For the first time in the American legal profession, non-lawyers can openly, independently, ethically, and legally engage in activities recognized by bar associations as the practice of law. In 2012, the Washington Supreme Court passed Admission and Practice Rule 28 (APR 28), establishing the profession’s first paraprofessional licensing scheme that allows non-lawyers to give legal advice. The process authorizes qualified non-lawyers to provide legal advice without the supervision of a lawyer. Washington’s Supreme Court intends for Limited License Legal Technicians, or “LLLTs” as they are known, to increase access to justice by responding to the unmet civil legal needs of Washington residents, mirroring a broader call in the legal profession for service delivery models that triage the simpler cases from the complex. Doing so, the LLLT model aims to better meet the needs of those who cannot otherwise afford professional legal help. Will the LLLT model increase access to justice? That depends on how we define “justice”—more specifically, justice for whom? LLLTs have prompted anticipation that the model will do its part to close the gap on the unmet civil legal assistance needs of low- and moderate-income populations, a need perhaps best shown by Washington State’s Civil Legal Needs studies. Yet to fully understand the model and its potential, we must look more closely at who will benefit from it and, critically, who will not. This Article finds that the LLLT model is not designed to increase access to justice for those from low-income populations. This conclusion is based on first-hand interviews with the architects of the model as well as on original surveys and interviews conducted with the first two cohorts of LLLTs and LLLT Candidates. LLLTs and Candidates expect to keep their pricing schemes high enough to bring in a sustainable revenue stream, intend to work primarily through traditional legal service delivery models at law firms and as solo practitioners, and overall do not report highly salient motivation to target low-income clientele relative to their other motivations for becoming an LLLT. From all of this, we do not have reason to believe that low-income legal consumers will better access justice through the current LLLT model. This Article first sets forth the context for why and how to weigh whether the model will increase access to justice for low-income populations, and then analyzes why, based on LLLTs’ and Candidates’ responses, we do not have reason to believe that the model will expand access to justice in an appreciable way for low-income consumers. The Article then contemplates the implications of this finding, which Washington and other states may wish to consider as they develop legal paraprofessional licensing schemes like the LLLT model and, ultimately, determine who will gain access to justice through such models.
Rebecca M. Donaldson, Law by Non-Lawyers: The Limit to Limited License Legal Technicians Increasing Access to Justice, 42 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 1 (2018).
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