Washington Approves Limited Licensed Legal Technicians

While I understand the premise behind this Order (expanding access to justice, addressing gaps in service to low-income/modest means/pro se litigants), I am still surprised.

New APR 28 – Limited Practice Rule for Limited License Legal Technicians (LLLTs) goes into effect September 1, 2012.  It draws a distinction between LLLTs and paralegals or legal assistants “who are employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency, or other entity.”  LLLTs will be licensed by a Limited License Legal Technicians Board, must be 18 years of age or older, of good moral character, possess specified educational credentials, and complete 20 hours of pro bono service.

Limited License Legal Technicians (LLLTs) are defined as:

” … A person qualified by education, training and work experience who is authorized to engage in the limited practice of law in approved practice areas of law as specified by this rule and related regulations. The legal technician does not represent the client in court proceedings or negotiations, but provides limited legal assistance as set forth in this rule to a pro se client.”

The LLLT “scope of practice” encompasses the following:

  1. Obtain relevant facts, and explain the relevancy of such information to the client;
  2. Inform the client of applicable procedures, including deadlines, documents which must be filed, and the anticipated course of the legal proceeding;
  3. Inform the client of applicable procedures for proper service of process and filing of legal documents;
  4. Provide the client with self-help materials prepared by a Washington lawyer or approved by the Board, which contain information about relevant legal requirements, case law basis for the client’s claim, and venue and jurisdiction requirements;
  5. Review documents or exhibits that the client has received from the opposing side, and explain them to the client;
  6. Select and complete forms that have been approved by the State of Washington, either through a governmental agency or by the Administrative Office of the Courts or the content of which is specified by statute; federal forms; forms prepared by a Washington lawyer; or forms approved by the Board; and advise the client of the significance of the selected forms to the client’s case;
  7. Perform legal research and draft legal letters and pleadings documents beyond what is permitted in the previous paragraph, if the work is reviewed and approved by a Washington lawyer;
  8. Advise a client as to other documents that may be necessary to the client’s case (such as exhibits, witness declarations, or party declarations) , and explain how such additional documents or pleadings may affect the client’s case;
  9. Assist the client in obtaining necessary documents, such as birth, death, or marriage certificates.

What is your opinion of the new rule?  Do you think Oregon lawyers will use LLLT licensure to “practice” in Washington (avoiding the necessity of reciprocal admission) or do you believe only non-lawyers will offer LLLT services?  Will Oregon follow suit?  How will APR 28 affect lawyers interested in unbundling legal services?

My thanks to Pete Roberts of the Washington State Bar Association Law Office Management Assistance Program for bringing this to our attention.

FAQ – Law Practice Management, Part 2

Last week I answered some frequently asked questions about law practice management.  In today’s post, I am addressing a few more:

Conflicts of Interest – Prospective and Declined Clients


Am I required to track prospective and declined clients in my conflict of interest system?


We recommend that prospective and declined clients be included in your conflict system.  For example, assume a husband comes in for a consultation because he is contemplating divorce. During the consultation, the husband discloses confidential information. The husband then decides not to proceed with the divorce, or you decline the husband as a client. Two years later, the wife comes in seeking a divorce. If you accept the wife as a client, you will have a conflict of interest. This could happen easily if you forget about the consultation with the husband and do not maintain a record of consultations in your conflict system.

Conflicts of Interest – Tracking “No Show” Lawyer Referral Clients


What should I do if the bar refers a potential client to me and they are a “no show?”  Or the potential client never calls?  Do I still need to include the non-client in my conflict system?


A piece of advice before I answer the conflict question:  If the bar refers a potential client to you and the potential client does not call, inform the bar so you can get another referral.

Now, with regard to your conflict system:  You are not required to include names of potential bar referral clients who never call you.   The same is true of a “no show” who fails to keep a scheduled appointment (unless you learned confidential information about the client or her matter in the course of setting up the meeting).

Regardless, tracking “no calls” and “no shows” might prove helpful:

Joe Smith is referred to you by the bar for a divorce.  Joe is a “no show” for his appointment.  Other than knowing the adverse party’s name (Marie Smith), you have no information about Joe’s divorce.  Because Joe did not keep his appointment and you possess no confidential information about the matter, Joe may not appear in your conflict system.  Time passes.  Marie Smith calls.  You want to represent Marie.  Can you see the value of having an entry in your system documenting that Joe was a “no show” and did not keep his appointment?  Joe was never your client and your entry proves it.

Or assume a slightly different scenario.  Jane is referred to you by the bar.  You schedule an appointment for the next day.  Jane doesn’t show.  Six weeks later, Jane calls again.  As part of your regular conflict screening process, you run Jane through your system and see that she did not keep her last appointment.  This might be useful information to have in deciding whether to schedule Jane for a second meeting.

Keeping Declined or Miscellaneous Client Records


What should I do with the notes or nonengagement letters I’ve accumulated for persons who don’t become clients?


If you are paper-based

Keep a yearly declined or miscellaneous clients folder.  For example: “2011 Declined Clients.”  In the folder, staple together your intake sheet, notes, a copy of your nonengagement letter, and anything else you have from your meeting with the declined client.  This is cheaper than opening a file folder for everyone you meet.  Paperwork pertaining to declined clients can be kept chronologically within each year’s file.  Keep these records at least 10 years, as you would actual client files.  (For File Retention Guidelines, visit the PLF Web site.  Select Practice Aids and Forms > File Management.)   Always return any original documents provided by the client and remember to add declined clients to your conflict system.

If you are paperless

Create a file folder on your computer called “Declined Clients” and create subfolders for each year.  If you like, you can create further subfolders for each declined client.  Otherwise, generate a PDF file for each declined client and save the PDF under the declined client’s name.  In the PDF, assemble copies of your intake sheet, notes, and nonengagement letter or e-mail.  Scan any paper related to the declined/miscellaneous client and append it to the PDF.  Store your electronic records at least 10 years.  Be sure to capture your declined client folder in your backup.  Always return any original documents provided by the client and remember to add declined clients to your conflict system.

Unlawful Practice of Law


What  should I do if I believe someone is engaged in the unlawful practice of law?


If you believe someone is engaging in the unlawful practice of law, report it to the Oregon State Bar.  A complaint form is available here.  On its Web site, the Oregon State Bar provides the following information:

“The UPL committee has authority to:

  • Dismiss a complaint
  • Send a notice letter, warning that the accused’s activities could be considered the unlawful practice of law
  • Issue an admonition with the consent of the accused
  • Enter into a cease and desist agreement with the accused or
  • Recommend to the OSB Board of Governors that the OSB file a lawsuit against the accused to prevent him from continuing to practice law without authorization.

Occasionally, if an investigation suggests that there has been some illegal activity that the UPL committee cannot address, then the UPL committee will forward the results of its investigation to other state bars, to the Oregon Attorney General, or to another appropriate regulatory agency.”

Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis