Expanded role for legal technicians creates new opportunities for independent paralegal legal services.
On June 15, the Washington State Supreme Court announced some welcome news – its approval of the Admission to Practice Rule 28. This rule, recommended by the Practice of Law Board and supported by the Washington State Paralegal Association, creates a new category for legal services providers. This new category, named Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT), will allow qualified legal technicians to provide regulated, limited legal assistance to the public at a more affordable cost than lawyers.
Though limited to certain types of assistance, it expands on what legal technicians can currently do. We hope that this will become a national trend in the near future. In California, legal technicians (called Legal Document Assistants (LDAs)) are allowed to do three things:
- Type the legal forms under our client’s supervision
- Give our clients materials prepared by attorneys
- File legal documents for our clients
In the state of Washington, as of September 1, 2012, Limited License Legal Technicians will also be allowed to do the following:
- Inform the client of procedures and “anticipated course of the legal proceeding”.
- Review and explain facts, documents, exhibits, and relevancy
- Perform legal research and write legal letters and documents (but only if reviewed by a Washington lawyer)
- Select and complete forms approved by various groups Advise the client about other needed documents and assist them in obtaining those documents.
Legal Technicians will be able to help people with relatively uncomplicated legal matters, but will not be allowed to represent clients in court or negotiate with opposing parties on the client’s behalf. Those activities will still be in the domain of attorneys. Just as attorneys have to adhere to attorney-client privilege and fiduciary responsibility rules; Legal Technicians will have these same obligations. With this expansion of permitted legal services come careful controls and strict requirements. In order to be licensed, legal technicians must:
- Have formal paralegal training
- Have paralegal job experience
- Complete a certain number of credit hours in courses or activities approved by the Limited License Legal Technician Board (to be created and appointed by the Washington State Supreme Court)
- Have completed at least 20 hours of for the public good legal service in Washington State within the previous two years
- Pass an exam
- Pay annual license fees
- Show proof of financial responsibility
- Have a principal place of business with a physical street address in the state of Washington
- Enter into a written contract describing their services and fees with their client prior to performing any services
- Personally perform the services for the client
Although the Court Order does not currently specify which legal areas will be authorized for Legal Technician work, it will be specified later by the Court, based on recommendations from the LLLT Board. It is generally assumed that family law will likely be one of the first areas authorized.
Divorce With Dignity applauds this ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court, as it will expand the scope of legal services that legal technicians are authorized to do, while protecting the public interest and providing cost-effective legal assistance to those who cannot afford to hire lawyers. No other state currently has a similar LLLT rule, making this Court Order a ground-breaking action. We strongly support the adoption of the principal of Legal Technicians nationwide.
When this ruling takes effect in September, it is likely that some paralegals may want to start their own legal services businesses providing approved legal services directly to clients.
Independent Legal Technician Opportunities
Since family law will probably be one of the first areas to be approved by the Court; Washington State legal technicians may want to consider becoming an Provider with Divorce With Dignity to open their own peaceful divorce business.
Our Network offers an opportunity to own and operate a divorce services business while benefitting from an already established organization with a nationally recognized name. We offer startup and ongoing training to our Providers, as well as expert knowledge and support from the Network to promote success. We invite you to visitPeacefulDivorceBusiness.Com to learn about the many advantages of joining our Network.