Legal Industry News
June 19, 2012
Washington Supreme Court Adopts Rule Authorizing Non-Lawyers to Assist in Certain Civil Legal Matters
With a goal of making legal help more accessible to the public, the Washington Supreme Court has adopted APR 28, entitled “Limited Practice Rule for Limited License Technicians”. The rule will allow non-lawyers with certain levels of training to provide technical help on simple legal matters. This rule will be effective September 1, 2012.
The rule was approved by a majority of the Court, with Justices Charles W. Johnson, Susan J. Owens, and Mary E. Fairhurst dissenting.
“This new rule serves as an important first step to assist the thousands of unrepresented individuals seeking to resolve important civil legal matters each day in our courts,” said Chief Justice, Barbara Madsen of the new rule. “With our civil legal aid system overtaxed and underfunded, this is one strategy the court believes can help assist those who find themselves in court, yet are unable to afford an attorney.”
The rule was recommended by the Practice of Law Board, created by the Supreme Court in 2001, to investigate unauthorized practice of law complaints, issue advisory opinions, and recommend ways to the Court in which non-lawyers can improve access to law-related services. The proposal was first submitted to the court in 2008 and revised in 2012.
Under the new rule, persons who are trained and authorized by a newly-established Limited License Legal Technician Board will be able to provide technical help to the public on civil cases.
The type of assistance the legal technician will be able to provide include, but are not limited to:
• Selecting and completing court forms
• Informing clients of applicable procedures and timelines
• Reviewing and explaining pleadings
• Identifying additional documents that may be needed in a court proceeding.
Under the rule, limited license legal technicians will not be able to represent clients in court, or contact and negotiate with opposing parties on a client’s behalf.
The rule also requires continuing education requirements, annual proof of financial responsibility, and an annual license fee to be established by the Practice of Law Board and approved by the Supreme Court.
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