Self-Employed Legal Document Assistant
Autumn Gillette, LDA
March 2017 graduate
Program: Specialized Associate Degree – Paralegal
A Legal Document Assistant, as defined by the California Business & Professions Code (Section 6400 (c)) is: “Any person who is otherwise not exempted and who provides, or assists in providing, or offers to provide, or offers to assist in providing, for compensation, any self-help service to a member of the public who is representing himself or herself in a legal matter, or who holds himself or herself out as someone who offers that service or has that authority, or a corpora- tion, partnership, association, or other entity that employs or contracts with any person who is not otherwise exempted who, as part of his or her responsibilities, provides, or assists in providing, or offers to provide, or offers to assist in providing, for compensation, any self-help service to a member of the public who is representing himself or herself in a legal matter or holds himself or herself out as someone who offers that service or has that authority.”
Autumn graduated from the Legal Secretary program in 2010 and worked for the Brayton Purcell law firm for a number of years. She returned to Empire College in 2016 to complete her paralegal degree.
When Autumn observed a potential client who was a battered woman and could not afford the $4,500 retainer for a divorce, she decided she wanted to help people in similar circumstances and founded her own business, AGillette LDA, in 2017. Her company “brings quick, easy, and friendly Legal Document Assistance, offering affordable services to help the do-it-yourselfer with Family Law, Estate Planning, Adoptions, Business Formations, Probate, Name Changes, and other matters.”
Autumn shared that it was a bit terrifying to launch her own business as a single mother of two young boys and knowing that the success of the business, including the backside such as bookkeeping and marketing, was up to her. However, she has found it to be unbelievably rewarding. “I am from this town. I talk with potential clients, and people tend to like me,” says Autumn. “I listen to them and am empathetic to their story.”
The basic requirements to become a Legal Document Assistant are to have a paralegal certificate as defined by the paralegal education requirements of California Business and Professions Code §6450, be bonded, and possess a business license if the business is located within city limits. Like all LDAs, Autumn is extremely careful to frequently reiterate to her clients that she is not an attorney, cannot give legal advice, and cannot select legal forms for them. She does draft the forms once the client completes a questionnaire and files the completed documents with the court. If she feels she cannot help a client, Autumn will advise them to hire an attorney.
Autumn’s advice for someone considering a career as an LDA is to work for an attorney as a paralegal first (Autumn worked for seven years in law offices before opening her business). She loves that she gets to help people and set her own hours, which melds nicely with family commitments.
“About two weeks ago I found out that my father has Alzheimer’s disease, and it is going to be hard in this journey and I get to be with my dad. That is unbelievably rewarding not just on the fact that I get to help my clients, but I get to help my clients and help my family. And to me that’s the best part of my job.”