Growing Support For Non-Lawyer Practitioners Will Put Pressure on Law Firms
The mechanical-sounding name of a limited license legal technician, or LLLT, doesn’t hint at the disruptive potential this new job title could have on the legal profession.
The first LLLTs are set to be licensed in April or May in the state of Washington. California, New York and others are discussing creating the same or similar categories to address the needs of people who can’t afford lawyers to represent them in relatively low-level legal proceedings.
LLLTs in Washington will be allowed to fill out legal forms, inform clients of procedures and timelines, review and explain pleadings and identify additional documents that might be needed in court. The initial practice area is limited to domestic relations but is expected to expand to areas like wills, adoptions and bankruptcy.
The threat to law firms is that clients who do hire lawyers and paralegals to perform such tasks will now hire LLLTs for those duties. Nothing will prevents lawyers from hiring LLLTs to provide those services from their own offices, but it seems likely that LLLTs will inevitably exert downward pressure on billable hours and fees, even as the glut of unemployed attorneys continues.
Response to a need
The concept of LLLTs sprung from the perception that the number of poor people needing legal services – and unable to get them – was growing unabated. And the debate about allowing non-lawyers to provide legal services has gone national: American Bar Association President William C. Hubbard has convened a Commission on the Future of Legal Services to study that and other issues.
Robert Ambrogi reported in the Law Sites blog (http://bit.ly/1B4mXpg) that other states are following Washington’s lead. In February, the Oregon State Bar issued a report recommending that its board of governor’s “consider […]