Access to justice has been a pressing issue within the legal profession for a number of years, and many states are working to combat that problem by offering alternative sources of legal assistance.
Our team over at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism has been reporting on the transformation in delivering legal services for quite some time now, but this, readers, is a new breed we’re talking about today: limited paralegal practitioners.
Limited paralegal practitioners (LPPs) are paraprofessionals with more training and responsibilities than a normal paralegal, but they are not quite lawyers.
Last May, the Utah Supreme Court formulated a task force to examine the strategies of a number of different states, including the LLLTs in Washington, to find a viable solution that fits the needs of its state’s access to justice problem, and LPPs appear to be the answer.
After deliberation, the task force recommended that the Court adopt limited paralegal practitioners who would be able to perform a number of discrete legal services in the following practice areas: temporary separation under Section 30-3-4.5, divorce, paternity, cohabitant abuse and civil stalking, custody and support, name change, eviction, and debt collection.
According to the task force report, within these practice areas, LPPs can conduct client interviews; complete court-approved forms on behalf of the client; advise clients on what forms to use; obtain, explain, and file supporting documents; advise clients about anticipated course of proceedings by which the court will resolve matters; represent clients in mediated negotiations; and prepare written settlement agreements that align with said mediated agreements.
These licensed paralegal practitioners will be required to have a certain amount of education to take on this role in the profession. LPPs must have either a law degree or an associate degree with a paralegal certificate and will need prior paralegal experience. They must also complete a number of additional courses in their designated practice area, as well.
Earlier this month, the Utah Supreme Court took these recommendations to heart and have officially backed the use of limited paralegal practitioners in the state.
We recognize the valuable services that lawyers provide to their clients every day, in and out of court,” the report reads. “But the data shows that, even after years of effort with pro bono and low bono programs, a large number of people do not have a lawyer to help them. … The people facing these situations need correct information and advice. They need assistance.”
At this point in time, the implementation of limited paralegal practitioners doesn’t have a start date, but once the nuts and bolts are sorted, we’ll have the complete story.