The legal industry in the United States is primarily regulated by judges and lawyers, this makes access to legal help for average Americans enormously expensive and out of reach. The only way to increase access to justice is to expand the group of people and organizations that can provide legal help beyond JD-trained and licensed lawyers.
Millions of litigants across the country have no choice but to represent themselves in state courts even though they do not have any understanding of the law and legal procedures. Some States argue that allowing paralegals, authorized nonlawyers and organizations could help ease overburdened on state courts and reduce their backlog significantly.
The use of non-JD legal assistants and nonlawyer dominated businesses is not a venture into uncharted waters. The United Kingdom has a long history of allowing a wide variety of differently trained individuals and organizations provide legal assistance, and studies show that the practice works very well. In many cases, people are better served by a nonlawyer organization that specializes in a particular type of legal help navigating housing or bankruptcy matters, for example than they are by a solo practitioner with a general practice.
Some states that are considering the recommendation to use nonlawyers to assist clients in some practice areas including Chicago, California, New York, Utah, & District of Columbia. However, The Washington Supreme Court will “sunset” the state’s Limited License Legal Technicians program that has permitted nonlawyers to perform some legal tasks within family law.
“The program was an innovative attempt to increase access to legal services,” Chief Justice Debra L. Stephens wrote in her letter. “However, after careful consideration of the overall costs of sustaining the program and the small number of interested individuals, a majority of the court determined that the LLLT program is not an effective way to meet these needs and voted to sunset the program.”