California Employment attorney Curt Surls publishes review of emerging "paraprofessionals"

In some states, there are proposals pending to address the legal needs of those unable or unwilling to hire a lawyer, explains Curt Surls.
By: The Law Office of Curt Surls, California
 
 
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MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. - Dec. 10, 2018 - PRLog -- With an article on "Paraprofessionals" in the law practice, employment lawyer Curt Surls has published the next article in his series on the paralegal profession. The complete articles will be published on the blog of Mr. Surls at https://curtsurlsblog.blogspot.com/.

These "paraprofessionals" are developing from Paralegals who ascend the ranks to act almost like lawyers (similar to Nurse Practitioners who in many cases diagnose and treat health conditions). In civil law cases, there are proposals pending (or already implemented in certain States, as explained below) to address the day-to-day legal need of those unable or unwilling to hire a full-fledged Attorney. This includes the commonplace legal needs of low to moderate-income people by authorizing limited practice by licensed non-lawyers, now known as "paraprofessionals." This is easy to understand. Many procedures or applications are difficult to understand for "normal" people who are not exposed to them on a daily basis. For example, even forms provided by Courts to make certain filings simpler and possibly enable people to file the forms or applications themselves without the assistance of an Attorney are quite difficult to understand that at least some explanation is still required. This concept has been gradually gaining acceptance. Unlike Paralegals, such paraprofessionals provide services without the direct supervision of an attorney. At this point, two state supreme courts have embraced the "licensed legal technician" concept, and other jurisdictions are closely monitoring its viability.

Given the high percentage of self-represented parties in courtrooms around the country, some advocates believe regulated legal paraprofessionals (charging lower fees) can help narrow the access-to-justice gap. That may one day be the case, but the paraprofessional model and its efficacy in addressing this disparity remain unproven, and ethical rules prevent such a system at least at present.

Washington State pioneered the "limited license" model. In 2013, after years of study, the Washington State Supreme Court adopted the concept of the "Limited License Legal Technician" (LLLT) to perform specific legal services in the area of domestic relations. LLLTs are subject to stringent requirements, which include obtaining an Associate's degree or higher and completing additional specified coursework; performing 3,000 hours of Paralegal work; passing three law and ethics exams, as well as a character and fitness review. Further, they must also complete a licensing program, satisfy financial responsibility requirements, as well as continuing legal education, and meet malpractice insurance requirements. LLLTs are subject to rules of professional conduct and a disciplinary process similar to those that apply to attorneys. The Board that oversees the LLLT program is now considering expanding the subject matter areas in which paraprofessionals may practice to include consumer debt law.

Several other U.S. States are now following this example. The scope of permissible work for "limited license" paraprofessionals differs under these various models that have been proposed. It generally includes assistance to clients in understanding legal proceedings and completing court forms and other form documents, but does not include appearing for a client in court or at depositions, or taking on complex legal matters. For example, LLLTs in Washington currently may not represent a client in mediated negotiations, but they may do so in Utah.

The "access-to-justice disparity" has prompted State Bars and court systems to promote other forms of nonlawyer assistance to pro se parties, including courthouse navigators and facilitators (examples are Arizona, New York, California, and Washington), and legal document preparers (Arizona, California, and Nevada). Many other States are looking into other forms of permissible assistance ("judicially-authorized-and-regulated legal service providers") to help address the problem of unmet legal needs.

About Curt Surls

Curtis Surls is an attorney in the areas of Employment Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Wrongful Termination. Located in Manhattan Beach, California, the Law Office of Curt Surls offers a complete range of employment law services to those living throughout Southern California, including all of Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange and San Bernardino counties. With nearly 30 years of experience focusing almost exclusively on this area of law, attorney Curt Surls and his law firm provide the personalized assistance and effective support his clients need.

Blog: https://curtsurlsblog.blogspot.com/
Attorney Profile: https://solomonlawguild.com/curt-surls%2C-esq

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