Michelle Cummings recounts her journey from working as a paralegal to becoming the first legal technician in the state — and the country.There has been a lot of news lately about the new law (APR 28) allowing non-lawyers to become licensed to practice in a limited fashion in certain areas of law in the state of Washington.
I am Michelle Lynn-Moore Cummings. I am a limited license legal technician (LLLT) and I am licensed to practice in the area of family law (domestic relations). I am the first: LLLT No. 101. How did someone like me — a non-lawyer and a PACE-registered paralegal, who obtained her AAS in paralegal studies back in 1998, suddenly become a pioneer in a new practice area of law for non-lawyers?
It started about mid-year 2013. The attorney I work for, Loretta Fiori-Thomas, came to me and asked if I had heard about the new LLLT program. I had not. She told me to look into it, see if I was qualified and sign up. If it’s that easy, why not, right? Well, it wasn’t so easy, but with additional encouragement from Loretta and further research on my part, I began the process. For the next two years, my life — which included one husband, two children, a full-time job and the occasional use of a gym membership — changed drastically and hasn’t been the same since.
I enrolled into the University of Washington’s family law courses for winter, spring and fall 2014. These were two-hour online classes twice a week, in addition to reading and doing assignments outside of class, which took another four to eight hours of studying each week. On June 25, 2015, after a lot of work and passing the first-ever LLLT exam, I became licensed as a legal technician.
To be honest, I never stopped to ask why I was doing it. During the whole process, it just felt like it was the right thing to do and something I was meant to be doing. I’ve been in the legal field since 1998, so this is basically a dream come true. Not only will our office be able to offer a whole new kind of service to the public, I can actually become a partner of a practice — or even own my own practice someday.
There are still cases that must and should be handled by an attorney; however, for those who only need a little bit of help (and only have a little bit of money), an LLLT like me can make a difference. This is why I obtained my license: I saw an opportunity to serve those with limited financial resources who still need access to justice and some measure of legal assistance.