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State Supreme Court Adopts Rule Authorizing Non-Lawyers to Assist in Certain Civil Legal Matters

With a goal of making legal help more accessible to the public, the Washington Supreme Court
has adopted APR 28, entitled “Limited Practice Rule for Limited License Technicians”. The rule
will allow non-lawyers with certain levels of training to provide technical help on simple legal
matters effective September 1, 2012.

The rule was approved by a majority of the Court, with Justices Charles W. Johnson, Susan J.
Owens and Mary E. Fairhurst dissenting. A copy of both the final order and the dissent can be
found online at www.courts.wa.gov together with the text of the new rule.
“This new rule serves as an important first step to assist the thousands of unrepresented
individuals seeking to resolve important civil legal matters each day in our courts,” said Chief
Justice Barbara Madsen of the new rule. “With our civil legal aid system overtaxed and
underfunded, this is one strategy the Court believes can help assist those who find themselves in
court, yet are unable to afford an attorney.”

The rule was recommended by the Practice of Law Board, created by the Supreme Court in 2001
to investigate unauthorized practice of law complaints, issue advisory opinions and recommend
ways to the Court in which non-lawyers can improve access to law-related services. The
proposal was first submitted to the Court in 2008 and revised in 2012.
Under the new rule, persons who are trained and authorized by a newly-established Limited
License Legal Technician Board will be able to provide technical help to the public on civil cases.

The type of assistance the legal technician will be able to provide include, but are not limited to:
• Selecting and completing court forms;
• Informing clients of applicable procedures and timelines;
• Reviewing and explaining pleadings and;
• Identifying additional documents that may be needed in a court proceeding.
Under the rule, limited license legal technicians will not be able to represent clients in court, or
contact and negotiate with opposing parties on a client’s behalf.

The rule also requires continuing education requirements, annual proof of financial responsibility
and an annual license fee to be established by the Practice of Law Board and approved by the
Supreme Court.
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CONTACT: Nan Sullins, Legal Services Manager, Administrative Office of the Courts, 360.357.2129
nan.sullins@courts.wa.gov; or Nicholas Berning, Practice of Law Board Chair, 360.933.1612.

Posted: June 18, 2012 - 11:37am

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