Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the Arizona licensed legal advocates program beginning in September 2020 which will provide training for non-lawyers to provide limited legal advice. A recent news release on the program by the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law is here: https://law.arizona.edu/news/2020/02/new-licensed-legal-advocates-pilot-program
The Rogers College of Law initiated a two-year pilot project that will license a small group of non-lawyers to give limited legal advice on civil matters related to domestic violence. The individuals will be known as licensed legal advocates and will be trained to provide legal advice on protective orders, divorce, child custody, consumer protection and housing.
Three to four lay legal advocates from Southern Arizona’s Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse are expected to start an eight-week training program at the law school in September 2020. The individuals must have a bachelor’s degree and at least 2,000 hours of experience as a lay legal advocate. The Arizona lay legal advocates will be permitted to provide general information about legal forms and court procedures in issues stemming from domestic violence, but are prohibited from providing legal advice.
The training will have an online curriculum and in-person classes. The Arizona Supreme Court’s Administrative Office of the Courts is working with the Innovation for Justice Program to include a licensing examination for the course. If the pilot is made permanent, the licensed legal advocates will be required to take continuing legal education courses after completing the training. Individuals who are required to appear in court in a matter will represent themselves; however, the licensed legal advocate will be permitted to sit at that individual’s table.
The pilot project runs until the end of 2021 and includes a research study which will review procedural fairness, whether a licensed legal advocate was able to provide the required level of legal services, and case outcomes.
The 2020-2021 pilot project results from a 2019 Arizona Supreme Court task force report on legal services delivery which recommended, inter alia, the elimination Arizona Rule of Professional Conduct 5.4 (based on Rule 5.4 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct) which restricts lawyer partnerships with nonlawyers in law firms. An American Bar Association Task Force Report in October 2019 also recommended elimination of the Model Rule
The October 2019 American Bar Association Task Force on the Delivery of Legal Services Report is here: https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/legal_education_and_admissions_to_the_bar/council_reports_and_resolutions/november2019/arizona-supreme-court-task-force-on-delivery-of-legal-services-final-report-2019-october.pdf
The Arizona Supreme Court is expected to vote on the recommendation to eliminate Arizona Bar Rule of Professional Conduct 5.4 in August 2020.
The Arizona Supreme Court authorized a pilot project creating a legal document preparer program to assist people in domestic violence matters. As I previously reported, the Utah Supreme Court voted in August 2019 to pursue a regulatory reform working group’s recommendations, which included either eliminating or relaxing Utah’s Rule 5.4 and the Ethics Alert blog on that vote and working group report is here: https://jcorsmeier.wordpress.com/2019/09/03/utah-supreme-court-approves-pilot-program-to-permit-non-traditional-legal-services-including-non-lawyer-firm-ownership/
The Utah working group report and the Arizona Supreme Court task force report are both referenced in the report accompanying proposed American Bar Association Resolution 115, which is scheduled to be considered and potentially approved by the ABA House of Delegates on Feb. 17, 2020 at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Austin, Texas. The resolution requests that the ABA to encourage jurisdictions to consider regulatory innovation and examine existing regulations, including those related to the unauthorized practice of law.
Bottom line: This Arizona non-lawyer “legal advocate” pilot program permitting non-lawyers to give limited legal advice is a continuation of the trend toward expanding the non-lawyer practice of law and also authorizing non-lawyers to own legal service entities. As always, I will be following it and I will keep you advised
Be careful out there.
Disclaimer: this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.
Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
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Palm Harbor, Florida 34683
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