Archive for the ‘Paralegal’ Category

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.

 

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Dates and Events for Legal Studies Students

Important dates for those of you on the paralegal job market – Get on board!

March 6, 2010 – Go to the Los Angeles Paralegal Association’s fantastic Career Conference at National University. Join other La Verne students and network with many paralegals and recruiters. Bring your resume! While you listen to the speakers, someone will review and comment on your resume. The link to register is here.

March 10, 2010 – Bobby Rimas will be putting on a Resume Workshop at the Campus Center at 6:00 p.m. on the Third Floor in the Ballroom. Bobby Rimas is the Vice President of Membership and Policy, Website Committee Chair and the Immigration Law Section Co-Chair of the Los Angeles Paralegal Association. He is a Paralegal at One West Bank in Pasadena, and is a member of the Advisory Committee for the University of La Verne Legal Studies Program. Snacks and drinks will be provided during this workshop.

Are you going to Law School?

TestMasters is holding a free LSAT workshop on Wednesday, March 3rd, at 6:00 PM. TestMasters instructor Sean Metherell will cover real LSAT questions to expose those in attendance to several of TestMasters’ methods and techniques. The workshop will be held on the Claremont College campus in the Smith Campus Center, in Room 217.  If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP for the event by sending your name and e-mail address to Ray at rtipton at testmasters.net. Contact me for more information.

Paralegal Student Association

Please note we have our first 2009 Paralegal Student Association meeting on:

Monday, March 2
5:30 p.m. at Leo Hall, Room 101A

There will be snacks and conversation. We plan on electing officers and planning for the remainder of the semester. We’ll also be planning our caravan/carpool for the LAPA Career Conference on March 7, 2009. If you want to attend the Career Conference, please register for “Student Spring Career Conference” at

https://www.netforumondemand.com/eWeb/Shopping/Shopping.aspx?Cart=0&Site=LAPA

See you on the 2nd!!

C. Bekhor

Los Angeles Paralegal Association – “Spotlight on Paralegals”

Just received this tiny reminder. Contact me at cbekhor@ulv.edu if you’re interested in attending. Remember, major events such as this will get you extra credit:

On October 18, 2008, the Los Angeles Paralegal Association (“LAPA”) will be offering a variety of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (“MCLE”) seminars, networking opportunities, and a resume tune-up at its 32nd Annual October Conference, “Spotlight on Paralegals” at the Downtown Los Angeles Omni Hotel. This year’s October Conference shines the spotlight on the diverse spectrum of paralegals while providing a great range of networking opportunities. This year’s MCLE seminars at this event will include Employment Law, Real Estate, Estate Planning, Corporate-Blue Sky, Legal Writing, Probate, Bankruptcy, e-Discovery, and Ethics.  There will also be a large display of legal vendors / exhibitors that serve the Los Angeles legal community.  Professional recruiters from the Los Angeles area who thoroughly understand the multitude of specialties within the paralegal industry will also be in attendance at this year’s LAPA October Conference.  These professionals can offer attendees valuable advice on current paralegal trends, suggest improvements on resumes, and can be key sources in connecting individuals with their next job interview.  This event, which will have approximately 250 attendees, provides an excellent way to help paralegals grow both personally and professionally.  This event will also be an excellent way for students to network!

As you know, California Paralegal MCLE requirements changed in January 2007.  Specifically, “Every two years, commencing January 1, 2007, any person that is working as a paralegal shall be required to certify completion of four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in legal ethics and four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in either general law or in an area of specialized law.”1  The LAPA October Conference can assist attendees with obtaining 3.50 hours of MCLE credit.

Attached please find the LAPA October Conference Registration Form.  If possible, please print the attached form and distribute it to your students.  Please also mention to your students that they can also register for the LAPA October Conference via the LAPA website, www.lapa.org.  Additionally, all ‘walk-ins’ are welcome! 

LAPA thanks you for your continued support!

 

Congratulations to our Graduates!

From all the faculty at the Legal Studies Department of ULV, congratulations to our graduates. May your continuing journey be fruitful and exciting! We wish you the best in all you do and look forward to hearing about your successes. Do keep in touch. Please know you will always have a “home” here.

Paralegal Student Association Breakfast – Save the Date!

tea cup

I am so pleased to announce the Paralegal Student Association’s first event of the year for our Legal Studies students here at the University of La Verne.

We have a very exciting and informative Breakfast planned for March 29, 2008. Please join us on Saturday morning in the West Dining Hall at 10:00 a.m. Besides a tasty meal, we’ll be featuring two speakers. Our first will be a graduate of the ULV Legal Studies Program who now works in a city attorney’s office and our second is a recruiter of paralegals for law firms in Southern California. Both will provide very useful information about the paralegal career.

We encourage all of our Legal Studies students to attend. Be on the lookout for a more formal Evite.

If you have any questions or wish to RSVP, please email Carolyn Bekhor or Laura Cantrell.

Email Etiquette

Last week in class, we touched upon some rules with regard to email and ethics. Over the weekend when I sent out email to a colleague that had a typo (which I feverishly corrected before hitting “send”), I was reminded of a story a friend told me recently. She complained about how email is ruining the business world. She said, “People think they’re talking on the phone, that email is somehow a lesser form of business communication. They’ll be professional in a letter sent by the post, but shockingly unprofessional in email.”

Yikes!

Because I have my students’ futures in mind, I thought I’d go over some basic email etiquette that I pulled off of Purdue University’s writing workshop website:

  • Be sure to include a meaningful subject line; this helps clarify what your message is about and may also help the recipient prioritize reading your email
  • Just like a written letter, be sure to open your email with a greeting like Dear Dr. Jones, or Ms. Smith:
  • Use standard spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. THERE’S NOTHING WORSE THAN AN EMAIL SCREAMING A MESSAGE IN ALL CAPS.
  • Write clear, short paragraphs and be direct and to the point; professionals and academics alike see their email accounts as business. Don’t write unnecessarily long emails or otherwise waste the recipient’s time
  • Be friendly and cordial, but don’t try to joke around (jokes and witty remarks may be inappropriate and, more commonly, may not come off appropriately in email)

That last point is so true! How often has someone misinterpreted your humor?