Limited Licenses – Update

Last week, I posted on using limited licenses to bridge the access gap. I mentioned two types of limited licenses: a pro bono emeritus rule and limited licenses for non-attorneys.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court decided to publish for comment a proposal to the licensing rules to include pro bono emeritus status.  Stay tuned.

In addition, the American Bar Foundation recently released a study of the New York City Court Navigator Program.  The program is one in which nonlawyers are trained to navigate self-represented litigants through certain dockets.  A few notes:

  • The Navigator Program is HERE
  • The ABF study is HERE.
  • An ABA Journal post describing the navigator program & the ABF study is HERE.

The ABF report includes the following statement:

  • “The first comprehensive evaluation of programs providing assistance through staff or volunteers without full formal legal training provides important evidence that these initiatives can influence the experiences of unrepresented litigants in positive ways and can also shape the outcomes of court cases, including legal and real-life outcomes.”

Or, as the ABA Journal puts it:

  • “The use of nonlawyers to help pro se litigants navigate New York City Housing Court has been a success.”

That might sound familiar.  In 2015, the Legal Education Committee of the Vermont Commission on the Future of the Legal Profession recommended limited licenses for paralegals.  The Committee wrote:

  • “Not all legal services require delivery by a person with a law degree. Given the
    staggering number of cases involving self-represented litigants, there are routine
    matters in which common legal services could be delivered competently with proper
    training.”  Commission Report, p. 28.

The ABF study provides empirical data to suggest that authorizing paralegals to provide specific types of legal assistance to litigants who would otherwise go unrepresented will provide tangible benefits.

It would also increase access.