The Washington State Bar Association’s Limited License Legal Technician (“LLLT”) program is presently the only fully operational program of its kind in America. While many states across the nation offer facilitators, LLLTs are an entirely different concept. Unlike paralegals, the LLLTs can work without the supervision of a lawyer. That being said, they cannot negotiate or represent people in court – communications must always go through the client. Right now, LLLTs can only assist in family law matters.

Unaffordable Legal Services

States across the country note that 80% of their citizens cannot afford an attorney for civil matters. There is also the issue of not knowing you have a legal issue or how to even begin to address the concern, and also a technology lag. In short, America has an access to justice problem, and the issue is nationwide. Access to justice is not limited to low-income workers. Many families cannot qualify for subsidized legal representation and also cannot afford an attorney. Second, many middle-income Americans carry debt loads that prohibit them from covering unplanned expenses. Third, the average hourly rate for attorneys is double that of LLLTs. Finally, while an attorney can start providing legal services after sitting for the bar, in order to become an LLLT the applicant must have 3,000 hours of practical experience under a lawyer’s supervision plus professional responsibility and practice area exams.

Opportunity in the Law

While the LLLT program is only in Washington, other states are moving toward similar programs, but cautiously, as there are only just over a dozen licensed Washington LLLTs. From a business perspective, LLLTs should create an opportunity for family law attorneys to broaden their practice and provide reduced-rate legal services for families that are too rich for legal aid but too poor to pay for a lawyer. The question still remains as to whether or not practicing attorneys will embrace the LLLT concept.

Embracing Change

Anyone practicing law is likely aware that times are changing. Not only are law schools shutting their doors, but studies show that the legal market is shrinking. That being said, a large sector of the public cannot afford to retain an attorney despite having a need for legal services. Lawyers should keep an eye out for new opportunities available in the market. If you or someone you know has a legal issue that needs to be addressed, contact a skilled attorney to find out your options under the law.