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.

 

New Resource From HeinOnline – Brennan Center For Justice Publications

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A new collection, Brennan Center for Justice Publications from NYU School of Law, is now available in HeinOnline. This collection includes more than 210 titles and 11,000 pages of material and is available to the patrons at Alameda County Law Library at no cost through the library’s subscription.

The Center’s law and policy scholarship is largely written by attorneys and covers a variety of topics. The Center’s publications are nonpartisan; most works are stand-alone journal-length articles. Once a year, the Center publishes a book-length volume, Democracy and Justice: Collected Writings, which compiles excerpts from the year’s shorter scholarship and includes new material for that publication.

The Brennan Center for Justice Publications can be found by name on HeinOnline under “Browse Collections by Name.”   The articles are listed in alpha order.

Here are examples of titles of articles that can be found in the collection – Voter Registration in a Digital Age: 2015 UpdateAutomatic and Permanent Voter Registration: How It Works.

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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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Federal Register – All Volumes Now Available Online

News from the Library of Congress of interest to legal researchers.  Federal Register volumes are now available in open access.

For researching federal administrative actions, the Federal Register is a crucial source.  It is the official daily (business day) publication for Presidential Documents, Executive Orders, proposed, interim, and final rules and regulations, and notices by Federal Agencies, as well as notices of hearings, decisions, fed_register_1936_imageinvestigations, and committee meetings. The Federal Register has been published by the National Archives and Records Administration since 1936 and consists of several distinct parts.  The final federal administrative rules are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations  – commonly referred to as the CFR.

The historical collection starts with the first Federal Register in 1936 and contains all volumes through 1993.  For more recent volumes, see federalregister.gov and FDSys (volumes 1994-2015). The Law Library of Congress website for the historical collection is www.loc.gov/collections/federal-register/.

A citation to the Federal Register– for example “77 Fed. Reg. 58945 (Sept. 25, 2012)”– gives you several pieces of information, including the volume number (in this example, the citation refers you to volume 77), the page number of that volume (here, page number 58945), and the date of the issue of the Federal Register where the publication appears (here, September 25th, 2012). The Law Library of Congress blog provides a Beginner’s Guide that may be of assistance with your research in the Federal Register.

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Using Your Laptop To Access WESTLAW At ACLL

WESTLAW access using your personal electronic device at ACLL

Here at Alameda County Law Library we make available, to the public, legal research databases including WESTLAW, LEXIS Advance, CEB’s OnLAW, and HeinOnline.  (HeinOnline is a good source for law reviews and federal legislative and regulatory documents.)  A list of sources available can be reviewed HERE.

The resources can be accessed using the public computers at the libraries in Oakland and Hayward.  Another method for connecting to a select group of databases is to use your own laptop or other electronic device and connect through the library’s wifi network.  Links to do this are found on the Legal Databases webpage.   WESTLAW is one of the resources available by this method.  You can also access OnLAW, HeinOnline and NOLO materials but not LEXIS.

The link for WESTLAW (until recently called WestlawNext) is at the bottom of the screen.  (Sorry not available from your home or office.  Access is restricted to those using ACLL’s network.)

ACLL staff members, Sheila Corman and Emily Bergfeld, have written a step-by-step guide on how to access WESTLAW while at our libraries.  The full Word document can be read here – Accessing Westlaw using your device at ACLL

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Here is a summary of the steps –

 

ACCESSING WESTLAW USING YOUR LAPTOP AT ACLL LOCATIONS

  • Open the browser on your device.
  • Connect to the network link that reads  Law_Library_Wifi.  No password is needed for access to ACLL’s wifi.
  • Using your browser, go to ACLL’s website –   acgov.org/law
  • Click on the Library Databases link in the bottom left box on our Home page.  You will move to the page with information about all databases.
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the section discussing WestlawNext and click the link for “Patron Access.”
  • WESTLAW will open on your screen.
  • The Use Agreement will appear.
  • Click on “I agree” and the “Continue” button.
  • You are on WESTLAW and can start your research.
  • To download materials to your device – click on the delivery box on the right side and set to the download/arrow icon.  It may be set on “email,” so click on the icon and change to download.  You can select the file drive for saving and the name for the document to complete the downloading process to your folder needs.

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Judicata – New Legal Research Platform

Judicata

There is a new online legal research platform now in beta — Judicata.

The company’s current focus is California primary legal sources – cases and codes.  Searching can be done by a natural language search or with terms and connectors.  The search and page format is clear, simple, and user friendly.

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MCLE Program – June 16

Alameda County Law Library will be hosting an MCLE program in Oakland next week on Thursday, June 16  – “Effective and Efficient Legal Research: Judicata.”  Online registration is available on ACLL’s Eventbrite site – INFO HERE.

Speakers will include professional legal research instructors from the company.  judicata_image

Topics will include:

  • Developing a strategy or plan of attack for your legal research
  • Breaking down research questions into the parts that matter so that you can search more efficiently and effectively
  • Constructing natural language queries that will find the best results (without the noise)
  • Mastering searching by terms and connectors

What content does Judicata have?

Judicata currently has California civil appellate opinions (from 1935 onwards) and California statutes.  Does not currently have federal cases, criminal cases, administrative decisions, state regulations, or repealed sections of California codes.

What filters?

  • Search Within Results: The Search Within Results filter limits your search results to cases that contain the text you enter into this box.
  • Publication Status: The Publication Status filter limits your search results to only published cases, only unpublished (slip) cases, or both.
  • Cause of Action: The Cause of Action filters limit your search results to cases where any of the complaints or cross-complaints alleged the selected causes of action.
  • Procedural Posture: The Procedural Posture filters limit your search results to cases in which any of the selected judgments or orders on a particular motion are being challenged on appeal.
  • Disposition: The Disposition filters limit your search results to cases having any of the selected dispositions.
  • Appellant’s Trial Court Role: The Appellant’s Trial Court Role filters limit your search results to cases in which the appellant had the any of the selected trial court roles.
  • Court:The Court filters limit your search results to cases issued by any of the selected courts.
  • Judge:The Judge filters limit your search results to cases in which any of the selected judges participated. You will need to start to type in the name of the judge in order to get filter suggestions.

You can explore Judicata for free.  For access, contact the company HERE .

https://www.judicata.com/

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Prince Died Without A Will – Don’t Be A Prince

No will

The Los Angeles Times recently published an op-ed piece entitled –  “How could someone rich and famous like Prince die without a will? It’s not unusual. Just ask an estate lawyer.”  In the piece, Jack B. Osborn, an estate attorney,  goes on to write –

Amazingly, it is not unusual for the rich and famous to die without a will. Jimi Hendrix, Pablo Picasso, Bob Marley, Howard Hughes, Sonny Bono and Abraham Lincoln all died without a will. Lincoln was the first president to die without a will even though he was an attorney.

Thinking about death, never mind what happens after you die, is hard for most people.  Mr. Osborn states that only 41% of people ages 55 to 64 have a will.  Without a will controlling the settling of an estate and distribution of the assets, the lawyer fees can take a larger share of those assets.  Mr. Osborn notes –

The American Bar Association estimates that probate proceedings cost Americans up to $2 billion per year, of which nearly $1.5 billion is paid in attorneys’ fees.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

An individual can take a number of steps to prepare for the passing of assets to the next generation.  Alameda County Law Library makes available resources to help you research the legal issues involved with drawing up a will, planning your estate, or establishing a living (revocable during one’s life) trust.

Getting started with the process –

For the non-attorney, materials from the NOLO publishing company can be most helpful –

  • 101 Law Forms for Personal Use / NOLO Editors KF 170 .L46 2013 (Self Help) – various templates depending on your personal family situation
  • The Mom’s Guide to Wills & Estate Planning / Liza Hanks KF 750 .Z9 H3273 2009 (Self Help)
  • Make Your Own Living Trust 12th ed. / Denis Clifford  KF 734  .C58 201 (Self Help) – avoiding probate, other ways to pass on property

and one of our more useful titles as it does a wonderful job of summarizing most legal procedures and issues involving death and the transfer of property

  • How to Probate an Estate in California: A Step by Step Guide 23rd ed. / Julia Nissley KFC 205  Z9 N57 2016 (Self Help)

Many of the NOLO titles are available through the ACLL website.

  • Access the Legal Databases webpage on ACLL’s website.
  • Once you are at the page, move down the screen until you see –
NOLO (EBSCO Legal Information Reference Center)

Provides more than 220 online full text legal reference books and thousands of legal forms, the majority from Nolo, the nation’s oldest provider of legal information for consumers and small businesses including: California specific books and forms, business law, property and real estate, rights and disputes and much more. These books and forms may be searched, printed and e-mailed both from within the library and outside the library. Laptop access is available to Legal Information Reference Center materials and forms in both libraries via WiFi. Please click on EBSCO Legal Information Reference Center to connect to this database from anywhere. It is also available from the public computers’ menu at the Main Library and on a public computer at the Branch Library in Hayward.

For detailed information on how to use the the NOLO database click here.

  • The here link at the end provides instructions on how to log on to the database, as well as, search for information from a particular NOLO title.

There are other resources on the internet that are helpful when tackling the issues of drafting a will.

New to California – Transfer on Death deeds

In the past, many individuals added others to the title of real property as joint tenants in an attempt to avoid formal probate court proceedings after death.  As of the beginning of the 2016, California real property owners have another simplified option for transferring real property after death – Transfer on Death deed (TOD)  See a prior post for more information and resources on this option. POST HERE

Don’t be a Prince.  Be a prince for your heirs.  Make a tough situation simpler for them and make a will.

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