In 2012, Washington State implemented a new program that created the limited license legal technician (LLLT). LLLT’s are not lawyers. They cannot represent clients in Court, nor can they negotiate on their behalf. Yet, they are allowed to provide limited legal advice like preparing forms, explaining legal documents, drafting legal documents, and explaining Court procedures.
This is very similar to the tasks paralegals perform, but paralegals are normally under attorney supervision. LLLTs are entirely independent of attorneys, and can pass along this advice without attorney supervision. Washington’s stated goal is to improve access to legal professionals, especially for those who cannot afford an attorney.
There are two conflicting thoughts here. First, there is significant concern that allowing briefly trained LLLTs to give legal advice is opening up the door to bad legal advice. Lawyers are educated for 7-8 years after graduating high school and are put through rigorous testing both in law school and in passing the bar exam. The training of an attorney is extensive, time-consuming, and expensive. LLLTs will have less than a fraction of that training, but the responsibilities of an attorney in giving advice. This could create a situation where clients are not receiving correct advice, which can lead to LLLTs creating issues for their brief clients.
Second, is we have a problem in this country in getting access to lawyers. In an injury case, the lawyer is hired almost exclusively on a contingency basis, so many injured clients can get an attorney no matter their economic status. Hourly cases, especially family and land use cases, present a much different problem. A client must pay an attorney a significant sum to proceed on an hourly basis. In some cases, these amounts could be thousands upon thousands of dollars. If you have the money, then it is easy to find a quality attorney. Those less fortunate, however, cannot afford such an expense and often go into Court unrepresented. LLLTs could provide these less fortunate clients legal advice they need to do the basics, which may level the playing field a bit with those more fortunate.
No matter what, it is fascinating how the legal field is trying to adjust to the quickness of media today, and trying to create greater access to justice. If you are concerned about your legal rights, contact the law offices of Parnell, Michels & McKay to see how we can help you.