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Will California Adopt Limited License Legal Technicians?

On September 9, 2015 Carmel & Naccasha LLP’s paralegals attended a continuing legal education event put on by the Central Coast Paralegal Association (CCPA).  The CCPA presented a lunch time speaker, Mitchel L. Winick, President and Dean of the Monterey College of Law and San Luis Obispo College of Law.  Dean Winick presented the topic, “Will California Adopt Limited License Legal Technicians?”  The Dean serves on the Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, a 20-member advisory committee to the State Bar of California.  Dean Winick reported that the committee is taking a close look at a new class of legal professionals: Limited License Legal Technicians.

The job classification of Limited License Legal Technicians (LLLTs) currently exists only in the State of Washington.  This new type of legal services provider came about in response to concerns about the availability and cost of legal representation, especially for low-income persons and also for persons in rural and semi-rural areas where there are fewer practicing attorneys.

A recent opinion piece in The Washington Post, by Robert Ambrosi https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/closing-the-justice-gap/2015/03/13/a5f576c8-c754-11e4-aa1a-86135599fb0f_story.html reports that in 2014 even lawyers with less than three years’ experience billed an average of $255 an hour (though, of course, rates vary widely).  Young lawyers, strapped with tens of thousands of dollars in school debt, can’t afford to charge lower rates.  Legal Aid offices, which were meant to provide services to those clients who can’t afford access to lawyers are “shedding funding and services at an alarming rate.”  Notably, Legal Aid services tend to be more active in rural areas, where incomes are often lower and where there are fewer attorneys to begin with.

LLLTs are the nurse practitioners of the legal world.  In Washington, candidates take about a year of classes at a local community college and then must pass a licensing exam.  The cost to the student is about $10,000 rather than the $120,000 of a typical law degree[i].  LLLT graduates must then log 3,000 practice hours under the supervision of an attorney before they may hang out a shingle and practice on their own.  Washington has limited the areas of practice for LLLTs to only family law, at least for now. Other promising practice areas this may expand to include real estate and estate planning.  In Washington, practitioners cannot represent clients in court.

Dean Winick presented an overview of the exciting ways that LLLTs might dramatically change the delivery of legal services, especially on the Central Coast.  Several of the local paralegals attending the CCPA event engaged in thoughtful questions and answers with Dean Winick about the logistics and practicality of creating a new licensure in California.  It seemed clear that when LLLTs arrive in California, they will provide a new and different service than paralegals offer, but that both types of professionals have a place in the legal services community.

The paralegals at Carmel & Naccasha LLP have a variety of skills and experience which they use in collaboration with the firm’s attorneys in bringing legal representation to individuals and businesses in our community.

To learn more about our paralegals, visit their bios at the link here: http://carnaclaw.com/paralegals/

Kim Lacey assists with civil and business litigation at Carmel & Naccasha LLP. Kim has over twenty years experience as a paralegal and is a member of the Central Coast Paralegal Association. She can be reached at (805) 546-8785 or at KLacey@carnaclaw.com.

[i] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-01-21/are-you-paying-too-much-for-law-school-