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News: Washington State Supreme Court approves new ‘Legal Technicians’ rule

On June 15th, the Washington State Supreme Court approved the proposed Admission to Practice Rule 28 which creates a new legal service provider category named Limited License Legal Technician.

Purpose

The rule is intended to permit trained Limited License Legal Technicians to provide limited legal assistance under carefully regulated circumstances in ways that expand the affordability of quality legal assistance and protect the public interest.

This rule was recommended by the Practice of Law Board and created by the Washington State Supreme Court in part to find new ways in which non-lawyers could improve access to law-related services. This proposal was supported by the Washington State Paralegal Association.

According to the Washington State Supreme Court:

“ there are people who need only limited levels of assistance that can be provided by non-lawyers trained and overseen within the frameworks of the regulator system. ... This assistance should be available and affordable. Our system of justice requires it...[P]rotecting the monopoly status of attorneys in any practice area is not a legitimate objective.”

The Order also creates a “Limited License Legal Technician Board.” The Board is to be appointed by the state Supreme Court, and there will be a clear majority (9 out of 13) of lawyers on the Board.

Requirements

In order to be licensed, Legal Technicians must:

  • have a formal paralegal training, and paralegal job experience,
  • have completed at least 20 hours of pro bono legal service in Washington State within the prior two years,
  • take and pass an exam and pay annual license fees,
  • show proof of financial responsibility,
  • have a principal place of business with a physical street address in Washington State,
  • personally perform services for the client,
  • complete a number of credit hours in courses or activities approved by the Board,
  • enter into a written contract describing their services and fees with their client prior of the performance of services.

Scope of Practice

Legal Technicians are allowed to:

  • explain facts and relevancy,
  • inform the client of procedures and “anticipated course of the legal proceeding,”
  • provide the client with self-help materials approved by the Board or prepared by a Washington state lawyer,
  • review and explain the other sides documents and exhibits,
  • select and complete forms approved by various groups,
  • perform legal research and write legal letters and documents, but only if reviewed by a Washington lawyer,
  • advise the client about other needed documents,
  • assist the client in obtaining needed documents.

Legal Technician-Client Relationship

Additionally, rules regarding attorney-client privilege and fiduciary responsibility to the client apply to the Legal Technician-client relationship to the same extent as they apply to attorney-client relationships.