Utah is on track to become the second state to license non-lawyers to practice law in limited circumstances, similar to the limited license legal technician (LLLT) program pioneered by Washington state.
The Utah Supreme Court has approved a new class of legal professional called the licensed paralegal practitioner. New rules governing LPPs take effect Nov. 1, and classes to train LPPs are slated to begin this fall at Utah Valley University. Court officials expect the first licensing examinations to be conducted next spring and the first licenses to be issued later in 2019.
In approving LPPs, the Supreme Court adopted amendments to Utah’s Rule 14-802, which defines who is authorized to practice law in the state. Under the rule, LPPs will be limited to practicing in three areas of law:
- Cases involving temporary separation, divorce, parentage, cohabitant abuse, civil stalking, custody and support, and name change.
- Cases involving forcible entry and detainer.
- Debt collection matters in which the dollar amount in issue does not exceed the statutory limit for small claims cases.
LPPs will not be permitted to appear in court on behalf of their clients. They will be permitted to establish independent contractual relationships with clients and to perform the following services:
- Interview the client to understand the client’s objectives and obtain facts relevant to achieving that objective.
- Complete an approved form.
- Inform, counsel, advise, and assist in determining which form to use and give advice on how to complete the form.
- Sign, file, and complete service of the form.
- Obtain, explain, and file any document needed to support the form.
- Review documents of another party and explain them.
- Inform, counsel, assist and advocate for a client in mediated negotiations.
- Fill in, sign, file and complete service of a written settlement agreement form in conformity with the negotiated agreement.
- Communicate with another party or the party’s representative regarding the relevant form and matters reasonably related thereto.
- Explain a court order that affects the client’s rights and obligations.
Although the Supreme Court has approved the program, it has not yet published the final regulations. Those are due to be published by the end of September, according to Catherine J. Dupont, appellate courts administrator and staff to the Supreme Court’s LPP Steering Committee.
A compilation of all of the LPP rules that were published for comment can be found in Tab 2 of this Steering Committee document.
The LPP program resulted from a task force appointed by the Utah Supreme Court in 2015 to study the growing problem of citizens needing legal assistance but being unable to afford them. The court specifically charged the task force, as part of its study, to look at Washington’s LLLT program.
After completing its study, the task force’s Nov. 18, 2015, report recommended that the Supreme Court “exercise its constitutional authority to govern the practice of law to create a subset of discrete legal services that can be provided by a licensed paralegal practitioner” in the three areas the court later approved.
The task force identified these three areas after finding that they were the areas in which there is the greatest demand and the highest concentration of self-represented litigants.
Like lawyers, LPPs will be subject to rules of professional ethics, will be required to hold client funds in trust accounts, and will have an obligation to provide services pro bono. They will required to complete 12 hours of continuing education every two years, which must include three hours of ethics and professionalism.
All aspects of the program will be administered by the Utah State Bar.