Read the full article here: https://on.wsj.com/46P0ek5
In a recent article featured in the Wall Street Journal, Jeralyn was quoted, shedding light on a detrimental concept being discussed by several states to address access to legal representation: allowing nonlawyers to provide legal advice. This approach comes as a response to the pressing challenges faced by individuals representing themselves in court proceedings, especially in cases involving critical matters like housing, immigration, divorce disputes, debts, custody and parenting time.
As seen in the Wall Street Journal, “’It’s like a landscaper trying to do brain surgery, or an accountant putting up your drywall,’ said Jeralyn Lawrence, a family law attorney and former president of the New Jersey State Bar Association. ‘These are important real-life situations relying on those not trained and giving significant advice. Answering a question wrong could have dire consequences.’”
States including Minnesota, New Hampshire, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington are at the forefront of this unfortunate trend, exploring various initiatives to broaden the spectrum of legal-service providers. For instance, Minnesota has initiated a pilot program that enables paralegals to represent clients in housing and family law under attorney supervision. Other states have implemented programs licensing non-lawyers to assist with essential everyday legal issues. This can lead to catastrophic results such as losing custody of your child, being deported, or losing your home. The Washington State Program is already terminating its services, thankfully.
However, these initiatives are still in the early stages, prompting a period of experimentation and careful consideration. Questions arise concerning which specific areas nonlawyers should be allowed to practice in and the extent of supervision required for their work. This unprecedented expansion in the legal industry seeks to tackle the cost of legal services, which has left numerous individuals proper representation in critical legal matters. The discussion around the role of nonlawyers in providing legal advice continues to evolve, and it challenges the legal community to develop solutions that can accommodate the diverse needs of individuals while ensuring the quality and accuracy of legal guidance. There are programs designed to match lawyers who are offering their legal services at a discounted rate to clients in need. This is the answer we need and promoting these programs is a benefit to all. Lawyers are willing to serve and it is incumbent upon us to pair them with clients needing legal advice.
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