Updated - June 15, 2012:
The Washington Supreme Court has approved an order creating a new Admission to Practice Rule 28 which creates a new category of non-attorney legal service provider in Washington State. For more information and to read the court's order, click here.
The Washington State Practice of Law Board (POLB) has published a proposed "Admission to Practice Rule" that would create a new category of legal service provider known as a Legal Technician. The initial legal specialty area contemplated to make use of this new category of service provider would be Family Law.
The Washington State Supreme Court accepted comments on the proposal through April 30, 2009.
The POLB provides the following description of the purpose of the proposed rule.
Purpose. The Civil Legal Needs Study (2003), commissioned by the Supreme Court, clearly established that the legal needs of the consuming public are not currently being met. The public is entitled to be assured that legal services are rendered only by qualified trained legal practitioners. Only the legal profession is authorized to provide such services. The purpose of this rule is to authorize certain persons to render legal assistance or advice in defined areas of law. This rule shall prescribe the conditions of and limitations upon the provision of such services in order to ensure that only trained and qualified legal practitioners may provide the same. This rule is intended to permit trained legal technicians to provide limited legal assistance under carefully regulated circumstances in ways that expand the affordability of quality legal assistance which protects the public interest.
Following below is a link to the Proposed new rule:
APR 28 - Limited Practice Rule for Legal Technicians
Comments for APR 28 must be received no later than April 30, 2009.
Significant Consumer Protections would be a part of the new APR Rule. (See the excerpt below from an Article from the POLB to the Court.)
The proposed rule will require that the practitioner attend an approved course of study, pass an examination with regard to the area in which he or she will practice, and have a period of supervised practice. The practitioner will be required to be certified according to the rule, have a staffed office for the acceptance of service in the State of Washington, personally perform the services for the client, and enter into a written contract before providing services. The practitioner will be required to permit a rescission of the contract at any time, to provide a full refund of unearned fees, and to return all client documents to the client.
The Practice of Law Board, in creating a proposed rule which incorporates the ethical standards applicable to lawyers, knowingly imported into this non-lawyer practice, the same requirements for the handling of client funds which are imposed upon lawyers. At present, there are no rules which dictate the safe keeping of either funds or documents belonging to “clients” by non-lawyers.
The Board regulations create a structure for discipline, which will be undertaken by Board designees, with final review by the Supreme Court, as is the case with attorney discipline.
To read the POLB's submission to the Supreme Court, click here.
To read WSPA's Letter in support of APR 28 to the Supreme Court, click here.