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Should I hire a lawyer or a paralegal to submit motion to vacate?

La Mesa, CA |

I just discovered a civil judgement on my credit report. This judgement was awarded in a jurisdiction 200 miles away. Being that I am just now learning of this, I was never properly served with court documents. My options here are to pay $3000 to settle or $250 court fees + 600 for a paralegal to file a motion to vacate. Fees are higher at this court because it is for $10000+ cases as the creditor/plaintiff hired a lawyer. I offered the judgement lawyer $1000 and they declined. Does $600 seem steep for a paralegal to file this for me? Should I just hire an actual lawyer? Or should I just pay the judgement lawyer?

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Attorney answers 6


Your posting suggests that you've considered a few of the basic options when learning of this default money judgment. Below is a link to my blog on all options when a defendant discovers a default judgment on an unpaid debt. Your posting does not indicate when the default judgment was entered or the location that the proof of service shows service was completed or whether it shows personal versus substitute service. These are important considerations in determining how likely a motion to set aside is likely to be received. Some judges almost never approve a motion to set aside a default judgment more than a few months old. There is no standardized form, the preparer should be familiar with the rules of evidence and rules concerning Civil Procedure and Due Process for default judgments.

You have attempted to settle the debt, which is certainly an option. I have been having success in settling default judgments for my clients, often better than they can get for themselves. There is a difference between hiring an attorney who represents consumers against debt collection lawyers day in and day out, compared with an attorney who handles a variety of areas of law. Thus, before you decide on which option suits you best, please contact an attorney who handles primarily debt collection defense of consumer debts. If you use a paralegal, you will be responsible for all mistakes and be required to appear in court for yourself.

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I would check with a lawyer who knows the rules and law. Do you want to pay 600 to a paralegal when you have virtually no chance? if you have a chance, do you want to risk a paralegal making a mistake? How long ago was the judgment entered? Do you have any defense to the case? If you dont, you may be wasting a lot of money by moving to set aside. You really should get copies of the court file and meet with an atty who is near the curt where this happened. if you hire someone, you dont want to pay for them to have to drive 3-4 hrs to court each way. Do this fast, as the longer you take to file a motion the less inclined a court is to grant it, and there are max time limits as well.


If you want your bane cleared, hire a lawyer who is versed in civil litigation


I agree with the answers of my colleagues. I write to point out that a paralegal is not authorized to prepare this motion for you. If the paralegal does this, the paralegal is breaking the law and is practicing law without a license.

I have yet to see any motion prepared by a non-attorney, including so-called paralegals, that will accomplish the purpose for which it has been prepared. IMO, you are wasting $600 if you pay a paralegal to draft this motion for you.

Hire an attorney or settle the claim. Better yet, hire an attorney to settle the claim. Good luck.

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Let's just say that paralegals may not appear in court to represent you, only a lawyer is legally permitted to do that. Hence, if a paralegal prepares a motion that you file in court, you will be the one appearing, in propria persona, to argue that motion. Good luck with that. On the other hand, hiring a qualified civil litigation defense attorney will likely cost you far more than the case is worth. If you owe the plaintiff the debt, then do yourself a favor; try to settle for an amount somewhere in the middle and get on with your life.

The following answer represents the legal opinion of the attorney regarding a hypothetical situation. It is not intended as legal advise in an attorney/client situation. The answer to the question posed is not to be relied upon as legal advise. The questioner is advised to independently seek the counsel of a qualified lawyer with whom he or she can establish an attorney/client relationship.


In my state, it is considered the unauthorized practice of law for a paralegal to offer to provide legal services. Which brings up the interesting question of how a paralegal could file a motion (or any document) in a judicial proceeding.

Just doing the math would lead one to believe that the motion to vacate would be less expensive than satisfying the judgment. However, there are many factual issues that need more facts to provide a better response - how long has the judgment been outstanding? What ties, if any, do you have with the case? A lawyer could evaluate your chances on the merits of the motion to vacate.

Hiring a paralegal to do an attorney's job is not a bargain,, even if the initial price is lower.

If you cannot resolve the case with the plaintiff's lawyer, you should hire one for an opinion about the merits of the motion to vacate.

Any response does not create an attorney - client relationship without both parties fully signing a representation agreement.