Another straw in a gathering wind.
This article in the California Bar Journal reports on the Bar’s Board’s exploring the possibility of limited practice professionals:
The State Bar Board of Trustees has expressed interest in examining a limited-practice licensing program that would create a new class of professionals who could give legal advice.
At a retreat in San Diego last month, at which the board explored various ideas for improving public protection and the State Bar’s regulatory function, some trustees said such a licensing program would not only provide valuable legal services to the public, but also allow law students and others who haven’t passed the bar to put their skills to use.
Trustee Heather L. Rosing said those who can’t afford the services of a licensed attorney are often forced to turn to non-lawyers because of cost. Although legal aid, pro bono service and court-employed family law facilitators all try to fill this gap, too many people need legal assistance and simply cannot afford it at today’s legal market rates.
“We’ve created somewhat of a black market,” she said. “We are simply not serving the vast majority of citizens when it comes to their legal needs.”
A limited licensing program, in addition to helping clients, would create an avenue of employment for law school graduates and legal technicians who haven’t passed the bar, board members said. Engaging in limited practice might be an avenue to eventually becoming a qualified lawyer.
Trustee Dennis Mangers, a former state legislator and public member of the board, acknowledged that such a proposal may not be popular among some in the legal profession. But he urged his colleagues to consider a new licensing program such as one being launched in Washington state (link added).
So this makes California the third state exploring the area. We also heard today of another step in New York, in which the Chief Justice, in his State of the Judiciary Speech (at page 13-14), formally announced the establishment of a Committee “to develop a pilot program in New York that will allow those who cannot afford an attorney to receive low-cost guidance in simpler legal matters by qualified non-lawyers.” See my prior discussion of the New York Legal Services Task Force here.