Archive for the ‘Regulation Certification and Licensing’ Category

Washington State LLLT Program is working!

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

At least according to this from the ABAJournal.com:

Despite kinks in program, nonlawyers are successfully providing some legal services in Washington

Limited license legal technicians in the state of Washington are succeeding at helping clients who can’t afford a lawyer while staying within their limits as practitioners, a new study has found.

Conducted by the American Bar Foundation and the National Center for State Courts with support from the Public Welfare Foundation, the study (PDF) evaluates Washington’s LLLT program. The program permits nonlawyers who earn an LLLT credential to help clients with lower-level legal tasks without the supervision of a lawyer, as the ABA Journal reported in January of 2015.

Currently, Washington is the only state offering this kind of license, although Utah is working on a similar program for professionals called Paralegal Practitioners. Washington’s first LLLT class took the licensing exam two years ago. All of those LLLTs are licensed in family law; the state of Washington plans to expand training to other practice areas. LLLTs help fill out forms and explain legal procedures to clients. They may not represent their clients in court or in negotiations with opposing parties.

For more on this study: Complete ABAJournal post. The bottom line is the last line: The program, the study concluded, “should be replicated in other states to improve access to justice.”

Utah Approves Limited Paralegal Practitioners

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, “[T]he Utah Supreme Court has approved the creation of a new legal profession: limited paralegal practitioners. An LPP, or paraprofessional, will have more training and responsibilities than a normal paralegal, but is not quite a lawyer. The paraprofessional will be able to help the public in those areas where Utahns generally aren’t hiring lawyers.”

The reasoning behind the new classification of licensing is similar to that behind programs adopted in other states: “”We recognize the valuable services that lawyers provide to their clients every day, in and out of court,” the report reads. “But the data shows that, even after years of effort with pro bono and low bono programs, a large number of people do not have a lawyer to help them. … The people facing these situations need correct information and advice. They need assistance.” Likewise, the biggest obstacle to success of the new program is the bar: “One of the biggest hurdles may be getting Utah lawyers to support the program. The task force report said 60 percent of lawyers recently surveyed by the Utah State Bar either disagreed or “strongly disagreed” with a proposal to explore limited licenses for certain practice areas.”

I look forward to scientific studies of the effects of these programs on access to justice and on the bar.

Monday, November 16th, 2015

According to an article at Examiner.com, “the South Carolina Supreme Court issued an Order which gives legitimacy to Rule 429 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (SCACR) and creates the Board of Paralegal Certification where paralegals can voluntarily apply to become certified with the State of South Carolina. According to the Supreme Court, ‘The purpose of certification of South Carolina’s paralegals is to assist in the delivery of legal services to the public by identifying individuals who are qualified by education, training, and experience and who have demonstrated knowledge, skill, and proficiency to perform substantive legal work under the direction and supervision of a lawyer licensed in South Carolina.’ ”

There are a lot of reasons why this is good, most of which are well stated by the article (which at times reads more like an opinion column than just a news report,) “South Carolina has taken a huge step toward filling the gap to making legal services more affordable to the economically challenged. Hopefully, the future will be brighter for paralegals with degrees that are forced to compete with non-degreed paralegals for jobs while carrying the burden of an ever increasing student loan with aspirations of making their mark as a paralegal with a law firm or corporation. Today, many have found themselves hopeless in their never ending quest to find an employer that would recognize their talents and creativity in legal matters. South Carolina should be applauded for creating the Board of Paralegal Certification which may someday be like the program in the State of Washington which has Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) who represent clients before judges in small claims, divorce, and probate proceedings. The State of California and several other states are seriously considering an LLLT program to bring the cost of legal services down and make it more affordable for those in need with very little resources.”

Washington State Bar Board Members Resign

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

According to ABAJournal.com the Washington State Bar Association’s Practice of Law Board has been hit with mass resignations and departures as a result of a long-running feud with the bar association’s leaders. The article states, “On Monday, former board members released an 11-page letter (PDF) accusing the executive director of the state bar of pursuing “a campaign to eliminate the Practice of Law Board” over differences in philosophy on how to bridge the access-to-justice gap in the state.”

So why does this matter to us and why am I posting about it here? It’s this part of the story, “The letter traced the POLB’s problems with the WSBA to the debate over the Limited License Legal Technician Rule, which allows non-JD legal professionals to deliver limited legal services in certain designated practice areas. The rule, proposed by the POLB and opposed by the bar’s Board of Governors, became state law in 2012.
“The Washington State Bar Association has a long record of opposing efforts that threaten to undermine its monopoly on the delivery of legal services,” the four resigning board members wrote. The 13-person POLB is now down to four as a result of resignations and terms that were not extended.”

This is a battle being fought in several jurisdictions. One take on the issue is whether Bar Associations can ethically take positions that favor the interest of the bar over the interest of the public the bar is supposedly serving. But, my take is that fighting programs to solve the access to justice problem in the U.S., is not in the interest of the Bar.

16 Awarded Ohio State Bar Association’s Paralegal Credential

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

According to a Hudson Hub-Times (I have no idea where Hudson is other than in Ohio) article, sixteen people were recently award the Ohio State Bar Association’s Paralegal Credential. I, of course, offer them my congratulations, but the bigger story is that the OSBA recognizes the role of paralegals in this way. So, aside from the individual acheivment of these 16 individual, here’s the real take-away from the article:

“The OSBA includes paralegals as members of the Association in recognition of their valuable service to lawyers and to the public,” said OSBA President John Holschuh. “We applaud those OSBA Certified Paralegals who are bringing objective, uniform standards of competence and professionalism to their work.”

An applicant for paralegal certification must first meet specified education/experience, continuing legal education and reference requirements, and then must pass a written exam.

I realize there can be some problems with having a bar association in charge of paralegal credentials including a possible conflict between the bar’s interest in protecting its own monopoly and the interest of providing the public with both the protection and legal services it needs. However, all state bar associations should be including paralegals as members of the association and recognizing their valuable service to lawyers and to the public.

Bloomberg BNA on LLLTs

Friday, July 10th, 2015

Bloomberg  BNA has a decent article on the “Washington State Experiment with Legal Technicians.” It’s an interesting read because it covers the newly licensed technicians, the 2003 study that provided the foundation for the program, the conflicting positions on whether the program is the or even a “right answer” to the problem, and the bit of vagueness about what group of people its intended to help and how it will accomplish its goals. I like the way it ends with the personal prospective of one of the recently licensed LLLTs:

For the LLLT graduates, the experiment is personal. Wright said she put $4,500 on her credit card to pay for books and classes. Her goal is to eventually join her daughter’s law firm. “I’m treating it a little bit like retirement,” she said.

“I’ve been in the legal field since 1998. This is basically a dream come true,” said Michelle Cummings, a paralegal in Auburn. “Not only will I be able to offer a whole new kind of service to the public, I can actually become a partner of a practice or even own my own practice someday.”

“There will be cases that must and should be handled by an attorney. However, for those who just need a little bit of help and only have a little bit of money, this is where an LLLT can make a difference,” she said.

LLLTs in Minnesota?

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Lawyerist.com has a good article about a recent report from a Minnesota Bar Task Force. It reports:

Two years ago, the Minnesota State Bar Association launched two task forces to study the future of law practice and legal education. Those reports will be made public at the MSBA Annual Convention next Friday, but Lawyerist obtained copies ahead of schedule. Here are the highlights.

Limited License Legal Technicians

In its report (pdf), the MSBA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education says the MSBA should consider establishing a limited-license legal technician (LLLT) certification in Minnesota.

The Lawyeris.com article contains a link to a .pdf of the report and the substance of that recommendation from the Executive Summary portion of the report:

In order to identify a less costly path to a career in legal services and address unmet needs for specific types of legal services, the MSBA should establish a separate task force focused on studying the viability of certifying Limited License Legal Technicians (“LLLT”) with authority to provide supervised legal services in defined practice areas. This task force should consist of representatives from the state court administrative office, civil legal services and pro bono programs, private practices from diverse practice settings throughout the state, potential clients, and institutions of higher education (including, but not limited to law schools). The task force should prepare a recommendation to the MSBA Assembly on the question whether to submit a petition to the Minnesota Supreme Court to establish an LLLT practitioner rule by June 2016.

Colorado LLLTs?

Monday, June 15th, 2015

I’m passing on a story from Law Week Colorado entitled “Colorado Considering Legal Technician Licensing.” Normally I try to summarize or excerpt but in this case it seems best to just print re-post the whole article and hope I don’t get a “take down” missive!

LAW WEEK COLORADO

Posted on June 8, 2015.
By Tony Flesor

Colorado is exploring the option of opening up the legal profession with a limited license legal technician program.
The license would create a nurse practitioner-type position for the legal field. With demand for full legal services in decline and do-it-yourself online options such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer providing basic services to those who can’t afford a lawyer becoming more common, the LLLT program, if adopted in Colorado, could connect more people with an actual human service provider and employ more people in the legal field with a lower investment than a law school legal license. Despite the positive expectations for the program, though, there are some concerns about the quality of service an LLLT could provide.
A subcommittee of the Colorado Supreme Court Advisory Committee led by Alec Rothrock, a shareholder at Burns Figa & Will whose practice is focused on the law of practicing law, is looking into the possibility of adopting the plan for the license from Washington, the only state that currently offers it.
In Washington, anyone with an associate’s degree can get an LLLT license, which allows them to offer legal services, such as helping family law clients file restraining orders or divorce documents, drafting parenting plans or custody documents and assisting clients with the court documents and procedures involved in the court system. Currently, Washington’s LLLTs may only practice in family law, a popular area for self-representation. License holders can open their own businesses as well, allowing them to work independently of law firms.

http://www.lawweekonline.com/2015/06/colorado-considering-legal-technician-licensing/

I’m not sure the characterization of Washington’s program is completely accurate. It is my understanding that the Washington program is open to people who have a paralegal undergraduate education, not just an associate’s degree in any subject.

Seven Pass Washington’s First LLLT Exam

Monday, June 8th, 2015

According to Robert Abrogi’s website, “LawSites” fifteen candidates completed the paperwork to become LLLTs, nine took the exam, and seven passed. Here are the seven:
Leisa Bulick, White Salmon, WA.
Christine Carpenter, Auburn, WA.
Michelle Cummings, Auburn, WA.
Kimberly Lancaster, Shoreline, WA.
Melodie Nicholson, Auburn, WA.
Priscilla Selden, Entiat, WA.
Angela Wright, Granite Falls, WA.

Ambrogi notes the candidates must still complete additional steps, including providing proof that (1) they have the required 3,000 hours of supervised experience (2) they have insurance and (3) have set up trust account reporting. They also must pay a licensing fee and take an oath administered by the court.

I am hopeful that this is just the first step in the effort to bridge the access to justice gap. We won’t know if the program will actually accomplish that goal until we see it in operation for a while, but it is certainly worth the try!

Closing the Gap with LLLTs

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

By now most of you are familiar with Washington state’s new LLLT program, a topic covered here several times. (See the link in “Categories” for “LLLTS, etc.,” a sub-category of “Regulation, Certification and Licensing.” I’ve long argued for a variety of methods of utilizing paralegals as part of efforts to close the access to justice gap in the United States. Now California may join Washington in closing the gap through LLLTs. According to an article in the California Bar Journal, “A State Bar task force last month proposed the development of a pilot program for limited licensing of legal technicians as part of a series of recommendations aimed at closing the so-called “justice gap.” The article is short, but provides a concise telling of the task force’s work, reasoning, and recommendation. As one member of the bar trustees said, ““Our recommendations are a start rather than an end.” There is a long way to go before the recommendation is implemented and, if it is implemented, there’ll still be a lot to do to close the gap.