If you choose to pay the civil demand, contact an attorney first to find out if CA permits by statute companies to collect them without the need to take you to court. If the statute does allow them to do it, have an attorney or you can try to do it for yourself is to prepare an Accord and Satisfaction agreement with the firm that states that in exchange for your payment, and without any admission of wrongdoing or liability, all outstanding matters related to this incident are hereby resolved, including but not limited to civil suit and/or criminal prosecutions. You would be better served having an attorney help you especially since you mentioned that you are on probation. Good luck.
I disagree with Ms. Biberaj. The civil demand is NOT in lieu of criminal filing. The two are completely independent. Paying the demand will NOT affect the state's decision about whether to file. If the police were not involved, then the court has not reported the case and there will be NO criminal case.
The demand is far in excess of any reasonable loss that the court sustained. A fair bit of it will go into the law firm's bank account. Most criminal defense lawyers agree that people can simply ignore these demands without concern.
I agree in part with Ms. O'Connor but would add a few things. The first is if you did in fact shoplift, there should be some consequences. Trying to worm your way out of things is not always the best course of action for people who are trying to make a good life for themselves. If you made a mistake, I'd suggest you pay the civil demand and learn from it. At this point you do not need a lawyer because no criminal case has been filed. I would wait and see if you receive an arraignment letter. You can always ask for the Public Defender if a case is filed against you and you'll probably end up getting some type of diversion (i.E. a theft related class to attend).
You can always call the law firm and see if they would be willing to reduce the amount in order to settle the civil aspect. It can't hurt and an offer to compromise can not be used against you in a criminal action. You're 19, you should be able to handle this yourself and maybe it's time to start being a bit more responsible with your choices. Good luck. Consider yourself lucky if you only end up paying a civil penalty.