The legal profession has too many lawyers and too few jobs. California has too many lawyers, and too few jobs.
So how does the California State Bar Board of Trustees plan to combat this problem? By creating a new class of professionals who could give legal advice, reports the California Bar Journal.
Except, wait. That compounds the problem, doesn't it?
At its last retreat, members of the Board of Trustees floated a plan to establish a limited licensing program would provide legal services to clients who couldn't otherwise afford attorneys, and allow law students and others who haven't passed the bar to put their developing skills to use.
California currently allows non-lawyers to perform some legal tasks that don't constitute the practice of law, such as helping people fill out legal forms, the California Bar Journal explains. The exceptions include paralegals working under the supervision of licensed attorneys, unlawful detainer assistants, legal document assistants, and immigration consultants registered by county clerks or California's Secretary of State — all can assist consumers with legal needs in limited ways, without crossing the legal line into practicing law.
But even with those exceptions, there's still an underserved population that turns to non-lawyers because they can't afford real lawyers.
Washington state already has a similar plan in place. Last year, Washington adopted the Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) Rule, permitting non-attorneys who meet certain educational requirements to advise clients on specific areas of law. The goal is to allow legal technicians to select and complete forms, inform clients of procedures and timelines, review and explain pleadings and identify additional documents that clients may need.
The Board of Trustees will continue discussing the limited-practice licensing program proposal further at its next meeting, March 6-7 in Sacramento. If you care to weigh in, the Board's contact information is available here.
- Lying to Get Extra Time on the Bar is a Bad Idea (FindLaw's California Case Law Blog)
- Small Firm Staffing: Is It Time to Offer Unpaid Internships? (FindLaw's Strategist)
- 3 Ways To Land a BigLaw Job (Hint: It's Still a Pipe Dream) (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)