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September 02, 2022

How States Are Using Limited Licensed Legal Paraprofessionals to Address the Access to Justice Gap

Tara Hughes, RP, ACP at Jennings Strouss & Salmon PLC in Phoenix, AZ and ABA Standing Committee on Paralegals Approval Commission Member and Joyce Reichard, JD, at Kelley & Ferraro, LLP in Cleveland, OH and ABA Standing Committee on Paralegals Member

In some states, there are opportunities for paralegals to advance their career while addressing the access to justice gap.  Currently, there are four states that have implemented programs approving individuals for a limited license that allow non-lawyers to provide viable alternatives to hiring a lawyer for uncomplicated legal needs when the client cannot afford a lawyer while maintaining professional standards required by each state.  The states that currently issue some type of a limited license are Arizona, Minnesota, Oregon, and Utah.  Although neither California nor Washington is actively licensing non-lawyers, each has been involved in developing limited license programs.  In this blog, we will focus on these six states.

Let’s begin by looking at the State of Washington.  In June 2012, Washington developed a program to license non-lawyers in specific areas of the law where the state’s population needed legal services the most.  Washington’s non-lawyer legal providers are known as Limited Licensed Legal Technicians (“LLLT”).  LLLTs are licensed by the Washington Supreme Court and have the authority to use their limited license in the area of family law (including divorce, child custody, and other family law related matters) within the state, but on a limited basis.  LLLTs have the authority to consult with and advise clients, complete and file court documents, and assist pro se litigants at some court hearings and settlement conferences.  Washington was the first state to license non-lawyer legal providers. 

Unfortunately, on June 4, 2020, a majority of the Washington Supreme Court voted to sunset the LLLT program due to the cost in sustaining the program and the small number of interested candidates.  The Court allowed applicants already working towards their licensure the opportunity to complete the license requirements by July 31, 2022, and permitted current LLLTs in good standing  to retain their license and continue to provide services as outlined in Washington State Court Rules: Admission and Practice Rules, Rule 28.  There are currently sixteen active LLLTs in Washington State.

Until 2015, Washington State was the only state embarking on non-lawyer licensing when Utah formed its workgroup to determine if this licensing (or something similar), would work for them.  The Supreme Court Task Force to Examine Limited Legal Licensing in Utah was established to identify areas of law where gaps existed in access to justice. The task force identified family law, debt collection, and eviction as the areas having the most need.  A steering committee began meeting in February 2016 to determine the requirements related to education, admissions, and administration, as well as to propose guidelines for professional conduct and discipline.  Utah’s non-lawyer legal provider is known as a Licensed Paralegal Practitioner (“LLP”).  LLPs are governed by the Rules Governing the Utah State Bar, specifically Rules 14-703 and 14-802(c), which also set forth the education and training requirements necessary to become an LLP.  The State Bar began licensing LLPs at the end of 2019.  There are presently twenty-three active LLPs licensed in the State of Utah, providing limited legal services to clients.

Several states have opportunities for paralegals to advance their careers while addressing the access to justice gap.

Several states have opportunities for paralegals to advance their careers while addressing the access to justice gap.

In April 2016, the Board of Governors established the Oregon State Bar Futures Task Force (“OSBFTF”) to examine how the bar could best serve the public and support professional development of lawyers, given the evolution of legal services being obtained and delivered.  In 2017, the OSBFTF recommended that there be a limited-scope license for paralegals as a tool to assist in addressing the access to justice gap in low to moderate-income citizens of the state.  In 2019, the Board of Governors followed the recommendation and established the Paraprofessional Licensing Implementation Committee.  The committee is responsible for developing a program for licensing paralegals to perform a limited-scope of legal services in the areas of family law and landlord-tenant law.  On July 19, 2022, the Oregon Supreme Court approved to the limited-scope license to permit paralegals to provide legal services in the areas of family law and landlord-tenant law.   The Court approved the Rules for Admission along with the Rules of Professional Conduct and minimum continuing legal education requirements that are scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2023.  More information can be obtained from the state bar’s website at

 In Arizona, a Task Force on the Delivery of Legal Services was created.  In January 2021, the Arizona Supreme Court modified Arizona Code of Judicial Administration (“ACJA”) to add §7-210, which outlines the requirements and duties to become a Limited License Legal Practitioner, now known as a Legal Paraprofessional (“LP”). ACJA §7-210 lists the requirements for licensure, the roles and responsibilities of an LP, and the continuing education requirements in order to receive and maintain licensure.  Presently, there are four areas of law where a LP can provide services: family law, limited jurisdiction civil, criminal law, and administrative law.  ACJA §7-210 requires that each applicant pass the core examination and an examination in the specific area of law they wish to be licensed.  The Arizona State Bar began licensing LPs in November 2021 and there are currently twenty-two licensed LPs providing legal services within the state.

On September 29, 2020, the Minnesota Supreme Court amended the Court Rules to authorize a pilot project that went into effect on March 1, 2021, and goes through March 31, 2023, unless extended.  In November 2020, Minnesota’s Legal Paraprofessional Pilot Project Standing Committee was established to oversee the statewide pilot project  which allows approved Minnesota Legal Paraprofessionals to represent and advise clients in certain housing and family law related matters.  The LP must also be overseen by a licensed Minnesota attorney. 

The Standing Committee will evaluate the success of the pilot project and determine if the project is meeting the goal of improving access to justice within the civil legal services arena.  LPs are approved to represent and advise clients in the areas of landlord-tenant and family law and can appear before the Minnesota courts if they are approved and acknowledge the requirements of Supervised Practice Rule 12 in addition to understanding that participation is in a pilot project that is scheduled to end in March 2023.  Some of the requirements include record keeping and tracking information sought by the Standing Committee for use in the final evaluation of the pilot project.  In June 2022, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued an Order amending the Rules Governing the Legal Paraprofessional Pilot Project and extended the pilot program through March 31, 2024.  The rules go into effect on October 14, 2022.  The Court expressed a concern for nearly ninety-five percent of individuals within the state and involved in a family law or landlord-tenant action, going unrepresented.

The Standing Committee has until September 14, 2022, to provide the Supreme Court with the training or experience requirements which have been developed and are required for the LP, before services will be provided under the pilot program.

The State of California has also created a working group tasked with developing recommendations and rules relating to a limited licensure for Licensed Paraprofessionals.  Similar to other states that developed non-lawyer licensure programs, California began its journey for licensure by researching the access to justice gap within the state.  The California proposal for a limited paraprofessional has met significant resistance from lawyers, the California Supreme Court and the California Legislature.  It’s back to the drawing board for California’s working group.

With more people continuing to face hard economic times, it would not come as a surprise that most states move toward the same, or similar, approval processes for licensed limited paraprofessionals.