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Business Spotlight: The Document People’s lower-cost service allows ‘access to justice for everybody’

Tom Pattenaude opened his office of The Document People in January in the Midway District.
(Courtesy of Tom Pattenaude)

Filing legal paperwork can be daunting and expensive. A divorce or establishing a trust or power of attorney can cost thousands of dollars with the help of a legal expert.

But Tom Pattenaude, who recently opened an office of The Document People in the Midway District, says his business can save people a fortune as they navigate the legal filing system.

“I do believe in access to justice for everybody,” Pattenaude said. “A lot of people can’t afford an attorney, so this is a way for them to participate in the legal system.”

The Document People is a document preparation and filing service that specializes in estate planning, family law, business and real estate as part of a suite of 35 document services. Each store is independently owned, with most offices in the Los Angeles area. Pattenaude opened the San Diego location in January at 3166 Midway Drive.

“[The Document People] have a 25-year system,” Pattenaude said. “I bought into it because I saw they had a very sophisticated model for all their services. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes and they’ve honed it into a really quality model.”

Pattenaude, who has an MBA from UCLA, was working as a lawyer in Los Angeles when he first became aware of the service. Long before becoming an investor in the company, Pattenaude interacted with The Document People as a customer.

“The store was directly across from my office,” Pattenaude said. “It was easier and cheaper for me to have them do some of the stuff than for me to do it. I had them do my trust for me. Ten years before I worked with them, I had done a trust on my own and I spent about three grand on it. When I needed it to be updated, I just poked in and had them do it.”

A basic trust can go for as much as $3,500, Pattenaude said. The Document People offers that service for as little as $799, with an entire estate plan prepared by an attorney. Because The Document People operates under a license for legal document assistance, it prepares documents at the direction of the client, which can end up saving customers thousands.

For services like uncontested divorces, filing can be as little as $599. The Document People files paperwork electronically, though in some cases can serve directly. Being an attorney, Pattenaude also offers mediation services, which goes beyond what the other offices can offer.

“I am an attorney, but we don’t do this as attorneys, we do this as legal document assistants,” Pattenaude said. “Since this is not done as attorneys, we’re able to pass on the savings to the customer. We’re a personal service with very high-quality documents for a very good price. We know what we’re doing.”

The Document People is at 3166 Midway Drive.
The Document People, at 3166 Midway Drive, specializes in estate planning, family law, business and real estate as part of a suite of 35 document services.
(Courtesy of Tom Pattenaude)

When clients work with The Document People, they fill out a questionnaire based on the kind of service they are seeking. From that, Pattenaude and his team can fill out the proper documentation and notarize everything for the client.

“People know what they want to do and they can fill out a questionnaire, but they don’t know how to translate that into a legal document that the court will accept,” Pattenaude said. “People get very frustrated when they get rejection letters from the recorder’s office. Either they misspelled something or didn’t have a particular box checked. People don’t have to worry about that with us. We are experts at handling the documentation.”

“I think it helps a lot of people,” he added. “People give me hugs. ... It’s been the biggest difference for me, compared to practicing as an attorney. I’m enjoying the different level of gratitude that I receive from the customers.”

For more information, call (619) 255-4370 or email sandiego@documentpeople.net.

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