Posts Tagged ‘Limited practice licensing’

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.

Limited Practice Licenses and Access to Justice – Updated

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

This topic seems to have become “hot” over the last few days. As noted in my previous post, the California Bar Journal for February contains an article indicating that the California State Bar is giving the concept some thought. A current discussion thread on the AAfPE discussion forum responds to concerns expressed by one member that Washington’s states efforts might actually be bad for paralegal (“icing them out.”) The general consensus is that with paralegal and paralegal education representation on the state board charged with moving the issue forward, it is likely to be good for paralegals. Janet Olejar informs the thread, ” truly appreciate the support this listserve is providing from Bob, Pat, Steve, and others. Especially important are the leads I’m receiving from Dr. Barbara Scheffer and Michelle Ryan to understand what is being accomplished in other states and countries to register or license paralegals/technicians. Please keep these leads coming. You can access documents and the LLLT Board minutes at the www.wsba.org website. Look for the folder under the Boards tab. (Emphasis added.) Other posts refer us to an article from the NY Times last week, “A Call for Drastic Changes in Educating New Lawyers” that includes this:

Paula Littlewood, a task force member and the executive director of the Washington State Bar Association, put it this way to her colleagues: “There’s a time for incremental change and a time for bold change. This is the time for bold change.”

Hers is one state that is not waiting. It has established a board to create a program for limited-license legal technicians, the first in the country. Within a year, the board is expected to lay out the educational and professional framework for the technicians. They will have more training and responsibility than paralegals but will not appear in court or negotiate on their clients’ behalf.

“The consuming public cannot afford lawyers, and the profession needs to figure that out and own it,” Ms. Littlewood said. “Our hope is to provide more access. The second point is that you have these folks out there doing unauthorized practice, which is harming the public. The hope is to bring them under the tent.”

And I’m trying to join the concept of limited practices license with access to justice in Mississippi through a comment to Judge Larry Primeaux’ excellent post on a recent symposium at Ole Miss on Poverty and Access to Justice.

All in all the topic has suddenly become “hot.” I am hopeful that paralegals and paralegal associations throughout the country join in the discussion while it is still on the front burner. If states move forward with limited practice licensing, it will be best for the profession if paralegals are at the head of that movement.

Update: A reply by Kristen to my comment on Judge Primeaux’s blog post provides a link to an article entitled, “The Washington State Limited License Legal Technician Practice Rule: A National First in Access to Justice,” that is well worth reading. Thanks, Kristen!

Another State Considers Licensing for Limited Practice

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

This blog has often suggested that it would be worthwhile for the U.S. to consider licensing paralegals for limited practice, perhaps modeled on the system in Ontario Province in Canada (See the “Canada” category.) Recently Washington state  established a board charged with investigating the possibility, a board that is moving forward with paralegal help as Brenda Cothary, President of the Washington State Paralegal Association was appointed to the board. Janet Olejar, a member of the American Association for Paralegal Education was also appointed to that board.

Now another state is considering limited-practice licenses.  The February issue of the California Bar Journal includes an article entitled, “State Bar to Look at Limited-Practice Licensing Program.” Unfortunately since this is a state bar initiative, the article casts the efforts in terms that I think somewhat misses the point. While there is recognition of the fact that such licensing would help resolve access to justice issues, e.g., “Trustee Heather L. Rosing said those who can’t afford the services of a licensed attorney are often forced to turn to non-lawyers because of cost,” but the bar seems primarily interested in improving the “State Bar’s regulatory function” and creating “an avenue of employment for law school graduates and legal technicians who haven’t passed the bar, board members said. Engaging in limited practice might be an avenue to eventually becoming a qualified lawyer.”

This focus on the bar and law students is not the best approach. The fact is that many paralegals are quite able to assist members of the public in a limited way and have no desire to becoming lawyers. The goal should be to match those competent persons with the people who need them in a way that protects the public. Improving the regulatory function of a state bar association or providing work for law students who can’t pass the bar should come fairly far down the list of priorities.