WHAT IS A LIMITED LICENSE LEGAL TECHNICIAN?
TRANSCRIPT OF VIDEO
Hello. My name is Christy Carpenter, and I’m a Limited License Legal Technician. Yes, it’s a mouthful, so “legal technician” will suffice. Legal technicians may also be referred to as LLLTs, triple-LTs, or 3-LTs, for short.
Legal technicians are licensed members of the Washington State Bar Association. Although we are not attorneys, we have a defined scope of practice and special rules that allow us to provide many of the same services that an attorney may provide, under very limited circumstances. You might think of legal technicians providing legal services concurrent with attorneys in the same way that advanced registered nurse practitioners provide services concurrent with medical doctors. An ARNP can diagnose and treat patients, and prescribe medications for common illnesses and injuries. But if you need surgery, cancer treatment, or an organ transplant, you would go to an MD. Similarly, legal technicians may give advice, prepare legal paperwork, perform research, and guide clients through court processes. However, for complicated, highly-contested cases that are proceeding toward trial, one would generally need the more comprehensive services that a attorney can provide.
Perhaps the most important factor that distinguishes attorney services from legal technician services is that while attorneys may “appear” in court on behalf of a client and officially “represent” a client, legal technicians cannot officially represent a client. Clients of legal technicians represent themselves as “pro se” litigants.
So, what services CAN a legal technician provide? Well, first and foremost, as of the date this video was published in November 2017, legal technicians are limited to practicing in the area family law.
Within that practice area, legal technicians can provide services with regard to:
1) divorce and legal separations, with or without children;
2) establishing parenting plans and child support for children of unmarried couples if paternity is already established with the father having signed a paternity affidavit or being named on the birth certificate;
3) establishing paternity, parenting plans, and child support for children of unmarried couples where there is no signed paternity affidavit and the father is not named on the birth certificate;
4) seeking and defense of domestic violence protection orders;
5) modifications of child support;
6) MINOR modifications of parenting plans, where there will not be a change of the primary parent (a change of custody) AND the residential time allocation does not change by more than 24 calendar days in a calendar year; and
7) MAJOR parenting plan modifications, where there is a change of the primary parent or a change in residential time of more than 24 days in a calendar year, AND the parents AGREE to the modification
Within those types of family law actions, legal technicians can:
1) Give legal advice
2) Select, prepare, file, and effect service of legal papers, or “pleadings” as they called
3) Assist clients with the following procedures required to guide a case through court; for example, with court hearings and trial;
4) Assist clients with gathering information that will assist them in advancing their case. This is called the “discovery” process and could involve the issuance of subpoena or interrogatories and requests for production of documets;
5) Perform research and draft “legal letters”; and
6) Provide “self-help” materials to clients.
Along with limitations on practice area and case types, legal technicians are prohibited from giving advice or assistance as to certain general aspects of the practice of law. For example, as I mentioned earlier legal technicians cannot represent clients in court, nor in mediations and arbitrations. However, while they cannot stand with a client before a judge at a hearing or trial, or actively participate in a mediation, they certainly CAN give advice to a client on how to present an argument in court or mediation, provide talking points, and CAN be present in court or mediation to observe proceedings and to consult with clients upon their request. Legal technicians are also prohibited from communicating with and negotiating a client’s position with an opposing party, that opposing party’s attorney, or a third party.
Finally, within the types of cases for which legal technicians CAN give advice and assistance, there are certain issues that legal technicians are prohibited from addressing with clients, unless and until a client seeks legal advise from an attorney and that attorney provides written instructions to the legal technician on how to proceed. Within divorce actions, legal technicians will likely need to refer clients to attorneys for advice on the division of real property, retirement accounts, and businesses, and with regard to pending bankruptcy actions. Within actions relating to parenting, legal technicians cannot advise clients when there are unresolved issues regarding interstate jurisdiction, Native American children, or dependency.
This is a fairly comprehensive, though not exhaustive, overview of the permitted scope of a legal technician’s practice. However, at the time of publication of this video, the WSBA LLLT Board is seeking to enhance the scope of practice with regard to family law and is investigating possible additional practice areas that may be appropriate for legal technicians to undertake. Please visit myLLLT.com or my Facebook page for updates.