On November 1, 2018, Utah became the most recent state to approve a new class of legal professional titled the Licensed Paralegal Practitioner (LPP). Washington state launched a similar practice titled the Limited License Legal Technician. Utah’s Supreme Court approved LPPs to practice three areas of law:
a. Temporary separation, divorce, parentage, cohabitant abuse, civil stalking, custody and support, and name change;
b. Forcible entry and detainer; and
c. Debt collection matters in which the dollar amount in issue does not exceed the statutory limit for small claims cases.
However, LPPs will not be permitted to appear in court on behalf of their clients. They will be permitted to establish independent contractual relationships with clients and to perform basic services such as interviewing clients, completing court approved forms, explain documents to the client, etc.
What does this mean for the legal industry? For the client, it could potentially result in a lower billable rate for certain legal work. For the attorneys, it could help relieve some of the pressure of practicing by having a paralegal be able to meet with the clients, advise on certain matters, and draft or sign documents when the attorney is unavailable to do so. Having LPPs would also benefit a law firms’ image. Think about it – the minute a paralegal becomes licensed, he or she must be held to a higher standard than those who are not licensed, adding additional quasi-legal service for clients of firms with LPPs. This adds to the flexibility required by modern law firms in order to compete in today’s legal market.
The Utah Supreme Court has agreed that similar to lawyers, LPPs will be subject to rules of professional ethics, they will be required to hold client funds in trust accounts, and will have an obligation to provide services pro bono. They will be required to complete 12 hours of continuing education every two years, which must include three hours of ethics and professionalism.
While Pennsylvania does have a Certified Paralegal credential available (Pa.C.P.) where paralegals are required to take continuing education credits and are permitted to work beyond the scope of a non-certified paralegal, it is much different from being a Licensed Paralegal Practitioner, which will allow paralegals to engage in what can accurately be referred to as the “light practice of law”.
So, do you think Pennsylvania will follow Utah and Washington’s footsteps? Would you be more likely to hire a firm for your case knowing that their paralegals are licensed and could assist with your case?
Kathryn S. Greene, Pa.C.P, is a Pennsylvania Certified Paralegal, who assists our firm in a variety of practice areas. Contact Kathryn at firstname.lastname@example.org