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Preliminary Evaluation of the Washington State Limited License Legal Technician Program

March 21, 2017 Access to Justice

The Washington State Supreme Court and the Washington State Bar Association created an innovative program to expand the provision of legal services. Limited Licensed Legal Technicians (LLLTs) represent a new legal role that builds on the capabilities of traditional paralegals and operates without supervision by lawyers. LLLTs primarily help customers fill out legal forms and understand legal procedures. The program started with the family law practice area, but Washington State plans to expand to additional practice areas in the near future. A small number of LLLTs have been certified and are currently practicing.

The evaluation shows that the program has been appropriately designed to provide legal services to those who cannot afford a lawyer but still wish or need assistance. The training program prepares LLLTs to perform their role competently while keeping within the legal scope of that role. Customers have found their legal assistance to be valuable and well worth the cost. The legitimacy of the role appears to be widely accepted in spite of its short track record.

There are some questions about how best to scale up the program. The biggest current bottleneck is the required year of training with the University of Washington (UW) Law School. Washington State is actively pursing other ways to mitigate that constraint. The regulatory costs of the program are not yet close to breaking even, but scaling up the program significantly would resolve that issue. LLLTs would greatly benefit from additional training on business management and marketing, but several of the first LLLTs are successfully running a full-time LLLT practice.

The example of the LLLT program in Washington State has already encouraged a second state to create a similar program. Utah is currently designing its Paralegal Practitioner program along the lines of the Washington State program. Several of the recently approved program changes in Washington State were incorporated immediately into the Utah program design.

The LLLT program suggests that new legal roles with costs lower than traditional lawyers are a potentially significant strategy for meeting the legal needs of many people who now are dealing with their legal problems unassisted. Creating similar programs in other states would clearly improve access to justice for a broad section of the public.

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