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Debating The Pros and Cons of Non-Lawyers Practicing Law, by Robert Ambrogi, Law Sites Blog


As I noted here recently, I have an article in the current issue of the ABA Journal about the use of non-lawyers to help close the access to justice gap by allowing them to provide legal advice in limited circumstances. A particular focus of the article is Washington state’s limited license legal technician (LLLT) program.

The article prompted two posts last week at Above the Law that considered the pros and cons of allowing non-lawyers to practice law.

In the first, Can Nonlawyers Close The Access-To-Justice Gap?, Sam Wright, a ‘dyed-in-the-wool, bleeding-heart public interest lawyer,’ couldn’t quite decide how he feels about the idea. ‘It’s easy to see how this could be a win for low- and middle-income people who currently find themselves floundering in the access-to-justice gap,’ he writes. But then he goes on to say that it is ‘also easy to see how this could be a blow to the present-day legal profession with its hordes of underemployed lawyers’ and that it is ‘also easy to see how programs like Washington’s could do a poor job closing the access-to-justice gap.’ Wright’s bottom line is to take a wait-and-see position: ‘Regardless, the LLLT program is an interesting approach to a real problem, and I’ll be watching to see what comes of it.’

From everything I’ve learned about this issue, it is clear to me that this is not about displacing lawyers. The magnitude of the A2J gap is so enormous that lawyers can never close it alone. There could never be a sufficient level of pro bono or reduced-fee services to meet the needs. Study upon study has concluded that 80 to 90 percent of low and moderate income people with legal problems are unable to obtain legal representation. That is an enormous problem.

You may have noticed that, even with a glut of lawyers, the problem isn’t getting fixed. . . .