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Will More States Adopt Limited License Legal Technician Programs?
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Photo courtesy of Law Sarasota.

Summary: Washington state is offering residents an affordable legal solution.

As the legal industry is searching for ways to make justice more available to the masses, Washington State has come up with one solution–the Washington State Bar Association’s Limited License Legal Technician program.

  
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According to the ABA Journal, “The LLLT program 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.”

The program was created to address the problem that 80% of people cannot afford an attorney for civil matters, according to ABA Journal.

Mary E. Juetten, co-founder of Evolve Law, an organization that seeks change and technology advances in the legal field, stated that she has seen the LLLT program praised for increasing access to justice in the state of Washington.

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LLLTs offer services at a fraction of a cost of an attorney. For instance, LLLTs may charge $100 to $150 an hour, compared to an attorney whose fees may go from $250 to $400 an hour. Juetten said that it was smart for the legal profession to offer tiered services, the way other industries do. For instance, you can hire a bookkeeper to prepare your financial statements at an affordable price instead of hiring an expensive CPA for that routine task.

As of December 2017, there are 26 LLLT’s licensed in Washington, and each must undergo 3,000 hours of training before they are allowed to practice. ABA Journal noted that other states are interested in offering their own LLLT programs.



Critics of the LLLT program noted that it has been going on for three years and yet there are so few people who complete it. Juetten argues that the reason for this is because there is too high of a barrier to entry. LLLT’s have strict hour requirements and are not eligible for federal student aid.

Additionally, some lawyers have expressed disdain for the program, believing it steals work from small firms. Former WBSA Bar President Patrick Palace told ABA Journal that this concern is unfounded.

“A popular concern among small and solo practitioners is that the LLLT would directly compete and take away business,” Palace said. “However, that was never likely to happen and has not happened because the citizens that are using LLLTs cannot afford a lawyer and would not hire a lawyer. Therefore, practicing lawyers are not losing clients to LLLTs. Instead, the latent market or those in the justice gap are simply provided access.”

Source: ABA Journal

What do you think of the LLLT program? Let us know in the comments below.



 

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