With the prevalence of document preparers and the expense of attorneys, document preparers may seem like a logical choice. However, it’s important to understand that that the two types of professionals offer very different services.
An attorney is able to give you legal advice or to represent you in court. Attorneys must go through 3 years of law school and must take a difficult examination in order to become licensed. An attorney must also go through a rigorous background check to ensure that he or she is ethical.
Legal document preparers are required to meet minimal educational requirements and must take an examination to become certified. Document preparers also undergo a background check in order to become certified. Document preparers cannot give out legal advice. They also cannot represent you in court. They can, however, assist you with the preparation of legal forms and provide generalized information about the law.
What this means is that if you have a good sense of what you want, the document preparer may save you a lot of money. However, there are some tasks for which there is no substitute for an attorney and if you need legal advice, the document preparer will not be able to help.
It’s also possible to merge the two and save overall. Attorneys have the ability to enter limited scope agreements wherein they do not engage in full representation. For example, you might be able to pay an attorney just to get advice. Armed with that knowledge, you could then go to the document preparer and have him or her complete the appropriate forms.
Whatever you do, if you plan on using a legal professional, it’s important that you understand what he or she can and can’t do.