As the Court said in its Order, “It is time.”

Effective September 1st, there is a new category of legal assistant in the state of Washington entitled “Limited License Legal Technician.” If you choose this title, you must receive a limited license by September 1st. Following is the difference between a “Paralegal” and “Limited License Legal Technician” according to the state of Washington New Admission to Practice Rule 28.

Paralegal

Paralegal/Legal Assistant means a person qualified by education, training or work experience, who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive law-related work for which a lawyer is responsible.

Limited License Legal Technician

Means a person qualified by education, training and work experience who is authorized to engage in the limited practice of law in approved practice areas as specified by this rule and related regulations. The legal technician does not represent the client in court proceedings or negotiations, but provides limited legal assistance as set forth in this rule to a pro se client.

On June 15, 2012, the Supreme Court of Washington issued Limited Practice Rule for Limited License Technicians (Washington Supreme Court Order #25700-A-1005). Consistent with GR 25 (the Supreme Court rule establishing the Practice of Law Board), the rule establishes a framework for the licensing and regulation of non-attorneys to engage in discrete activities that currently fall within the definition of the “practice of law” (as defined by GR 24) and which are currently subject to exclusive regulation and oversight by this Court. The rule itself authorizes no one to practice. It simply establishes the regulatory framework for the consideration of proposals to allow non-attorneys to practice.

The Court stated “The practice of law is a professional calling that requires competence, experience, accountability and oversight. Limited License Legal Technicians are not lawyers. They are prohibited from engaging in most activities that lawyers have been trained to provide, they are, under rule adopted today, authorized to engage in very discrete, limited scope of law related activities that a limited license legal technician will be able to offer. These people must still seek help from an attorney. But there are people who need only limited levels of assistance that can be provided by non-lawyers trained and overseen within the framework of the regulatory system developed by the Practice of Law Board. This assistance should be available and affordable. Our system of justice requires it.”

As required by GR 25, the rule establishes certification requirements (age, education, experience, pro bono service, examination, etc.), defines the specific types of activities that a limited license legal technician would be authorized to engage in, the circumstances under which the limited license legal technician would be allowed to engage in authorized activities (office location, personal services required, contract for services with appropriate disclosures, prohibitions on serving individuals who require services beyond the scope of authority of the limited license legal technician to perform); a detailed list of prohibitions, and continuing certification and financial responsibility requirements.

Additionally, a Limited License Legal Technician Board was established with the onset of this new position. This Board will have responsibility for considering and making recommendations to the Supreme Court with respect to specific proposals for the authorization of limited license legal technicians to engage in some or all of the activities authorized under the Legal License Technician Rule, and authority to oversee the activities of and discipline certified limited license technicians in the same way the Washington State Bar Association does with respect to attorneys. The Board is authorized to recommend that limited license legal technicians be authorized to engage in specific activities within the framework of – and limited to – those set forth in the rule itself.

Click here for a copy of the court order.

With thanks to the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc., as a source for this article.