“New Roles for Non-Lawyers to Increase Access to Justice” by David Udell and Richard Zorza Published

Here is the paper on nonlawyer roles, written by jointly David Udell and me (as this blog post is), just published in the Fordham Urban Law Journal.

We hope that it will serve as the foundation and spur for continued discussion of a very important and freshly emerging topic.  As regular readers of this blog will know, this is becoming a very hot topic, with progress in several states.  Moreover initial presentations and discussions are occurring in others.

The paper attempts to offer a broad overview, discussing the state of play, possibilities for the future and ways to consider moving forward with nonlawyers in four separate settings:  i) nonprofit organizations supervised by lawyers, ii) nonprofit organizations not supervised lawyers, iii) for-profit groups supervised by lawyers, and, iv) for-profit companies not supervised by lawyers.

What some may see as the highlights of the paper include:

  • A summary of state and national developments,
  • A comparison of the constraints upon innovation with respect to nonlawyers with those in other areas such as judges or court staff that have been overcome with reflection and experimentation — often without the need for any changes in the formal regulatory structure,
  • A discussion of ways in which what have traditionally been viewed as bars to innovation might be overcome,
  • An analysis of how the caselaw may in fact offer less restrictions that is generally perceived, with a particular focus on the law of New York,
  • A proposal on how changes in the understanding of what services are permitted to be provided by court staff might be used as the basis for a similar process for nonlawyers,
  • A discussion of how relaxing limitations on nonlawyer practice might impact the market, and why lawyers might not be hurt by such changes,
  • A collection of recent leadership quotes from reports and the judiciary on the potential for reform.

We anticipate that there will be broad public discussion of these topics.  We also hope that the suggestions in the paper will help alleviate anxiety in the profession and embolden those who look to a vibrant ethical and productive nonlawyer sector

In closing, we include this visionary March 11, 2014 quote from Chief Judge Lippman of New York, also quoted in the paper.

Building on the use of non-lawyers who do not, in a real sense, practice law, we must look at our legal regulatory framework, first, to see if our unauthorized practice of law rules should be modified in view of the crisis in civil legal services and the changing nature of legal assistance needs in society; and, second, to identify if, short of full admission to the bar, there are additional skill sets, separate in concept from our incubator projects, that can be licensed to provide low-bono or less costly services to help those in need of legal assistance.

Discolsure:  David and I are both on the Task Force on Nonlawyers and the Justice Gap established by Judge Lippman.


About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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