Washington LLLT Program Rates Well, Inspires Other States to Action

Washington State’s innovative Limited License Legal Technicians (LLLT) program was recently evaluated by the National Center for State Courts and found to be a well-designed program for expanding legal assistance.

LLLTs are non-lawyers who are specially trained to provide certain kinds of legal assistance. And, unlike paralegals, LLLTs practice without having to be supervised by a lawyer.

Becoming a LLLT requires an associate-level degree of at least 45 credits and an additional 15 credits in family law from an ABA-approved law school. In Washington, the training is provided by the University of Washington School of Law, with Gonzaga University School of Law professors helping to teach the courses. At the same time, LLLT candidates must spend 3,000 hours working under the supervision of licensed lawyers. Built into the educational requirements are waivers for certified paralegals with the requisite amount of experience, training, and supervision.

The program is meant to increase the availability of affordable legal services, while also protecting consumers. Currently, LLLTs are limited to practice in family law, but there is a movement to expand into other areas, including landlord/tenant cases and document preparation.

The preliminary evaluation concluded:

“The LLLT program offers an innovative way to extend affordable legal services to a potentially large segment of the public that cannot afford traditional lawyers. While the scope of the role is limited and will not be the answer for every legal problem, LLLTs definitely can provide quality legal services to those who need it and also significantly reduce the stress of navigating a foreign process that is complex and daunting.”

Several other states are exploring alternatives to traditional lawyer-provided legal services. For instance, Utah is following Washington’s lead and has created a Paralegal Practitioner Program, Montana’s State Bar recently announced the establishment of a working group to study LLLTs in their state, and New York has an ambitious court navigator program. A few states have legal document preparers or court facilitators, but Washington remains the sole pioneer in the LLLT field.

Based on the results of the NCSC study, perhaps other states will accelerate their acceptance of this form of legal services delivery. IAALS certainly hopes so.