National Center for Access to Justice

Washington State Adopts Rule Authorizing Limited Advocacy Role for Nonlawyers

With the stated goal of making legal help more accessible to the public, the Washington Supreme Court adopted a “Limited Practice Rule for Limited License Technicians” on June 15, 2013, a new rule that will allow trained non-lawyers to provide technical help on simple legal matters,  effective September 1, 2012.  An opinion approved by a majority of the Court lays out the pressing nature of the justice gap in Washington State, and sets forth the majority’s view that nonlawyers can potentially make a difference by helping people with such tasks as:  

  • 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.

 A dissent accepts as accurate the majority’s description of the justice gap, but declines to approve the rule, citing concern about the unfair financial burden that the rule’s administration will impose on the Washington State Bar.

 The majority explains that the rule does not permit the limited license legal technicians to provide full representation, as it will prohibit them from representing clients in court and from contacting opposing parties on a client’s behalf. Additionally, the majority notes that legal technicians must satisfy continuing education requirements, demonstrate annual proof of financial responsibility and pay an annual license fee to be established by the Practice of Law Board and approved by the Court. The Court’s announcement, and  links to the rule itself and to the majority opinion and the dissent, are available here. (originally published June 19, 2012 by David Udell)