Access to Justice

Nonlawyer paraprofessionals couldn’t jointly own law firms under revised licensing proposal in this state

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A revised proposal for licensing paraprofessionals in California eliminates a provision that would have allowed the nonlawyers to own law firms with lawyers.

The California Paraprofessional Program Working Group made an initial proposal last year to allow licensed paraprofessionals to provide legal services in some practice areas, including family law; housing and eviction defense; consumer debt and creditor harassment; employment, including wage and hour cases; and collateral criminal, which includes expungement, reclassification of convictions and representation in infractions.

The paraprofessionals would be allowed to make court appearances on behalf of clients but could not participate in jury trials.

After receiving more than 2,000 comments from nearly 1,300 people and groups, the working group made some revisions, according to the revised proposal and a May 20 press release.

Among the commenters, 90% of those who were known to be attorneys opposed the recommendations, while 75% of those known to be nonattorneys supported the recommendations.

The revisions forwarded to the State Bar of California on Friday:

• Eliminate the ability of paraprofessionals to own a minority interest in law firms with attorneys.

• Require paraprofessionals to provide disclosures on practice limits, alternate resources and contact information for legal services alternatives.

• Exclude certain areas from paraprofessional practice, such as estate conservatorship and guardianship matters.

• Ensure that no funding come from the state’s attorney discipline system.

• Require those seeking a license in the collateral criminal practice area to be trained on potential immigration consequences.

The proposal would still have to be approved by the bar’s board of trustees, the California Supreme Court and the state legislature.

Hat tip to Reuters and, which had coverage of the revised proposal.

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