Expense — Many people believe hiring a paralegal or document preparation service is much less expensive than hiring an attorney. This may not be true. You may want to check if the paralegal’s fees are actually less than the attorney’s fees.
Expertise – Under Arizona law, a paralegal or document preparation service cannot provide legal advice. Some agencies, by the way they advertise or behave, may make you believe you are speaking to an attorney. Ask the person if he or she is a licensed Arizona attorney, licensed paralegal, or licensed document preparer! Ask specifically for the person’s qualifications: training, legal education, how long they have been practicing, type of experience. All attorneys practicing in Arizona Superior Court must be a licensed by the State Bar of Arizona. Only attorneys can represent, advise, and advocate for you in open court.
Note: Look in the upper left hand corner of any document prepared for you. Only an attorney’s name will appear in that space. Neither a paralegal nor a document preparer can be listed there. If you are representing yourself, your name and address will go in that space. If you have been served, check that corner to see the identity (if any) of the attorney of the other side.
Additional Note: Some mediators are attorneys and are credentialed; most are not. Some individuals/agencies promote that they are mediators without having any training, legal background, experience, or credentials. Mediators are not licensed in Arizona.
Speed – Allowing an attorney to represent you may speed up your case. Not only will your case receive individual attention, but you will be represented throughout the process by someone in court who can handle and expedite your case.
Doing it right the first time — Some individual proceed on their own without legal advice and find that it costs more (e.g. money, time, energy and aggravation) on the “back end” to straighten things out than it would have at the outset. Sometimes, if a person has not been represented and certain orders were already entered, it may be very difficult (and expensive) to straighten out.
Compare and Decide — You should at least consult with an attorney and receive legal advice before making decisions that adequately protect yourself, your family, your property. Do not underestimate the importance of seeking legal advice for your situation as early as possible. A paralegal or document preparation service cannot provide you with legal advice, and is not necessarily cheaper, faster and easier. A mediator may not have legal training or expertise at all. Consult with an attorney, compare the others, and decide.