If you thought you already had enough competition with the big law firms, small law firms, and the ever-growing army of unemployed new admitees who are opening their own shop, Washington State has approved a new rule that could open the floodgates for a new, more numerous, rival -- non-lawyers.
The new Washington State rule allows licensed legal technicians to work on certain aspects of a case and to assist civil litigants.
If adopted by other states, this rule could reshape the landscape of legal practice.
Previously, there was a pretty difficult bar set for someone to give legal advice. You had to suffer through three years of law school, take an onerous multi-day exam, and then pay bar dues and continually educate yourself on the law.
Now, in Washington State, non-lawyers may provide many of the same services that lawyers provide with the added benefit of obviously not having to go to law school or take the bar exam. With the rule set to take effect on September 1, the ABA Journal reports that licensed legal technicians in Washington will be able to help clients:
- Fill out legal forms.
- Inform them of procedures and timelines.
- Review and explain pleadings.
- Identify additional documents that might be needed in court.
It should be noted that legal technicians still cannot handle more complex matters like negotiating with opposing parties or arguing in court.
While lawyers may be upset with this new rule, consumers potentially stand to benefit. With more competition and lower cost services available, low-income clients who only have simple legal issues can seek out legal technicians.
It will be interesting to see how Washington's foray into licensing legal technicians turns out. If successful, the rule could be adopted in many other states -- benefiting clients, but possibly harming attorneys.
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