The Role Licensed Legal Paraprofessionals Can Play in Colorado Law Firms

June 5, 2024

My name is Wesley Hassler of Hassler Law Firm, LLC, and I am thrilled to be at the forefront of supporting Licensed Legal Paraprofessionals (LLPs) in my state. I have been practicing law for 20 years. I have two offices in Colorado: one in Colorado Springs and the other in Pueblo. Hassler Law Firm is comprised of four attorneys, five paralegals, and other support staff. My firm, like many non–metro Denver law firms, is a general practice firm. We practice primarily family law and bankruptcy, but also handle criminal, personal injury, and other civil litigation. In an average year, my offices handle over 500 family law cases.

In 2019, I was appointed by the Colorado Bar Association to the Colorado Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission. I am currently in my second term as a commissioner. In 2022, I was asked to join the Licensed Legal Paraprofessional Committee. I am currently a member of the LLP Education and Outreach Committee.

As a practitioner in southern Colorado, I have seen firsthand the need for LLPs. Southern Colorado—particularly Pueblo—has a standard of living much lower than the rest of Colorado. This includes lower wages and salaries. As such, many southern Colorado residents cannot afford to hire an attorney to address their legal issues. Consequently, many residents are forced to tread through the judicial system alone.

Over the past decade, a gap has developed between litigants who can afford an attorney and those who are below the poverty line qualifying for legal help through Colorado Legal Services or other nonprofits. Those litigants in that gap—the missing middle—are the target clientele for LLPs. Those litigants who can afford an attorney are not likely to hire an LLP, and likewise, those litigants who qualify for low income–based assistance will continue to receive free legal assistance.

In my offices, I intend to hire between three and five LLPs. With our need in southern Colorado for less expensive yet quality legal assistance, LLPs will be an invaluable asset for our clientele. Before LLPs, the choice in a consultation was to either hire me with the ability to pay an attorney rate or look for legal help elsewhere. Now, however, in a consultation, if the person states they cannot afford the attorney rate, I can offer the services of an LLP within my offices at a lower rate.

I intend to utilize LLPs in my offices as they are intended, which is to draft their clients’ documents, prepare for and attend mediations and hearings with their clients, assist in the courtroom with answering court questions (and making opening and closing arguments), and perform other tasks as permitted. Since LLPs are not required to work under an attorney’s license due to the comprehensive education, training, and testing requirements they must fulfill, I intend on providing little oversight of their work, although I will be available to assist and answer questions the LLPs may have.

I have trained many new attorneys during my career who leave my employ to open their own successful law firms. I intend to also be an incubator for new LLPs by providing them cases and assisting when needed while they work in my offices.

I have one paralegal who sat for the LLP exam on April 30, 2024, and I have one paralegal who will sit for the exam in November. I devoted time these past two months helping to prepare my paralegal who just sat for the exam. I reviewed with her substantive family law and created fact patterns so she could practice spotting legal issues, which appear to be major focuses of the exam based on the practice questions on the Colorado Supreme Court LLP website.

I firmly believe LLPs will be an excellent addition to the legal field. They will compliment attorneys, not compete with them. In 75 percent of all family law cases in Colorado, at least one party is self-represented. This causes a strain on judicial resources, from the court self-help centers to the judicial officers who are simply trying to get to the truth in a hearing. When an LLP is present in the courtroom, the judicial officer can quickly get a question answered from a competent legal professional who can provide the appropriate legal perspective.

In conclusion, LLPs will greatly benefit the legal community. From the law firm to the courts, LLPs will prove invaluable. LLPs will offer an additional source of revenue in law firms and will speed up court proceedings by quickly providing information to judicial officers. I am excited to see the results after the first inaugural swearing-in ceremony in June 2024.

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