As you may recall, the Supreme Court adopted the Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) rule in June 2012, which authorizes new legal professionals who meet certain educational requirements to advise and assist clients in approved practice areas of law. The LLLT Board began implementation of the rule in January 2013, and I want to provide an update on our progress.
We began the process of implementation by addressing the following parts of the process: define the scope of practice; develop an education program that teaches to the scope of practice; develop Rules of Professional Conduct; develop examinations that will test the competency of the applicants.
LLLT Education Program
The process of developing the education program has been both exciting and rewarding. The board has developed a standard for evaluating decisions it makes that especially applies to the education program. We call it the “3 A’s” test. The “A’s” are 1) affordable; 2) accessible; and 3) academically rigorous. This standard has been used many times in guiding our decisions in the process of developing the education program.
The education program consists of two components. The first is the core courses, which are being taught mostly by programs in the community college system. Our Board created a curriculum to develop the core competencies that we felt were essential for LLLTs. The other component is the practice area curriculum, which was developed with the assistance of representative from our three law schools and is being taught by professors from the three law schools. Classes began in January and will include three quarters of classes. The courses are “streamed” so that students who live in various parts of the state can participate live during the sessions, which are taught two nights a week. It is delightful to see the collaboration of our community college system and our law schools. It is also wonderful to see the collaboration of our three law schools to assist in developing and delivering the practice area component.
LLLT Next Steps
The examination and rules of professional conduct subcommittees are completing their work. The rules of professional conduct will look very much like the rules of professional conduct for lawyers in this state. The process has been arduous and thoughtful, but the product will be well worth the effort. It is intended that these rules and the rules of enforcement of conduct will be sent to the Court for review and adoption by this August.
The examination subcommittee is likewise in the midst of its work. It is likely that the examination will consist of two parts. The first will be a test of the core coursework. The second will be an examination that will test the practice area competency. It is our hope that the first examination will be given in the spring of 2015.
The Board will soon turn its attention to recommending additional practice areas to the Supreme Court for adoption. When that occurs, the Board will resume the process of defining the scope and developing an education program that will assure competency in that practice area. LLLTs who have previously been licensed will not be required to retake the core exam, but will need to pass the additional practice area examination.
In the process of implementing the program, I have been in contact with many who are interested in or involved in the program. One is an experienced paralegal who works part time for Northwest Justice Project in Eastern Washington. She is a part of the first class of LLLT’s. In that she lives more than two hours from Seattle she has taken advantage of the law school classes being “streamed.” Another is a young woman lawyer who practices family law who and has hired three paralegals with the plan to have them all become licensed LLLT’s. Her vision is that she will have a business model that will serve both her needs and those of her clients.
This program is gaining widespread attention around the United States. Within the last six months, we have made presentations in Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington D.C., California, and Oregon, and have had communications with other states including New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Colorado. The topic has also been presented at three ABA meetings. (Most of the costs for these contacts and visits are paid by the inquiring state or entity.)
One thing that has become apparent around the country is there is a very large and growing unmet legal need. Our profession historically has chosen the “one size fits all” approach to the delivery of legal services. For a variety of reasons, including economic ones, the consumer of legal services is in need of services that fit their needs and what they can afford. This type of professional legal service provider will fill a gap in our legal system and meet the needs of many who are not now being served.