Before beginning a Legal Document Preparation Business, a good amount of soul searching and forethought is in order. Almost every legal document preparer who you ask -- Why did you become a legal document preparer? -- will give you a very personal answer. Some members are serial entrepreneurs and come searching for an industry where they can "do good by doing good". Document preparers literally change the lives of many of their customers by preparing the forms needed to accomplish a longtime goal.
Very few of us planned to be in this business. Many legal document preparers had planned to go to law school, or went to law school and then decided to become legal document preparers instead.
Many others completed a paralegal or legal assisting course of study, and worked for a law office for a time. Many legal document preparers continue to work as "freelance or contract paralegals" alongside their document preparation businesses. By definition a paralegal is supervised directly by an attorney. Some former or would be paralegals who join us found that working for attorneys was too demanding for not enough pay. We jokingly refer to these members as "recovering paralegals".
The first thing to know is that there is plenty of work to go around. There is so much demand for our services that it is difficult to fail. I don't mean to say that our work is easy, or minimize the work we do. If it were easy then everyone would be a legal document preparer or even more to the point – if it were easy everyone could prepare their own documents.
Consumers face multiple hurdles when faced with a legal task. First, most people don't learn legal survival skills in school. In fact, many legal document preparers started their formal academic training only after graduating from the school of hard knocks. Many LDP's survived devastating divorces, bankruptcies, or law suits; and they not only live to tell the tale they have capitalized on the experience gained after overcoming their own personal challenges.
Competition is good. Cutthroat or unfair business practices are completely unnecessary. One of our tenets is that there is no place for greed in business. Make money, absolutely, that's what we're here for. But, the moment a business person, particularly in a business which is designed to help consumers, gets greedy, karma comes calling. We promise.
We sincerely hope you are in this business to help people. There are various business models for operating a legal document preparation business. Even within this association there is a wide range of business models and ways of doing things. Having your own business allows you to be there for your family, generate long-term income (that could very well become your family's primary income), fuel your own creativity and passion, help others, and have fun in the process.
In Florida, legal document preparers are lay practitioners who provide document preparation services directly to the public. The Florida Association of Legal Document Preparers, FALDP, has created standards to join. Years of experience preparing Florida legal documents can substitute for formal academic training.
FALDP offers online courses for new legal document preparers; for legal document preparers relocating to Florida from other states; and for document preparers who want to expand their knowledge and services.
Some members have offices or storefronts, others are completely virtual. All of our members are in Florida or have a business connection to Florida.
We are at the forefront of a movement. More and more consumers are seeking the services of legal document preparers. We have the opportunity to create our own culture. And we have the obligation to ourselves and our customers to create that culture to benefit all. I am excited by the continuing positive impact our services have on the lives of our customers. We can do what we do best, by creating a solid foundation within our own industry. We often write about building a positive culture for our profession, and believe our ideas bear repeating. As we grow as an association we have a golden opportunity to create our own culture. Many industries have cultural norms and idiosyncrasies that are unwritten rules of conduct between colleagues. For example, doctors give free medical care to other doctors and their families. It is this type of cooperation that I would like to nourish. I'm not necessarily suggesting that you give your work away – I'm asking that we strive to help one another, as we continue to nurture a culture of collaboration.