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Presently, certification for paralegals is a voluntary process and no mandatory examination for legal assistants exist in the United States. However, the certification issue has been a subject of considerable interest and debate for the past several years among paralegal organizations, bar associations and state legislatures.
According to the following article, “The Future of Paralegals: Why Waiting for the Future to Arrive is a Career Buster” discusses the shifts in law practice, legal education, and the role of both lawyers and nonlawyers who deliver legal services. This article goes on to say that while these changes were “already in motion,” the economic meltdown from 5 years ago have results in significant downsizing and reorganization in large law firms, decreased demand for legal services affecting large and small firms alike, and high under- and unemployment of lawyers.
"Roles for paralegals are changing, requiring a re-envisioning of what paralegals can and should do and a concomitant rethinking of paralegal education. The idea of nonlawyer practice has reemerged as a compelling subject of discussion within the ABA and the influential State Bar of California, and is ever closer to becoming a reality in the state of Washington. This renewed interest is related to the disruption of models for delivery of legal services and has spurred serious nationwide discussions about how to reform legal education and requirements for entry into the legal profession. This cluster of concerns together with the continuing challenge of providing access to legal services for low- and middle-income Americans has commanded the attention of legal commentators, educators and the bar."
The article continues that “in California, the State Bar Board has adopted the resolution of its Limited Licensing Working Group to ‘study and develop a proposed limited license to practice law….’ And the state of Washington has already adopted a Legal Technician licensing scheme that hold promise to increase access to legal services in high-need specialties like family law.”
In fact, on June 15, 2012, Washington became the first state to adopt a Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) Rule (APR 28). The LLLT rule authorizes those who meet certain educational requirements to advise and assist clients in high-demand areas of law, including family law. The hope is that this rule will increase access to legal services.
This rapidly shifting environment is affecting paralegals by job duties, responsibilities, and much more. In your firm, are you relying upon paralegals in a greater capacity than before?