Calif. Bar Task Force Calls for Legal Technician Pilot Program

I have been closely following the emerging issue of licensing non-lawyers to deliver legal services in limited circumstances. In the January 2015 ABA Journal, I had an article about Washington state’s limited license legal technician (LLLT) program, and last weekend I had an opinion piece in The Washington Post about the same topic.

Gradually, other states are moving towards adopting programs similar to Washington’s. A few weeks ago, I noted here that an Oregon State Bar task force on limited license legal technicians issued its report recommending to the OSB’s board of governors “that it consider the general concept of a limited license for legal technicians as one component of the BOG’s overall strategy for increasing access to justice.”

Now, in California, the State Bar’s Civil Justice Strategies Task Force has published for public comment a draft report that calls for a LLLT pilot program in that state.

As I noted in my ABA Journal article, the State Bar in March 2013 appointed a Limited License Working Group to look at whether California should adopt a program similar to Washington’s. In July 2013, the working group came out in favor of the concept and urged the bar to conduct an expanded study.

In November 2013, the bar appointed the Civil Justice Strategies Task Force to study the access-to-justice crisis and develop an action plan for addressing it. Earlier this month, the Task Force released the draft of its report and published it for public comments.

Among the recommendations included in the report is to establish a pilot LLLT program:

Limited License Legal Technicians (LLLT): The State Bar should study the design of a pilot program, in one subject matter area, and, with input from the Supreme Court, address how the governance, oversight, and “licensing” would be handled. It is important to allow the time for the Court to have input at the early stages, rather than after design is complete.

Another recommendation is to use non-lawyers as court navigators, based on the New York program I described in the ABA Journal piece:

Navigators: A program should be designed to be piloted in one or more self-help centers, to provide volunteer assistance to self-represented litigants in attending hearings. Permission should be requested to have the navigator sit at counsel table 19 with the litigant, but not to address the court. Based on experience in other jurisdictions, the focus should be on this as a volunteer program, not as a for-profit method of assistance.

Comments are being accepted until May 11, 2015.