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Legal education is often treated as synonymous with law school, but not everyone who works in the law goes to law school. Paralegals may get their training in paralegal training programs or on the job. Legal technicians are still new, but they must take required courses just like lawyers. And of course, there is the general public, which may get their education from the news, from searching the internet, or from experience when they are forced to take part in the legal system.
Law school in the United States is a 3-year program focused primarily on teaching students to “think like a lawyer”—how to spot issues, analyze them, and argue both sides.
Increasingly, law schools are looking for opportunities to add courses in legal technology, design thinking, practice management, and other topics intended to prepare graduates for a world in which lawyers must do more than just think about legal problems. Examples include the Suffolk University Legal Innovation & Technology Lab, the TI:GER program at Emory Law, Stanford’s CodeX, LawWithoutWalls at the University of Miami, Michigan State University’s Center for Law, Technology & Innovation, and more.
Legal Technician Programs
Some have argued that part of the access to justice problem arises from a limited number of lawyers. If it is impractical to increase the number of lawyers, maybe a lawyer’s services can be provided by a different person with a more limited but well-targeted set of skills.
The Washington Bar Association was the first to put this theory to the test when it established the Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) program in 2015. Many individuals and organizations invested thousands of efforts to develop the program to that point, but the establishment of the program marked a clear milestone for the nation. The LLLTs were first authorized to assist only with family law, but with the intention of adding additional areas of the law to their purview over time.
Comparable initiatives appeared other jurisdictions before Washington’s LLLT program began, as various courts deputize individuals to carry out some limited aspect of court administration. The LLLT program was unique in that graduates of the program were licensed to operate independently, offering direct assistance to a client without a court or lawyer’s supervision.
In June, 2020, the Washington Bar decided to end its LLT program. They cited a lack of interest that did not justify high costs of running the program. While this first attempt at applying this limited legal services model may have ended abruptly, others are eager to learn from it and apply it in other jurisdictions.
Published on January 6th, 2022. Last updated on March 23rd, 2022, by Eddie Glenn.