Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

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.”

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.

Is the Paralegal Profession Going Backwards?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

In a recent post I spoke about a LinkedIn discussion on paralegal regulation. The discussion there took an interesting turn when Bonnie Taylor posted, “We have been fighting this battle on a national level since the early 1980’s and it is sad to see that it is still being fought across the country with little resolution or progress. I have been a Paralegal for 35 years and this is the first time that I have felt that the profession is going backwards instead of forward.” I’d like your impression on this question – is the profession going backwards or progressing. Here’s my take on it as I posted in that discussion board:

I disagree with the perception that the profession is moving backwards. Keep in mind that attorneys are regulated on a state-by-state basis, not a national basis, so it is extremely unlikely that paralegal are going to achieve some sort of nationwide status not even held by attorneys. How ever there has been progress in many states. As I noted above 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. Several other states, including California, New York, and Oregon, are considering similar programs. As I recently noted on my blog (www.theempowereparalegal.com), an ABA Task Force has endorsed LLLT programs, stating

“Broader Delivery of Law: – Related Services:
The delivery of law-related services today is primarily by lawyers. These services may not be cost-effective for many who are in need of them, and some communities and constituencies lack accessible legal services. State supreme courts, state
bar associations, and admitting authorities should devise new or improved frameworks for licensing providers of legal services. This should include licensing persons other than holders of a J.D. to deliver limited legal services, and authorizing bar admission
for people whose preparation may be other than the traditional four years of college plus three years of classroom based law school education. The current lack of access to legal advice of any kind that exists across the country requires such innovative steps.

In addition, several states have adopted or are considering adopting, registered paralegal programs such as Florida’s. All this indicates that the profession is progressing rather than regressing as a profession, moving closer to a professional identity similar to that held by nurse practitioners. Much of this progress can be attributed to hard work on the part of national organizations such as NFPA, NALA, and NALS, and their local affiliates. Those interested in the development of professional identity for the paralegal profession may be interested in the articles addressing this issue in “The Empowered Paralegal Professionalism Anthology.”

State of Washington Now Accepting Applications for LLLT Education Waivers

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Via the AAfPE listserv Michael Fitch, a former AAfPE president, forwards an email from the Washington State Bar Association regarding the new Limited License Legal Technician program previously discussed here in January. The program is getting underway and, as the title of this post states, applications are now being accepted for LLLT education waivers. Here’s the email:

WSBA is leading the nation with the implementation of a new program that will educate and license a new classification of legal practitioners called Limited License Legal Technicians (LLLT). LLLTs will possess the knowledge and skills to help the public with specific legal assistance, like selecting and filling out legal forms and guiding them through the legal system.
Experienced and certified paralegals are now eligible to take advantage of a waiver period that allows them to register for courses needed to obtain an LLLT license, while waiving some core education prerequisites.
To qualify for the education waiver, experienced paralegals must have:
  • Passed the Certified Paralegal Exam conducted by NALA OR the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam conducted by NFPA;
  • Active certification as a Certified Paralegal with NALA OR as a PACE Registered Paralegal with NFPA;
  • Completed 10 years of substantive law-related experience supervised by a licensed lawyer.
Classes are planned with professors from all three Washington law schools and will begin at the U of W Law School in September, both live and via webcast.
Waiver applications will be accepted by the WSBA until Sept. 18, 2013 for the fall courses. Family law will be the first practice area licensed, with others to follow in the future. The fee to apply for the waiver is $150.
The goal of the WSBA LLLT program is to provide much-needed access to justice by helping the public access affordable legal and law related services. For more information about the WSBA Limited License Legal Technician program including instructions on applying for the education waiver, please visit www.wsba.org/LLLT or contact Thea Jennings at theaj@wsba.org.

 

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.

More on Washington State Licensing Rule

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

I’m just now finding my way to looking closer at the new Washington Admission to Practice Rule 28 which creates a new legal service provider category named Limited License Legal Technician assisted by the post on the AAfPE LinkedIn discussion board by Sally Bisson, J.D., Professor and Director of Paralegal Program at College of Saint Mary. She links to a news release at legaco.com that provides a nice synopsis of the rule.

Those of you who have read my posts on great need for a solution to the access to justice problem in the U.S. and my strong belief that paralegals are likely to be a major part of that solution (See “Access to Justice” category) would probably guess my enthusiasm for the Court’s reasoning:

According to the Washington State Supreme Court:

“ there are people who need only limited levels of assistance that can be provided by non-lawyers trained and overseen within the frameworks of the regulator system. … This assistance should be available and affordable. Our system of justice requires it…[P]rotecting the monopoly status of attorneys in any practice area is not a legitimate objective.”

While the licensed personnel will be called “Legal Technicians” it is interesting to note the requirements for the license include paralegal training:

Requirements

In order to be licensed, Legal Technicians must:

  • have a formal paralegal training, and paralegal job experience,
  • have completed at least 20 hours of pro bono legal service in Washington State within the prior two years,
  • take and pass an exam and pay annual license fees,
  • show proof of financial responsibility,
  • have a principal place of business with a physical street address in Washington State,
  • personally perform services for the client,
  • complete a number of credit hours in courses or activities approved by the Board,
  • enter into a written contract describing their services and fees with their client prior of the performance of services.

While the license will not permit activities as extensive as those allowed in Ontario (see “Canada” category,) the list of permitted activities goes well beyond what is allow in most (if not all – I did not check California’s rules today) American jurisdictions:

Scope of Practice

Legal Technicians are allowed to:

  • explain facts and relevancy,
  • inform the client of procedures and “anticipated course of the legal proceeding,”
  • provide the client with self-help materials approved by the Board or prepared by a Washington state lawyer,
  • review and explain the other sides documents and exhibits,
  • select and complete forms approved by various groups,
  • perform legal research and write legal letters and documents, but only if reviewed by a Washington lawyer,
  • advise the client about other needed documents,
  • assist the client in obtaining needed documents.

One concern for those of us advocating an expanded role for paralegals is the ability to monitor for “bad behavior,” a task now rather cumbersomely performed indirectly through discipline of the supervising attorney. The Washington rule applies many of those rules directly to the practitioner:

Legal Technician-Client Relationship

Additionally, rules regarding attorney-client privilege and fiduciary responsibility to the client apply to the Legal Technician-client relationship to the same extent as they apply to attorney-client relationships.

I will definitely being keeping an eye on the implementation of this rule and the effects of that implementation on the public and the practitioners. In a few years perhaps we will have a report similar to that just issued on the “Ontario experiment.”

Paralegal Appointed to State Pracitice of Law Board

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

I’ve posted here from time to time about bar associations integrating paralegal professionals into their meetings and membership, and about court recognition of the role and value of paralegal professionals, each such instance being an advancement for the paralegal profession as well as the individual paralegals involved. Today, an additional step – a paralegal appointed to Washington State Bar’s Practice of Law Board. Here’s the announcement from Theresa Prater of NFPA from the NFPA LinkedIn group board:

Congratulations to NFPA Member Sue Beichley, Appointed to the Washington Practice of Law Board!

Sue Beichley, a paralegal at Injury at Sea in Seattle, WA, a member of the Washington State Paralegal Association, was recently appointed to the Washington State Bar’s Practice of Law Board. She attended her first meeting last week in Olympia.

This is a great stride for the paralegal profession — courts and lawyers who value input from our profession.

More information on the Practice of Law Board can be found at http://www.wsba.org/Legal-Community/Committees-Boards-and-Other-Groups/Practice-of-Law-Board.

Paralegal or Legal Technician?

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

The Seattle Timesreports on an owner of a “paralegal firm” charged with unauthorized practice of law. The story describes complaints brought against the owner and the owner’s interesting responses to the charges. Overall, though, the story is quite similar to others describing the ongoing conflict between “independent” paralegals and those seeking to penalize UPL.

Of more interest to me than the details of this particular conflict was the story’s reference to “The state Practice of Law Board …created by the state Supreme Court in 2001 to enforce rules prohibiting individuals and organizations from engaging in unauthorized legal and law-related services, as well as to promote affordable and reliable legal services.” At least the Supreme Court recognized the need to balance access to justice concerns with UPL concerns (whether those concerns rests in protecting the public or the bar. ) However, it set me to wondering what the Board had done on the second aspect of its duties: promoting affordable and reliable legal services.

Looking at the Board’s website, it does appear that the Board’s focus is on the UPL aspect of its duties rather than the access to justice aspect. It’s home page recites that the Board is required to:

* promote expanded access to affordable and reliable legal and law-related services;
* expand public confidence in the administration of justice;
* make recommendations regarding the circumstances under which nonlawyers may be involved in the delivery of certain types of legal and law-related services;
* enforce rules prohibiting individuals and organizations from engaging in unauthorized legal and law-related services that post a threat to the general public;
* ensure that those engaged in the delivery of legal services in the state of Washington have the requisite skill and competencies necessary to serve the public.

The Board has found over 40 instances of UPL in its history. While  it has apparently taken only one step on the access to justice side, that step appears to be a major one:

The Board also works on developing a pilot project of its proposed Legal Technician Rule. This rule allows trained, tested and licensed non-lawyers to provide specifically defined legal services without supervision by a lawyer.

The website provides additional information regarding the Legal Technician Rule:

[T]he Board has developed a  proposed APR creating Legal Technicians.  Legal Technicians are envisioned to be educated, tested and certified nonlawyers authorized to provide limited legal services in specific areas.  The proposed APR creates a commission to assist in regulating the legal technicians.  Here are the proposed regulations rules for that commission. The Board wrote an article explaining the vision for legal technicians.  The POL Board asked for input from invited guests during its April, May, and July 2006 meetings.  During the October 2006 retreat, the Board set up four sub-committees.  These sub-committees will investigate the feasibility of a legal technician pilot project in four areas of substantive law.  The four sub-committees are: family law, immigration law, elder law and housing law.

Here’s the general statement of what the Elder Law Subcommittee has decided:

The Elder Law Sub Committee of the Practice of Law Board recommends that legal
technicians be authorized to perform certain basic legal tasks in the following areas, when a
matter is uncontested: guardianship law, basic estate planning, probate law, and vulnerable
adult proceedings. These areas were identified by the Sub Committee because the legal
community has already developed model forms to perform many of the basic legal tasks in
these areas. More complex or contested elder law issues do not lend themselves well to a
form based practice and, therefore, should be handled by licensed attorneys.
Those model forms are used currently by pro se litigants with little or no instruction from
attorneys; sometimes with success and sometimes with unexpected results. The frequency of
unexpected outcomes can be reduced with improved access to legal professionals with elder
law training.

However, in 2008 the Board proposed a rule that applied only to Family Law.  Later in 2008 the State Bar Association Access to Justice Committee asked the Supreme Court to form a task force to implement the rule noting:

The proposed Rule, with its advice and advocacy enhancements, is intended to increase access to justice. With the availability of more advocates, more people will have access to legal assistance for their family law matters. The Rule is intended to open up the availability of limited legal services to those who fall into the populations noted above. The Rule is very technical and is probably not well understood within the legal community. It is not perfect, but seldom is any law or rule. If, after implementation, it is determined that the Rule isn’t working, it can be modified or repealed. For now, the Rule is a step in the right direction and merits the support of the ATJ Board.
We understand many interested parties oppose the Rule. However, this important issue has been ignored for far too long and the ATJ Board must exercise creative leadership on this matter consistent with the ATJ Board’s mission.

There is no information on the site as to what has happened since with regard to this Rule or the pilot project. If any of you know the present status of this adventure, I’d be pleased to hear from you.