have a home page that provides information (but not the documents) for new court filings, as well as, general legal news.
    •  National coverage.
    • Description from the company’s site – “Courthouse News Service is a nationwide news service for lawyers and the news media. Based in Pasadena, California, Courthouse News focuses on civil litigation, from the date of filing through the appellate level. Unlike other Internet-based publishers that simply aggregate information prepared by other content providers, Courthouse News publishes its own original news content prepared by its staff of reporters and editors based across the country.”
  • ABA Daily News Legal news and court actions.  National coverage.
  • Bloomberg News provides some of its articles for free on its web site.  Focus for this site is  the business of law and Big Law, or, in the words of the late Justice Scalia, “tall building” firms.
  • WSJ Legal Blog Access to blog articles available for free.  National coverage, well-written articles.
  • Reuters Legal News Free access to non-premium legal news. Focus on corporate law.  Reuters owns Westlaw.
  • Sacramento Bee Capital Alert  Good coverage of California legislative activity.  Sites limits the number of full text articles that can be read on your computer per month.
  • Not free but… you may wish to invest in one online subscription to a “national”, professionally written news publication. The New York Times covers the legal profession and legal news.  The Los Angeles Times also has excellent coverage of California legal news.

Dear Reader – Have a free news resources that you find helpful and don’t see on this list? Send word to ACLL at nancy.mcenroe@acgov.org.  It will be added to this post.

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License to Practice Law Old Style In A New Republic

Out of storage at Alameda County Law Library and into my hands came an interesting item.  It was one of a group of items that had been retrieved out of the back of a closet by a library staff member who was looking to re-decorate the walls in one of our for-rent conference rooms.  She thought the framed items she had come upon might have possibilities.  She wanted others to take a look to see if we thought any of the images were of particular interest.

Looking over her selections, one stood out.  There was no strong graphic image visible.  At first glance, it looked as if someone, in the past, had taken some effort to frame a dirty piece of paper after surrounding it with news clippings.   My attention was grabbed.  I watch Antiques Roadshow.  Could this be the next chief’s blanket that would set the library’s finances on the Roadshow to recovery?  Jumping on the Internet, I discovered some tidbits of information.  My wild imaginings were squashed but my interest held steady.   The item does tell an interesting tale.

 License to Practice Law in Post-Colonial Williamsburg

 What I first took to be a sad-looking piece of paper reads on one side :
 “I do hereby certify that I have received the fullest satisfaction of the ability and fitness of William Nelson junior esquire to practise [sic] as an attorney at law” [signed] Edmund Randolph,September 3, 1782″
The other side reads:
“Nelson  License  Sept 1782(?)”
Randolph was documenting that Nelson was now a competent attorney.  Nelson probably spent time in his legal office as an apprentice.  An apprenticeship was how a man became a lawyer at this time – there were no state bar exams.  The States were just getting themselves united at this point in history.  Legal apprenticeships in the early times of our country have been described by Lawrence Friedman as follows –

“[f]or a fee, the lawyer-to-be hung around an office, read Blackstone . . . and copied legal documents. If he was lucky, he benefited from watching the lawyer do his work, and do it well. If he was very lucky, the lawyer actually tried to teach him something.”  Apprenticeship “was useful to everybody: to the clerks, who picked up some knowledge of law . . . and to the lawyers, who (in the days before telephones, typewriters . . . ) badly needed copyists and legmen.” Lawrence M. Friedman, A History of American Law (3d ed. 2005) at 238.  Quoted in Katcher, Susan, Legal Training in the US: A Brief History 24, No. 1 Wisconsin International Law Journal 335 [available online at  http://hosted.law.wisc.edu/wordpress/wilj/files/2012/02/katcher.pdf]

The lawyer and his apprentice

Edmund Randolph220px-EdRand was the name of lawyer who lived in Virginia and was a compatriot of the more  famous participants in the American Revolution and creation of the new republic.  He handled George Washington’s personal legal matters and represented Aaron Burr during his trial for treason.  Washington appointed him as the first Attorney General of the United States in 1789 and then as Secretary of State in 1794.  The name, William Nelson, Jr., is harder to trace.  A Thomas Nelson Jr. (who was the son of a William Nelson) signed the Declaration of Independence.  William Nelson served as governor of Virginia (as did Randolph.)  Web resources do not show that he had a son of an appropriate age to be finishing up a legal apprenticeship during the 1780s. The Randolphs and Nelsons were Virginian families intertwined by marriage in those days. We must leave it to a family history expert to sort out any relationship.  The paper does document that this Randolph and that Nelson had a business relationship involving training to be a lawyer in the early days of our country.

Here are the images from the framed ACLL document:

edmund_randolph_signature_clerkship_william_nelson_junior_1782

“I do hereby certify that I have received the fullest satisfaction of the ability and fitness of William Nelson junior esquire to practise [sic] as an attorney at law” [signed] Edmund Randolph,September 3, 1782

Written on the reverse side –
randolph_signature_clerkship_william_nelson_junior_license

“Nelson  License  Sept 1782(?)”

My quick Internet research shows that, if authenticated,  someone might be willing to pay the equivalent of  year’s subscription to Civil Procedure Before Trial.  Oh, well.  ACLL has no plans to sell this item but will retain it as a bit of history of the American legal profession.

Of course, the library continues to need to pay for subscriptions to Civil Procedure Before Trial.  Your contributions can help provide access to legal information resources, as well as, access to justice for the Alameda County community.

If you wish to help with our mission into the future, you can DONATE NOW.  Thank you from the bottom of our closet.

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E-briefs – Organizing documents for E-Z Reading

Writing for on-screen readers –  Article by James D. Dimitri

Want to insure that your arguments, as presented within your electronically filed brief, are received well by the judge?  Courts are moving to required electronic filing of usdcnc_imagedocuments.  The Northern District of California requires that new civil cases be filed electronically.  (There are some exceptions.)

James D. Dimitri, in a recently released article (see link below to access full text document), provides suggestions on formatting an electronic filing and also discusses the reason why this is important.  The main one is to insure that your arguments are easily conveyed to the judge.

Here are some of the discussion highlights:

What difficulties do judges face when they use electronic devices to read briefs ? As we all do, they:

  • Struggle to see how the document is organized and, thus, may easily lose their place in the document.
  • Are distracted while reading the document.
  • Skim the document rather than reading it line by line, looking for cues that lead to the most important information in the document.

Here is a summary of some of Professor Dimitri’s suggestions on how to improve the layout for a brief to insure your work is read as you might wish:

  • Make headings a central feature of the document.
  • Use scientific enumeration to label headings. (“I.A, I.B, II.A, II.B, etc.” Discussed in Dimitri’s article.)
  • Use left-aligned, substantive point headings in briefs.
  • Use hyperlinks, but don’t overuse them.
  • Use bookmarks.
  • Be concise.
  • Use consistent terminology in the document to facilitate searching within the document.
  • Use clear, informative introductions and topic sentences.
  • Use lists.
  • Use reader-friendly pagination.

“WordWise: Writing for Screen Readers in the Wake of Indiana’s E-Filing Initiative” by James D. Dimitri, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of La, December 7, 2015  Full text available on Social Science Research Network site – HERE 

Here is the abstract of the article:

ABSTRACT: In light of this move to e-filing, lawyers should recognize that, in the near future, the documents they submit to Indiana’s courts probably will be read by judges on screen rather than on paper. Indeed, in other jurisdictions where e-filings are accepted, many judges prefer to use electronic devices — particularly electronic tablets such as iPads — to read documents.

Of course, this shift by judges to screen reading is important for the efficiency it will give them. They will be able to conveniently store, carry, and read many documents on a single, portable device when those documents were once stored and carried in cumbersome physical files.

But the courts’ shift to screen reading is also significant because it will require lawyers to change how they convey information to judges in the documents submitted to them. This “how” includes not only a document’s substantive content but also the document’s appearance on screen — in other words, the document’s design. This change is necessary because skillful writers tailor documents to their readers’ needs and preferences. And research indicates that readers read on-screen documents differently from the way they read paper documents.

This article will provide a basic discussion of why and how you, as a lawyer, may effectively design electronically filed documents to meet the needs of the screen-reader judge.

 

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Alameda County Law Library – Hayward – Attorney After Hours Privilege Program

ACLL Hayward – After-Hours Privilege Program

Alameda County attorneys can pre-register for the privilege of using the resources at the Alameda County Law Library Hayward South County Branch outside normal operating hours.  The library is located at 224 W. Winton Avenue in Hayward, next to the Hayward Hall of Justice.

Participants who are members of the California Bar in good standing and are registered ACLL users (also in good standing) can have access to the ACLL’s computers with premium databases including WestlawNext, Lexis Advance and CEB’s OnLAW, and the library print holdings, in the evenings or over the weekend.

With the help of the staff at the Hayward Police Department next door, registrants are issued temporary building and library door keys at the Police Department desk. By using their ACLL borrower number (found on their ACLL issued library card), they can sign onto the library’s PCs. Links to the legal and other databases are found on the computers’ Home page.

Here are the basic requirements:

WHO: Members of the California State Bar who are registered ACLL attorney borrowers in good standing. No fines can be outstanding.

COST: $50.00. The annual registration fee is due at the beginning of each calendar year. Fee is payable by cash, check, or credit card.
• No partial payments for registration after the first of the year.
• No pro-rating of annual fee.
• Non-transferable.
• Non-refundable.
• No group registration.

HOW: Participants will –
• sign a Memorandum of Agreement;
• pay an annual fee of $50.00 (cash or check)
• obtain an After-Hours stamp on his or her State Bar card.
• Keys must be returned within 24 hours of sign out.

Only registered After-Hours users are allowed to gain access to the library.

FOR MORE INFORMATION contact Peter Sands, ACLL Hayward Branch Assistant, at 510-670-5230 or by email, peter.sands@acgov.org . He will assist with the registration process and provide you with further details of the procedures.

It is understood that Hayward Police Department’s agreement to hold and issue keys is not police work but merely a courtesy to local attorneys, subject to cancellation if abused. Attorneys may be required to wait for a key while police attend to regular duties, which take priority. Please be patient.

 

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Legal Document Assistance in Hayward

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 Bellamy

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.

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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