Archive for the ‘Regulation Certification and Licensing’ Category

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.

Washington OKs Fee Sharing and Joint Ownership Between Lawyers and LLLTs

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

I’ve posted here previously on Washington State’s LLLT program and hope to post soon about AAfPE’s Task Force on Legal Education’s report regarding similar proposals in other states. But, Washington continues to jump ahead of other states according to this report by Robert Ambrogi:

The Supreme Court of Washington has approved revisions to the Rules of Professional Conduct governing lawyers in that state that allow lawyers and limited license legal technicians to form partnerships and share fees. To my knowledge, this makes Washington the first state to allow fee sharing and joint ownership of a law practice between a lawyer and nonlawyer. (The District of Columbia also allows ownership and fee sharing by nonlawyers in limited circumstances.)

The new Washington rule was part of a package of changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) proposed by the Washington State Bar Association to bring the rules into alignment with the LLLT program and to provide guidance to lawyers concerning their interactions with LLLTs and the clients of LLLTs. LLLTs are subject to a separate set of professional conduct rules.

For more information, read Ambrogi’s full post.

OLP eDiscovery and LitSupport Certification Exams‏

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

I am on the Advisory Council for the Organization of Legal Professionals, although they get along quite well without much advice from me as evidenced by this from a LinkedIn article by Damian A. Durant, J.D., Rise of standards & certifications key to e-discovery partner selection – Part 1:

We are finally seeing the emergence of industry standards and professional certifications as the e-discovery industry continues to mature. The recent California Bar advisory opinion on e-discovery competency drew much attention and is the most recent example of the trend.

“A corporation or law firm selecting an e-Discovery or Discovery Management partner should determine if the partner has enough qualified, certified personnel and implements industry standards into their practice.”

….

Any would-be client should require independently certified individuals across the staff of the prospective partner and in the service delivery teams assigned to their work.

  • The Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP) also offers a widely respected certification called CeDP (Certified E-Discovery Professional) and the CLSS (Certified Legal Support Specialist) certificate. OLP also now offers an E-Discovery Project Management certificate. The Association of Litigation Support Professionals (ALSP) in lieu of developing its own certification, recommends the OLP certification to its members.
  • The Association of Certified E-discovery Specialists (ACEDS) offers perhaps the most widely known e-discovery competency certification known as CEDS (Certified E-Discovery Specialist). Public sources suggest over three hundred people have the CEDS qualification.

Both OLP and ALSP in their mission statements emphasize standards and certifications, but ACEDS only secondarily. Of course establishing standards and certifications is challenging for even much larger professional organizations.

OLP and ACEDS reportedly utilized teams of experts to develop bar-like multiple choice exams that try to cover the complete Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM), from information identification through document production. As such, ACEDS and OLP are the leading providers of e-discovery certifications, but expect other non-profit organizations to enter the certification arena soon.

NALA Receives Accreditation of the Certified Paralegal Program

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Vicki Voisin, The Paralegal Mentor, posts:

The NCCA has accredited the NALA Certified Paralegal certification program for a five-year period, expiring April 30, 2019.

Founded in 1975, NALA is a professional association providing continuing education and professional certification to paralegals. Currently, over 8,900 paralegals may use the Certified Paralegal (CP) designation. The CP credential has been awarded to over 17,822 paralegals in its span of almost 40 years. The Certified Paralegal (CP) program is the first certification program accredited by NCCA which serves the legal community.

NALA has received accreditation of the Certified Paralegal program from the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA)

NALA received NCCA accreditation of the Certified Paralegal program by submitting an application demonstrating the program’s compliance with standards outlined in NCCA’s Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs.  NCCA is the accrediting body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE). Since 1987, the NCCA has been accrediting certifying programs based on the highest quality standards in professional certification to ensure the programs adhere to modern standards of practice in the certification industry.

Follow the link for more on this.

California Law Advocates

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Lay Advocates will be in California’s future if Barbara Liss is correct. She makes a good argument for them in an email to Chere Estrin, part of which is posted by Chere on The Estrin Report. Since I’ve provided a link to the full post, I won’t re-post it here. As a teaser, I’ll just post her conclusion:

Once a journeyman, however, a full-fledged paralegal may often be as able as a lawyer in many aspects to provide considerably beneficial direct services to the public and has great potential to significantly diminish the existing gap in access to justice in California. I look forward myself to being soon able to contribute my own services in that way when I am able to test and obtain a limited license as a California Lay Advocate.

AAfPE Task Force on the Future of Legal Education

Monday, May 12th, 2014

The American Association for Paralegal Education has established a Task Force on the Future of Legal Education. The Task Force is charged to “study the provision of legal education to non-lawyers in the U.S., including the training of Limited License Legal Technicians and other models, and to make recommendations on how AAfPE and the legal profession can best address these issues.” We are fortunate that Janet Olejar has agreed to chair the task force. Janet is on the Washington State Committee developing and implementing its LLLT program. The task force has members from all five of AAfPE’s regions.

One responsibility of this task force will to research and monitor efforts to utilize well-trained non-lawyers to help address the access to justice problem in the United States, whether those efforts are taking place within state bar associations, the ABA, state legislatures, state court systems (the source of both the Washington State LLLT program and New York’s Navigator program.)

This is an important step forward for AAfPE and the future of legal education. If you are aware of efforts in your state that might be of interest to the Task Force, please let me know.

New York Navigators

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

No, the New York Navigators are not another sports team. A colleague on the AAfPE Board of Directors provided us with a copy of New York Chief Judge’s State of the Judiciary Address. Here’s where the navigators come in:

Our efforts to find ways for non-lawyers to be of assistance begin in the courthouse. As of this month, specially trained and supervised non-lawyers will begin providing ancillary, pro bono assistance to unrepresented litigants in Housing Court cases in Brooklyn and consumer debt cases in the Bronx and Brooklyn. These are courts and case types in which virtually all defendants are unrepresented and are facing serious personal consequences as a result of litigation. It is shocking that in this day and age, over 95 percent of defendants in these critical cases are currently unrepresented. The new court-sponsored projects will offer an array of assistance to eligible pro se litigants ranging from general information provided at help desks and written material to one-on- one assistance, depending on the needs and interests of the litigants. This kind of one-on-one assistance will include providing informational resources to litigants and helping them access and complete court do-it-yourself forms and assemble documents, as well as assisting in settlement negotiations outside the courtroom.

Most significantly, for the first time, the trained non-lawyers, called Navigators, will be permitted to accompany unrepresented litigants into the courtroom in specific locations in Brooklyn Housing Court and Bronx Civil Court. They will not be permitted to address the court on their own, but if the judge directs factual questions to them, they will be able to respond. They will also provide moral support and information to litigants, help them keep paperwork in order, assist them in accessing interpreters and other services, and, before they even enter the courtroom, explain what to expect and what the roles are of each person in the courtroom.

Clear guidelines govern what a non-lawyer can and cannot do to ensure that they do not cross the line into the practice of law. They will receive training and develop expertise in defined subject areas. When these non-lawyers confront situations where the help of a lawyer is crucial, they will have access to legal service providers for help and referrals. (Emphasis added.)

This are not practitioners of the same nature as Washington State’s LLLTs, but they are another way for well-trained non-lawyers to help resolve the access to justice problem. They do sound a bit like a paralegal don’t they?

Tanzania: Paralegal Training Vital for Justice Execution

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Even within the United States “paralegal” means different things to different people, leading to confusion even within the bar. However, within the United States there is overall agreement that paralegals assist and are supervised by attorneys. This is not the case in many other countries. In much of Canada and in Great Britain, there appear to be two categories of paralegals: those that work in supportive roles with attorneys and those who practice independently, representing clients in some limited capacity (limited in comparison to attorneys.) In Great Britain, for example, it appears paralegals have much greater leeway based on a common law right of British citizens to select there representatives. I have met with a paralegal who runs an independent office where he supervises other, less experienced and educated, paralegals. In one Canadian province, the second category of paralegal is licensed and regulated. (See the “Canada” category on this blog.)

According to a story on allAfirca.com, entitled, “Tanzania: Paralegal Training Vital for Justice Execution,” Tanzania appears to have been working more on the British model since the concept of paralegals was introduced in the 1990s:

COMPREHENSIVE training for paralegals if well utilised will facilitate the implementation of government’s ambitious plan to enhance access to justice to all.

Quality, effective, efficient and professional legal aid provision will remain a dream if it is not supported by well-organised and strategic training of paralegals, who play a significant role in the provision of legal aid in Tanzania.

This is because legal aid provision is a dynamic and demanding undertaking that requires practitioners to have requisite legal skills and education. It’s true that in the past, paralegal training was not given priority due to, among other things, a limited number of legal disputes, underdeveloped socio-economic, political settings and illiteracy among Tanzanians.

This resulted in having a number of uneducated and non-trained paralegals, who are still operating at the moment. Keneth Sudi, an experienced paralegal practitioner, said “accommodation of unskilled paralegals in legal aid provision stemmed from a huge gap, which existed due to high demand for paralegal services.” (The full story is interesting and well worth the read, but too long to be repeated here.)

The common thread in all jurisdictions is the sense that somehow paralegals can be a significant part of the solution to access to justice problems. In the United States that has generally taken on two aspects – (1) the use of paralegals in traditional law offices to reduce charges to clients from those that would be charged if lawyers charged their hourly rate for all work that must be done on a case and (2) utilization of paralegals in projects specifically designed to meet the needs of those who cannot afford attorneys.

Despite a recognized need for solutions to the access to justice problem and some fairly wide ranging proposals for a national model for access to justice, there have been few systematic, comprehensive attempts to use paralegals in the way Tanzania, Ghana, and others. The Washington state effort to legalize and license legal professionals who are not attorneys is really the closest we have. As yet that program is limited to only domestic relations cases and is really a “paralegal plus” program, working off a base of formally educated paralegals in the traditional sense, but adding additional law school provided training and examinations. (Most law schools require 90 semester credit hours to graduate. The ABA requires 83 semester credit hours to accredit a law school. The additional training for LLLTs in Washington is only about 10% of that.) I hope to write more soon about this LLLT program and will certainly monitor its progress in Washington state. I remain hopeful that my prediction that the paralegals profession (in some form) will end up being an essential and substantial part of the access to justice problem in the United States.

 

California Limited License Update

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Melanee Cottrill, Paralegal at Civitas, provided this update the task force tasked with investigating implementation of a LLLT program in California through the NFPA LinkedIn discussion board:

There was a thread on this a while ago, but I can’t find it now it’s too old. As some of you know, the CA bar formed a working group to look at doing a limited license program, inspired by WA state. The working group passed a resolution supporting the general concept and asking to be directed to develop a program. Rather than direct the working group to develop a program, the RAD committee (responsible for the working group) instead ordered some studies on access to justice and other things related to the need for a limited license. I think we all know the easiest way to kill something is to order studies on it…I’ve been in touch with bar staff but it seems to be going nowhere fast. Disappointing to say the least.

But Lisa Vessels, RP, CP, FRP, was more optimistic in her comment:

Actually, this is exactly what the WA state committee did first as well. It was (in my opinion) the most compelling piece of the reasoning of why the WA Supreme Court ordered the creation of the WA LLLT program. It also became the cornerstone of how they approached which practice area would be tackled first, etc.

Also, you can subscribe to the page where they post the agendas for the committee, and get updates when they are posted.

Paralegal Regulation in the United States

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

A recent post on the Paralegal Jobs and Continuing Education LinkedIn discussion board calls our attention to a Paralegal Today article entitled “Paralegal Regulation in the United States.” It is a good compilation, but needs to be updated as it was first published in 2006. Gregory Lynn Crossett provides a good overview based on states that regulate paralegals by state statute, states that regulate through their supreme court, and states that regulate through state bar associations in The Empowered Paralegal Professionalism Anthology published by Carolina Academic Press in 2011. Even that article is now somewhat outdated given the speed with which this area is developing. For example, in the last few months the State of Washington created a new practitioner called a Limited License Legal Technician which will allow some paralegals to engage in a limited practice of law without attorney supervision.