They're not lawyers, nor do they play them on TV, nor in court, nor in other more complex scenarios. But unlike paralegals, they can give legal advice and handle more basic, cut-and-dried matters independent of an attorney's supervision.
Limited license legal technicians, touted by supporters as the nurse practitioners of the legal profession, have been licensed for the first time in Washington state, where the initial handful of LLLTs recently completed the joint community college-law school educational track. Several other states, including Florida, Oregon, and Colorado, are at various stages of exploring the issue, while the Illinois State Bar Association has appointed a task force that will begin exploring LLLTs this fall.
Proponents of Washington state's move, mandated in 2012 by the state's supreme court, say LLLTs could help provide legal services to moderate- and middle-income people who can't afford to pay for attorneys but are not poor enough to qualify for legal aid services - hence the comparison to nurse practitioners and how they play a mid-level-provider role in the medical profession.
Opponents, who were very vocal at last summer's ISBA assembly meeting, are concerned that already underemployed lawyers will lose business to LLLTs and also that the quality of legal services provided will suffer. They would prefer to explore other alternatives for making legal services more affordable, and the ISBA task force will take up some of those ideas as well. Find out more in the September Illinois Bar Journal.