In a thoughtful article published in 2004 in the Connecticut Law Review, entitled "Connecticut Unauthorized Practice Laws and Some Options for Their Reform," Yale law Professor Quintin Johnstone proposed several options for expanding non-attorney exemptions to unauthorized practice of law rules. Professor Johnstone proposed enabling people who are not lawyers, but who have proper training, to provide certain types of limited legal services to self-represented individuals as a means of "relieving the serious shortage of legal services available to the poor."
Individuals without law degrees are currently eligible to be certified as representatives of Social Security Disability claimants, applicants for immigration relief, and in other administrative law matters. Paralegals in law firms perform a multitude of legal services. Law students participate in school clinics that provide legal services to clinic clients. With appropriate training, such skilled individuals have proven to be capable of providing competent legal services in certain specified legal matters for lower fees than attorneys charge, just as nurse-practitioners have demonstrated that non-physicians can provide basic medical services to patients for less money than physicians charge.??
Recently, the Washington State Supreme Court adopted a rule authorizing non-lawyers to assist in certain civil legal matters, with the goal of making legal help more accessible to the public. Under the new rule, individuals who are trained and licensed by a newly-established Limited License Legal Technician Board will be authorized to provide limited legal assistance, such as obtaining relevant facts; assisting the client in obtaining necessary documents and explaining the relevance of such information; informing the client of applicable procedures, including deadlines; and explaining the anticipated course of the legal proceeding.??
They may also provide services in informing the client of applicable procedures for service of process and filing of legal documents. They can also review documents or exhibits that the client has received from the opposing side, and explain them to the client.??
The court rule further enables technicians to provide the client with self-help materials approved by the Limited Lice Legal Technician Board or prepared by a member of the bar. These materials contain information about relevant legal requirements, case law, venue and jurisdiction.
Finally, such technicians may perform legal research and draft legal letters and documents if the work is reviewed by a member of the bar.????
Under the Washington rule, Licensed Legal Technicians must have formal paralegal training and job experience, pass an exam, and demonstrate an ability to meet financial responsibilities. In addition, they must have a physical street address in Washington State, written retainers describing services and fees, meet CLE requirements, and comply with ethical rules.
The new Washington legal technician rule has elicited interest outside that state, notably in New York and California. The 2012 New York Task Force Report on expanding access to legal services recommended that New York courts implement a pilot program similar to Washington State’s legal technician program. The California State Bar has recommended consideration of a similar limited license program.??
The Connecticut bar and judiciary should study the implementation of the new Washington legal technician rule and monitor that state’s experience. Based on this information, Connecticut should consider whether to establish a licensure program for legal technicians in our state. While such a program would not solve the access to justice problem faced by low- and moderate-income Connecticut residents, it could offer a modest, but significant, initiative for authorizing well-trained and regulated legal technicians to provide discrete, limited legal services to those who are unable to afford full legal representation.•??