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In This Issue
President's Message
Steven Elias
Steve Elias Refferral Network
Secretary's Report
CALDA Spring Seminar
Membership Report
Professional Standards
Fundraising Report
Legislation Report

 Technology Committee 


For more information or to apply for a position, please contact  

Carl Knoll 


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The California Association of Legal Document Assistants was established in August 1986, and was formerly known as "California Association of Independent Paralegals" (CAIP). CALDA is the premiere organization for legal document assistant professionals.

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March 2012

From Carl Knoll, CALDA President

Dear CALDA Members,


First, we must pause for a moment and once again recognize and remember the late Steve Elias.  His passing was a sock to us all and his memorial was the final exclamation point to a man's who life work, compassion and unconventional ways helped pave the way for our industry and for all the self-represented litigants here and abroad.  Thank you once again Steve and to your beloved Catherine...we will continue to the good fight!
Carl Knoll, President

Next, I am proud to announce that we have two new Board Members.  Liz Fleicher will be our new Fund Raising Chair and Robin Schumacher will be replacing Jenny Barei as our new Secretary (welcome back Robin!).  Both Liz and Robin are excited to be participating and are looking forward to working with the Board on its goals.  


Lastly, CALDA is off to a good start to the New Year.  We had a successful 1st Board Meeting in January where we continued developing our strategic plan and made commitments to improve CALDA for it's current and future members.  We have made some tweaks to the CALDA website, had several successful Teleclasses thanks to our Education Chair Vanessa Watson and have been taking more full advantage of our social media outlets to help bring more awareness to CALDA and our industry.  Also, the planning has begun for Annual Conference in October which will be held in Sacramento, CA.  There is still a lot to do and the entire Board is enthusiast about the future of CALDA and looking forward to growing our membership.

Thank you.

Carl A. Knoll, CALDA



Our Pledge to Stephen Elias


I have never been asked to write a memorial. I prayed about it and asked my God what I should say, on behalf of an association, about a man who left so suddenly and unexpectedly. What do I say about a man who was respected and loved? What do I say about a man who gave so much to our profession and asked so little in return? What could I say which could convey the void which is left by

Stephen Elias 

his passing.


We cried when we heard Stephen died. We cried when we went to his memorial service in Lake County, and now we cry again. Did we tell him how much he meant to us and the profession? Did we thank him enough for all he gave to us? Are we representing the profession in a way which made him see that his labor was not in vain? If we did not, please forgive us. Please help us to see his life and death as an example of what it means to be a selfless giver.


Please help us to love each other because Stephen loved us so much. Please help us to fight for legal access for all, just like Stephen did. Please help us fight the powers who would deny access to the law, like Stephen did. Please help us to deny our self the luxuries of this world while we help others, like Stephen did.


By the world's standard Stephen was not a rich man, but by Your standards he was a giant. He gave to those You love, those who are abused and mistreated. If we do these things and remember to call Catherine and Rubin and love on them, then we know we're showing Stephen that his labor was not in vain and that we love what he loved.


Rest in Peace Stephen Elias, we the members of the California Association of Legal Document Assistants will continue to carry the torch in your name.      




Helen Bellamy



Ian Duncan, Vice President

Dear Members,


Every now and then, a Legal Document Assistant gets stuck because a question arises that requires legal advice.  It might be a single and relatively small question, but answering it is impossible either because the LDA does not have a written material that easily covers the subject, or because the customer's specific facts just require a specific response.  


Although some LDAs have forged relationships with attorneys, many others have not.  For them, this situation can be a deal breaker.  The last thing any LDA wants is for their relationship with a customer to fail because of a potentially easy legal question.  Customers often do not understand or care about the LDA's inability to give legal advice, and the LDA's reputation can be unfairly tarnished by an unhappy customer.  A program in which the LDA can help the customer find a solution to a difficult problem will provide depth to the LDA's business.


The CALDA Board's solution to create CALDA's version of a Lawyer Referral Service, as follows.  Here are general guidelines for the program:

SITUATION: Customer and LDA get stuck, because customer has a legal question needing attorney advice.  How can CALDA help?


1.  LDA refers customer to an attorney on the Referral Network  Directory and says "Here, this person is associated with my organization.  You can call her for advice".


2.  Customer calls attorney and makes phone-consultation appointment.  


3.  Customer mails attorney a set discounted fee of $125.


4.  Customer and attorney meet via telephone for 30 minutes - customer receives advice.   


5.  Attorney transmits the advice to the customer within a set turnaround time (three days).


6.  Customer shares advice and provides instructions to the LDA.


The main purpose of the program is to provide a very tangible, "workaday" type benefit of being a CALDA member, somewhat similar to the Questionnaires and Brochures.  This is a tool that members can use on a daily basis.  Even experienced LDAs who do have relationships with attorneys may benefit from a program which standardizes the procedure, cost, delivery method, and turnaround time for helping a customer receive timely legal advice at a reasonable cost.


We also have the great honor of naming this program in memory of Steve Elias.  Steve's mission was to bring self-represented litigants greater access to the legal system; hopefully this program helps accomplish that goal.


What happens next?  Expect the DIRECTORY OF ATTORNEYS to come out next month.  The Directory will contain exact program guidelines and the participating attorneys.


Ian Duncan

CALDA Vice President 



SECRETARY'S MESSAGE -- Taming the Awkward Moments

Taming the Awkward Moments with Family and Friends.


Having been a paralegal and legal document assistant for many years has its advantages and its drawbacks. This will of course primarily address some of the drawbacks


 I deeply appreciate this profession and the freedom owning my own business provides me. I love that I can help people withJenny assistance in resolving many varied types of issues. Among the advantages of this business are contacts and friends I have made over the years. When someone truly appreciates my assistance and refers another client to me - that is priceless. I've worked hard for many years to build my business and my calendar is usually full each week now. I'm truly thankful and consider it all a blessing.



However, there are drawbacks in this profession that are somewhat difficult to handle - at least for me. I'll admit it. I am a wimp. I want to help everyone and have a very hard time saying no - even when I want to. When a very close friend or extended family member wants my assistance - they usually want it right now or better yet - yesterday. They don't hesitate to call me at night, on weekends, when I am out to dinner with my family or on vacation. Charging them for my services has always left me feeling awkward and greedy. I don't know why I should - I do an EXTRA special job for these grateful people - but it is because I THINK that they expect me to do the work for free or a reduced cost. Actually, I have no clue what they are thinking. Having provided them free services countless times over the years, I often feel resentful and have no one to blame but myself - but there it is. Hmmmm. I have finally found a way to deal with this. Priorities need to be set. This is my responsibility and no one else can do that but me. 


My personal priority will always be my immediate family and if they need my assistance I will most likely drop whatever I have going to assist them. They are intimate with the daily details of my life and they do not tend to take advantage of me.


Extended family is another story. While I do care deeply about them, I have begun to tell those who call me that I have a full schedule and if they can wait until my next available time frame, I can help them certainly. If their issue is immediate, I can refer them to a CALDA member - many of whom I know very well and feel comfortable referring to. This has worked well as I have referred several extended family relations to CALDA members - always with positive feedback. As for charging them when I take the work, I have established a "friends and family" discount and I force myself to say it. For example, I tell them that my normal fee is $100, but the "friends and family discount" is 30% off - so the total will be $70 instead. People understand that we do this for a living and I haven't seen any angry or resentful faces since I started doing this.   Best of all, I am not resentful anymore.    

 For close friends and their children/husbands/aunts etc, I have begun to let them know that I cannot provide emergency service. I tell them that it sounds as if they have an emergency and then I provide them with a CALDA member referral and sometimes an option to obtain the paperwork from the courthouse and fill it out themselves - with an offer to go over their completed work with them when they have it finished. I don't know what they think about this but giving them these options makes me feel much better.     


 This may all seem so simple and logical - it does to me now too. But it has taken me years to develop this priority system. We are in a caring service business. Most times, people are coming to us with problems and heartaches. It is not extremely complicated but helping these people repair their problem is indispensable to many folks - just like your mechanic. As my mechanic husband is fond of saying - we know which screw to tighten.


It is so important to set priorities so we can care for ourselves and so we don't become burned out, stressed out and resentful. I am always searching for the balance - this system has helped me and I hope sharing it will help my fellow CALDA members.   



Robin Schumacher

CALDA Secretary 



- MARCH 24, 2012, Foster City

CALDA Seminar Series: Spring Seminar

Dear Members,


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hosted by CALDA's Bay Area Chapter

Foster City, California

Main Event: A Panel of family law Judges and Court Staff describe in-court procedures for self-represented litigants.

The registration form is here:  


Four 90-minute classes will be presented. More information, including an agenda with details on the classes and instructors will be forthcoming.


We hope to see you there!




Bay Area Chapter Seminar Committee

(Marcel Neumann, Jeri Blatt, Janet Greenhow, and Ian Duncan)


Jeri Blatt, Membership Chair

Dear Members,


As of February 13, 2012 we have a total of 197 members.


A second direct mail campaign was completed on February 10, 2012. Letters to non-registered (and working as paralegals) persons, registered but non- CALDA member LDAs in Sonoma, Solano, Shasta, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and San Mateo counties were mailed. The plan is to continue with this marketing plan and to contact all these people in California


The mid term project is to target one newspaper per month to write an article about LDAs in California. The long term project is to increase CALDA membership by 25% within 12 months to 246 members. Increasing it by 50% would be even better.


As you can see, our goal is ambitious but doable. Even so, the personal contact by you, a CALDA member, to a non-CALDA LDA in your area is better than the best marketing plan. Try to reach out to someone you know who is not a member and do your best to convince them to join. This way we can be assured of not only meeting our goal but surpassing it. Wouldn't that be great!



Jeri Blatt

Membership Chairperson 


As Professional Standards Chairperson for CALDA, one of the "jobs" I am responsible for is to respond to all complaints that we receive about our members. No matter how hard Debra Holliswe might try, it is very difficult to please everyone all the time. However, there are things we, as LDAs, can do to try to avoid having issues with our clients that lead to complaints. Some of those things include:


1. Make sure that our advertising is done in accordance with the Business and Professions Code that governs our profession. That code (B & P Code 6408/6408.5) states clearly that: in all advertising, (including but not limited to, our website, business cards, letterhead, phone book ads) we MUST:

   a) use the statement "I am not an attorney. I can only provide self-help services at your specific direction."

   b) list all of our LDA registration information, including our name, business address, telephone number, the county of registration, registration number and expiration date of our registration.


2. According to B & P Code 6410, LDAs are required to have a contract with every client. This contract must contain certain language and information that can be found in B & P Code 6410. Among other things, this contract states exactly what services you will provide to the client and how much he/she will pay for these services. Having this contract can avoid having misunderstandings about your fee that can lead to complaints by your clients. CALDA provides a standard contract on its "Members Only" page that conforms with the Code in both English and Spanish.


3. We all need to be very careful about unauthorized practice of law (UPL) when talking to or dealing with our clients. Some examples of UPL are: giving any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation to a consumer about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms, or strategies. Our CALDA attorney, Richard Lubetzky is very clear about this subject in his UPL class at the Conference each year. If you haven't attended one of his classes, you really need to.


As Legal Document Assistants, and particularly members of CALDA, we have a duty to ourselves, our association and our clients, to comply with all of the codes in the Business and Professions Code. If you haven't read it, you should. And if you have, maybe it's time to review it. That's one way to be sure you are doing everything possible to protect yourself and to offer your clients a clear idea of just what you can and cannot do to help them.


Respectfully submitted by:


Debra I. Hollis

Professional Standards Chairperson 





I was happy to get a call from Carl Knoll early in January, just after the announcement of Steve Elias' passing.   It was a sad time though, and as the conversation flowed talking about Steve and his wonderful advocacy work he had done over the many years with CALDA, Carl asked me if I would consider the Fundraising Chair position.


I have been a member of CALDA for 5 years now, and was also the recipient of the 2007 CALDA scholars

hip.   I met the people on the Board and helped with the   conference that year.   And it was exciting to be a part of the process involved with not only helping to educate LDA's, but getting those much needed Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) credits that we all need to have!   I have also worked in the Legal Field for 20 years, in many capacities including as an Evening Supervisor for a Women's Shelter, a Child Care Provider for a Court Referred Social Service Agency, Legal Secretary for a Legal Aid Office, and a Law Library Assistant for the Butte County Law Library.   And since 2008, I have been an LDA and Paralegal at the business I started called A Legal Bridge Attorney Support and Self-Help Center.


I have been in contact with previous CALDA fundraising Chairs and have begun the process of learning what this Chair Position is all about. There are many exciting ideas in promoting CALDA at conferences collaborating with vendors and products, and I am open to any and all ideas you may have too, so please do not hesitate to contact me with them.        


... And may Steve Elias' legacy, continue to live on....



Elizabeth Fleischer

Fundraising Chair



Sierra County Clerk regarding the Equal Access site

Dear Members,


Last month Connie Crocket, previous Legislation Chair, who subsequently took on responsibilities of 2011 Conference Chair, shared a communication she received last month from the Sierra County Clerk regarding the Equal Access site. The site ( now features a contextual search function allowing users to search for instructional materials, program models, evaluation tools, and other information.


Many of you may have been to the site, taking in its wealth of information. In navigating the site, when one clicks on the Self-help website link in the first paragraph of the Home page under the heading Lawyers and Legal Help, then to its subheading Finding a Lawyer there appears this description of "Paralegals or Legal Document Assistants":

Paralegals, or legal document assistants, are a good resource for preparing the many forms needed in a family law case and other types of cases. BUT they have not been to law school. They are NOT qualified to give you legal advice and, by law, are NOT allowed to give you legal advice. They can only do what you tell them to do. They are not trained to spot potential problems. Find more information about how to find a legal document assistant  in your community.


I am not elated by the disclaimers, however legal document assistant links right to the CALDA website, landing on the page with the heading "Do I Need an LDA?" Scroll up or down on the page and one finds a lot of information about LDAs and the benefits of enlisting the services of an LDA. While this is a bit of an obscure corner of the site, it is important to note that LDAs are included here, with particular importance on the fact that the link to the CALDA site is there providing more in-depth information about what our profession offers. Perhaps in the coming months we can find ways of making the judicial council even more aware of the high level of professional services LDAs provide and our significant contributions to alleviating the needs of self litigants and the courts.


Meanwhile, the "Self Help" and "Forms & Rules" headings on the Equal Access site provide in depth procedural information and up-to-date required forms. It's a worthy resource for our toolbox.




Maureen McCready

CALDA Legislature Chairperson