TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Limited License Legal Technician Is the Wave Of The Future In Law

ABA Journal, The Limited License Legal Technician Is the Way of the Future of Law:

[T]he Washington State Bar Association’s Limited License Legal Technician [LLLT] program [FAQ] ... is currently the only paraprofessional program of its kind, fully operational, within the United States. Many states offer court facilitators, but their offerings do not rise to the same level of independence as LLLTs. Unlike paralegals, the WSBA technicians operate on their own, without a supervising lawyer. At this time, LLLTs can help clients on family law matters only. However, the LLLT cannot represent people in court or negotiate — all communications must go through the client. With states consistently reporting that 80 percent of their citizens cannot afford an attorney for civil matters, plus the education gap as outlined here, the United States clearly has an access to justice problem. It’s a national crisis, and the LLLT approach is an important piece of the solution. ...

First, access to justice is not limited to low-income Americans. The 80 percent unmet need figure is based on the entire population. Therefore, many families cannot qualify for help and cannot afford an attorney.

Second, most middle-income citizens carry debt loads commensurate to their earnings, and any unplanned expenses are difficult to cover.

Third, many family law attorneys charge anywhere from $250 to $400 per hour, which is still more than double that of a LLLT. For example, using a 10-hour matter, a LLLT could charge up to $1,500 but an attorney would be $4,000. That $2,500 is a substantial savings to almost everyone.

In addition, the idea that only attorneys can handle all aspects of family law matters is difficult to comprehend. Necessary tasks include filling in forms and—considering that courts are overrun with self-represented parties lacking legal experience—having a trained paraprofessional to assist must be an improvement. Other professions, like accounting and medicine, improve access by offering various tiers of service. For example, a bookkeeper can prepare your financial statements but is likely not qualified to complete your taxes. Therefore, if you pay a tax professional to do those same financials, you are likely paying too much. To that end, over the past several months, I have interviewed people who are directly involved with Washington’s program to explore how the LLLT can help close the access-to-justice gap by offering legal service to a specific segment of the state’s population.

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Oh look, more structural change in the business of law. Susskind and Christensen are nodding silently somewhere right now.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Dec 12, 2017 12:27:10 PM