Archive for the ‘News’ Category

What is Constitution Day?

What is Constitution Day?

On September 17, 1787, delegates to the Philadelphia Convention completed and signed the U.S. Constitution.  Congratulations, us!

Update: Washington Limited License Legal Technician Applications

On August 8, 2013, the Washington State Bar Association adopted a limited time waiver regulation to help ease long-practicing paralegals into the new profession of a Limited License Legal Technician.  The regulations allows experienced paralegals to bypass the educational requirements currently built into the general regulations.

Regulation 4 provides that a paralegal qualifies for the waiver if he or she pays the fee, submits the application form and provides proof that he or she has:

1. Passed the Certified Paralegal Exam conducted by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE) conducted by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA);

2. Active certification as a Certified Paralegal with NALA or as a PACE Registered Paralegal with NFPA; and

3. Completed 10 years of substantive law-related experience supervised by a licensed lawyer within the 15 years preceding the application for the waiver. Proof of 10 years of substantive-law related experience supervised by a licensed lawyer shall include the following:

a. the name and bar number of the supervising lawyer(s),

b. certification by the lawyer that the work experience meets the definition of substantive law-related work experience as defined in APR 28, and

c. the dates of employment or service.

If that’s you, apply here. Take heed, however, there are expiration dates:

1. Final Deadline to Apply for a Waiver: Application for waiver due in WSBA office December 31, 2016.

2. Expiration Date of Approved Waivers: Approved waivers will expire December 31, 2018.

Basically, after 2018, all persons applying to become a Limited License Legal Technician will need to comply with all the education and testing requirements.

The Next Big Thing: Limited License Legal Technician

To some, the advent of the LLLT is old news, to others… brand spankin’ new. The Limited License Legal Technician was authorized in the state of Washington, effective September 1, 2012. In December 2012, the LLLT Board was created to hammer out the details about this new profession, including “regulations for professional conduct, exam procedures, continuing education requirements, and disciplinary procedures.” This is a national first, there being no other licensed legal professional other than attorneys in the United States.

The creation of a licensed professional who is not an attorney is a strong win for access to justice. Increasingly over the past fifty years, privately attained lawyers have been a luxury for most of the population. Hourly rates run anywhere from $100 per hour to $1,250 per hour. There are fewer and fewer lawyers administering to our poor and lower-income (and even middle class) citizens. Astronomical attorney fees is not an unheard topic in the news. In fact, high legal fees is such a focus in the media that working persons are often not even trying to retain a lawyer when they need one.

That has left us with overworked public defenders, attorneys who do pro bono work or work on the cheap, as well as self-help clinics and websites. While the use of paralegals has helped reduce legal costs, they only work for lawyers and their rates can exceed $100 per hour.

Generally speaking, the criminal defendant is the luckiest in that court-appointed lawyers are built into our constitution. However, plaintiffs with non-contingency cases, estate planning or probate matters, small business conflicts or other matters, or real estate problems, are often left without representation. Throw in the family law problems, housing, medical care conflicts… the list goes on.

Self-help legal services are beneficial, no question. Registered document preparers and self-help clinics have been tremendous boosts in access to justice. LegalZoom and Nolo.com are two self-help sites that are booming and very effective at putting the law into the people’s hands, but many legal conflicts are far too complex to pursue without educated legal assistance. Licensed legal assistance.

What is a Limited License Legal Technician?

According to Washington’s Supreme Court, the LLLT Rule will “authorize certain persons to render limited legal assistance or advice in approved practice areas of law.” (Washington’s Admission to Practice Rules, Rule 28 ). In other words, these specially trained individuals will be able to practice law to a very limited scope in limited areas.

What are the areas that LLLTs can practice in?

The only area of practice to be approved by the Washington Supreme Court is family law. It was approved in March, 2013. Other areas are being considered for future approval.

If I get a license, what can I actually do as a LLLT?

According to APR 28, a person who practices in an approved area of law can do the following tasks:

(1) Obtain relevant facts, and explain the relevancy of such information to the client;

(2) Inform the client of applicable procedures, including deadlines, documents which must be filed, and the anticipated course of the legal proceeding;

(3) Inform the client of applicable procedures for proper service of process and filing of legal documents;

(4) Provide the client with self-help materials prepared by a Washington lawyer or approved by the Board, which contain information about relevant legal requirements, case law basis for the client’s claim, and venue and jurisdiction requirements;

(5) Review documents or exhibits that the client has received from the opposing side, and explain them to the client;

(6) Select and complete forms that have been approved by the State of Washington, either through a governmental agency or by the Administrative Office of the Courts or the content of which is specified by statute; federal forms; forms prepared by a Washington lawyer; or forms approved by the Board; and advise the client of the significance of the selected forms to the client’s case;

(7) Perform legal research and draft legal letters and documents beyond what is permitted in the previous paragraph, if the work is reviewed and approved by a Washington lawyer;

(8) Advise a client as to other documents that may be necessary to the client’s case (such as exhibits, witness declarations, or party declarations), and explain how such additional documents or pleadings may affect the client’s case;

(9) Assist the client in obtaining necessary documents, such as birth, death, or marriage certificates.

How are these tasks different from a legal document preparer, or a legal document assistant, or legal assistant who works in a self-help clinic?

Primarily, the difference lies in the limited legal advice permitted to be given to clients. Take task number 1, for instance. The language says that an LLLT can, “explain the relevancy of [the facts] to the client.” This is independent legal analysis. The LLLT, in other words, can explain to his or her client the reason they might be liable for failing to watch where they were driving. In self-help, such a thing could not be explained.

Similarly in task number 6, the LLLT can “select and complete forms,” as well as “advise the client of the significance of the selected forms to the client’s case.” Once again, this is independent legal analysis that is being conveyed to the client. This far exceeds the authorized activities of an assistant in self-help. While legal document assistants (or other document preparers) can explain language on a form, they cannot explain how that language applies to the client. Further, LLLTs can choose the forms; preparers cannot, being limited to what the client brings them.

As such, the LLLT is much more helpful to a client.

How is the LLLT different from a paralegal?

A paralegal, too, cannot give any legal advice to a client, nor can a paralegal work independently with a client. All work a paralegal does is subject to the review of the lawyer. The paralegal works directly for the lawyer, not the client. The LLLT, on the other hand, can work directly with clients and act independently from an attorney. Do not forget though, that the LLLT is still limited in certain tasks. The LLLT is NOT a lawyer.

Ok, then how is the LLLT different from a lawyer?

According to task number 7, if the LLLT performs “legal research and draft legal letters and documents,” the work must be reviewed and approved by a Washington lawyer. So in that sense, if the LLLT does work beyond approved forms, the LLLT needs a Washington lawyer to review and approve the work, similar to a paralegal and very different from a lawyer. There are more limitations listed below.

How do I become a Limited Licensed Legal Technician?

Well, you can’t do it yet, but as soon as the State of Washington approves the process, you will be expected to do the following according to the APR 28:

1. You have to be 18 years old.

2. You must have good moral character and “demonstrate fitness to practice.”

3. You need appropriate education (similar to paralegal education) and must perform 20 hours of pro bono legal service.

4.. You will need to apply for the license and pay the appropriate fees (which includes the exam fee), all to be determined.

5. You must take and pass an exam. What’s on it? Details coming soon.

6. Each year you will pay a license fee. How much? Details coming soon.

7. You will have to complete required continuing education each year, the number and substance to be determined.

8. Finally, you must show that you can pay for any damages that might be obtained against you. Most likely this will be a bond similar to a legal document preparer.

I’ve been in practice a LONG time as a paralegal, do I really have to do all that stuff?

Well. you might be in luck. Beginning in August, 2013, if you are a paralegal with more than ten years of substantive experience, you will be able to apply for the license. You will still have to take the exam and satisfy the moral background requirement, but the education and pro-bono hours will be waived. The waiver procedure will be posted at the Washington State Bar Association website soon. For more information on the approval by the Washington Supreme Court, check here and here.

What can the LLLT NOT do? What are the prohibited acts of the LLLT?

The key word to know is “limited.” The LLLT is limited in the following ways:

1. The LLLT cannot make any statement that he or she can or will obtain special favors from or has special influence with any court or governmental agency;

2. He or she cannot retain any fees or costs for services not performed;

3. He or she cannot refuse to return documents supplied by, prepared by, or paid for by the client, upon the request of the client. These
documents must be returned upon request even if there is a fee dispute between the Limited License Legal Technician and the client;

4. He or she cannot claim to be a lawyer or anything other than an LLLT.

5. He or she cannot represent a client in court proceedings, formal administrative adjudicative proceedings, or other formal dispute resolution process, unless permitted Washington law.

6. He or she cannot negotiate the client’s legal rights or responsibilities, or communicate with another person the client’s position or convey to the client the position of another party, unless permitted by Washington law.

7. He or she cannot provide services to a client in connection with a legal matter in another state, unless permitted by the laws of that state to perform such services for the client;

8. Represent or otherwise provide legal or law related services to a client, except as permitted by law.

9. He or she cannot otherwise violate the Limited License Legal Technicians’ Rules of Professional Conduct.

Summary

The Limited License Legal Technician is the future of legal access. It’s very exciting, very interesting, and will be a greatly needed asset for persons who right now cannot afford an attorney. The California State Bar Board of Trustees is currently studying the LLLT for use in our state, among a host of other states. Washington will be under the watch of the entire legal industry. More news to come, I have no doubt.

 

Related Articles

The Best Undergraduate Major for the LSAT

According to a study done by Michael Nieswiadomy of the University of North Texas and reported in the ABA journal, the majors that got the highest scores were physics and math majors. Pre-law and criminal justice majors did the worst. Here’s a question for you: where do you find the geniuses and persons with the highest IQ?

Math and physics.

So is it the major that gets these students to perform well? Or the fact that they are the “smartest” students taking the LSAT?

Here’s another study for you by Kerma Partners and Redwood, a branch of Lexis-Nexis in 2008, that says school rank (directly connected with the LSAT score) and GPA aren’t the best predictors of success as a lawyer in a big law firm. Meaning you can be a “B” student, in a non-math major, getting a respectable but not outrageously high LSAT, going to a school other than the top five law schools, and you can STILL succeed as a lawyer in a larger law firm. Maybe so…

Hey, how about this? Follow what your heart tells you. Choosing a major you love will make you happier, more at peace, more motivated to do well. Yes, do what you love. You will have a greater chance, perhaps, at finding personal success and on your death bed you won’t be wishing you’d majored in math.

Congratulations President Barak Obama!

Obama Inauguration

A wonderful day, indeed. Here in the Legal Studies Department, we’re looking forward to the new day President Obama brings with him. This morning, Laura Cantrell and I watched the swearing-in at Davenport Cafeteria along with many students, faculty and staff. What a sight to see the first African-American President taking the Oath, what a great way to usher in the new semester. I certainly felt hopeful walking out onto our lovely campus.

See everyone in class!

NBC Dateline Lawsuit

A lawsuit against NBC’s Datelinefor the suicide of Texas Prosecutor Louis William Conradt Jr. has the green light and will proceed. Dateline’s popular program, “To Catch a Predator” features confrontations with men who allegedly sought “dates” with underage persons they met on-line. Condradt was one such “victim” of NBC. While camera crews and the local SWAT team awaited outside his home for his arrest, Conradt shot himself.

Southern District of New York Judge Denny Chin said that if the complaint’s allegations are true, a reasonable jury could find that “NBC crossed the line from responsible journalism to irresponsible and reckless intrusion into law enforcement.” NBC sticks to its guns, a spokesperson being quoted as saying, “the evidence will ultimately show that ‘Dateline’ acted responsibly and lawfully.”

This is definitely a case to follow in that it tells a fascinating, tragic story that brings together the ever-powerful media, society’s unquenchable hunger to punish our modern pariah, the pedophile, and the law. A related story is also seen in the unfolding of bills urging adoption of Jessica’s law across the country which includes a broader-scale use of GPS to monitor sex offenders. As usual, though, the problem lies in a woeful lack of funding. 

March 1: Paralegals Register in Florida

Beginning March 1, paralegals will be able to voluntarily register with the Florida State Bar under the Florida Registered Paralegal Program. For $150, a paralegal with the required education and experience can apply for registration by filing the necessary form with the State Bar. If the paralegal is approved, the paralegal will be listed on his or her own page in the “Find-an-Attorney” section, specially identified as a “Paralegal.”

Pretty snazzy! This definitely brings a much-desired level of professionalism to the paralegal career.