Do Your Own Divorce Books - A Story That Changed the World
This story begins with an idealistic young lawyer named Ed Sherman who was working as Senior Attorney for Contra Costa County Legal Services in the late 1960s. There he discovered that many people who came for help were not poor enough to qualify for free services, but were too poor to pay a lawyer. They were stuck in situations the law said they had to do something about, with no way to do it.
In 1970, Ed left Legal Services in frustration and started a law practice in his living room in an old farmhouse in Berkeley, California. In his new private practice, Ed traded legal advice and services for whatever his clients could afford and contemplated how the legal system could better serve the public.
Ed decided to focus on divorce because it was a required legal procedure for which lawyers charged a lot of money, even though the process was simple. He reserved a room at the Berkeley Co-op and put up posters advertising a $5.00 clinic to show people how to fill out and file papers to get an uncontested divorce without a lawyer.
More than 40 people showed up and they were all delighted by how simple it was to handle the divorce red tape. Ed had finally found a way to break down the barriers between courts and people!
He continued holding these workshops for awhile, but felt like he wasn't reaching enough people. So inn 1971, Ed put his divorce instructions in book form so people all around the state could use them. He then approached a publisher, but was told that no major publisher would put out divorce books for just one state. So Ed reluctantly took his book to a local printer and published it himself. He chose the name Nolo Press for his publishing company because, based on legal Latin, it translates to "I do not wish to be a publisher."
When the books arrived from the printer, Ed pounded the streets selling to stores in Berkeley. The books moved slowly until he got a big boost from the Sacramento Bar Association. They came across a copy of the book and immediately sent out a huge press release warning people about the dangers of trying to get divorced without a lawyer.
That was all it took. Ed and his divorce books were an overnight media sensation; and once the public became aware of the idea that they could get divorced without lawyers, and save a lot of money in legal fees, sales skyrocketed. Several years later, Ed took a stack of his latest divorce books to a meeting of the Bar Association, and asked them to condemn them as well, but they declined.
So this is how the very first do-it-yourself divorce books were born. Ed eventually published divorce books for Texas as well, and a generic title with advice for divorcing couples in any state. Because state laws change frequently, Ed updates his material and publishes new editions on a regular basis.
In 1973, Ed realized that some of his readers would like someone to do their paperwork for them but didn't want to have to hire a lawyer, so he trained 18 people as "divorce consultants" to act as legal secretaries for the general public. This kicked off a whole new profession dubbed "independent paralegals," or "Legal Document Assistants" as they must now by law be called in California. There are more than one thousand of them now active in the state.
By writing and publishing his divorce books, and founding the paralegal profession, Ed Sherman not only helped divorcing couples, he literally changed the way law is practiced.
To learn how you can get your own copy of the current edition of Sherman's famous book, How to Do Your Own Divorce in California, his other divorce books and software, go to Divorce Books.