September 8, 2020
By Martha Astor
For decades, only people who have been accepted by the American Bar Association were allowed to offer legal advice, no matter how qualified they were to give that guidance. This created a monopoly that drove legal prices up so high that the U.S. now ranks near the bottom of developed nations when it comes to access to counsel in civil issues. In short, too many Americans have not been getting the legal support that they need.
But now, thanks to the support of the Goldwater Institute, the Arizona Supreme Court has decided that Arizona will join the handful of states that allow highly trained Limited License Legal Practitioners (LLLPs) to provide basic legal services to people who would otherwise have no way to get help or support when they try to access the justice system.
Allowing LLLPs to join in the market will let consumers get the same tailored legal services that industries have enjoyed for years at a fraction of the cost—thereby lowering prices, improving customer satisfaction, and driving efficiency. These LLLPs will be able to do the work that most lawyers do not have the time to do, but are often the things that the average man actually needs the most help with—things like straightforward, high-volume legal work, likely covering simple wills, no-contest divorces, debt collections, and adoptions. This is the kind of work that doesn’t require years in law school to understand and so should not come with the price tag that attaches to that kind of complex thinking. These LLLPs are able to give some legal advice and appear in court on behalf of clients who cannot otherwise afford an attorney but still need access to justice. They will also be a great support for attorneys who can now focus their attention on the intricate issues they have been trained to work in. The icing on the cake is that this expands opportunities for people who want to work in the legal field without requiring them to spend multiple years and hundreds of thousands of dollars studying law.
Additionally, this rule change means law firms can have partners who are not actually lawyers but who are still involved in tailoring services to client needs. Of course, these non-lawyers still won’t be giving legal advice, but what they can do is provide knowledge and skills in their areas of expertise. A securities lawyer in a law firm will be able to work with an investment banker to provide financial services. That is something that only corporations were allowed to provide before this rule change—but now, firms and individuals can go to a lawyer to not only get advice but to implement that advice all in the same meeting. That saves money and cuts down on mistakes.
Prior to this change, the only way to have all that expertise in one place was to create a corporation and have enough money to hire people full-time. That meant only wealthy corporations received the benefits of an integrated legal and professional team. Now, with the support of the Goldwater Institute, the Arizona Supreme Court has made sure that this option can be available to everyone.
We cannot claim that we our living up to our responsibility to provide justice for all when 86% of low income Americans cannot get help with their civil legal problems. These rules are a step in the right direction. They are a win for liberty and for reason, and they allow the free market to operate, which will be the beginning of Arizona leading the way in closing the gap to affordable justice.
Martha Astor is a Staff Attorney at the Goldwater Institute.