An update from my previous memo to the board: by Michele T. Pfeiffer, CLA
As of this writing there have been two more State Bar meetings: one on May 28th in LA and the second on June 18th in LA:
The May 28th meeting, I have attached an extensive report from Fran Chernowsky who also attended and forwarded to us by Barbara Liss. It is very detailed and I will only hit the highlights so you can read the report for yourself.
The Task Force is made of several non-lawyers and/or lawyers involved in community services who are not associated with the State Bar. One of the 3 State Bar Members is the Pres. Luis Rodriguez, who will hopefully be re-elected to see this continue once he steps down at the State Bar Meeting.
They formed 3 groups and will begin working together and brainstorming at the June mtg.:
· Legal Services Now – what’s already in place that they can draw from and collaborate with
· Legal Services Future – what are short / long term goals, what needs to change, how, etc.
· Student Group – addressing the many law school students, education, training, debt, jobs, etc.
Most of the speakers appear via Skype or online. Judge Jonathan Lippman, The Chief Judge of NY State/ Chief Justice of the NY Court of Appeals (similar to CA Supreme Crt) spoke about the problems of access identified in NY which are applicable to CA & many other states. It increased access in these ways:
· Mandatory pro bono;
· Obtaining grants for non-profit legal services;
· Developing a “Court Navigator” program using some non-lawyers to help individuals during court trials and hearings.
o CN’s is new and intended to only assist litigants with legal process, help them communicate with the Judge and/or vice versa during hearings, among other procedural tasks by “paralegals” who have graduated from good school and law students.
o Some are volunteers and some are paid
· Judge felt they could so much to assist people without worrying about UPL
· Unlike the CA State Bar who are looking to redefine UPL, they were not willing to tackle at this time.
· They started in areas of housing issues and consumer credits
o If successful will expand to family law
· State a properly trained non-lawyer who had concentrated in certain areas would be far more effective in delivering services than a lawyer who was a generalist.
· Wants to expand into all types of help for indigent and those with modest means who could not afford a lawyer.
· Dismissed British system which permits non-lawyers to provide some legal services
· Felt bar shouldn’t be involved due to conflict of interest
· Was different that WA by taking matters into their own hands without going to the legislature
· He did an articles about this program.
NEXT Speaker was Stephen R. Crossland, Chair of the LLLT Board (i.e., Triple L Technicians) gave history and implementations of the program, the regulatory scheme, and a flow chart entitled “Pathway to LLLT Admission”, which included a grandfather clause.
· Felt the program should be under the auspices of the Judiciary and tot the Bar to avoid conflicts of interest and anti-trust.
· Board consisted of no fewer than 4 non-lawyers and one educator. Others to include lawyers.
· Current board includes the former President of the WA Paralegal Assoc., the director of a paralegal program, and a law school educator.
· Initially focused on creating licensing for family law practitioners, yet ultimately to add other areas. Unlike Judge Lippman, WA did have a definition for the practice of law and hat LLLT Program was actually an authorization of non-lawyers to engage in the practice of law.
· State that in Ontario, Canada, many paralegals have been engaging in UPL went out and got licensed as soon as that program was established.
· Differences between law school and training for LLLT, there were some controls in place to prevent the cost of educational programs to become and LLLT to become alike the costs of law school.
· Training was not to exceed $15K in the two year program in tuition yet should be academically rigorous” and that part of the statewide community college program and to collaborate with law schools.
· Crossland is in a remote area and thus understands this situation and thus, wanted to make sure that there are LLLT’s throughout WA to fill the gab where there are few lawyers as well as few affordable ones.
· Considered using ABA approved, but switched and will create its own approval program. Some classes will be online to give access to everyone.
· When fees were discussed as to not be charging what attorneys would, he stated not an issue because if they had the option to choose a lawyer for the same price they would have gone to one.
o On the other hand, they will not govern what ant LLLT’ can charge.
LLLT program will go into effect in 2015 and LLLT’s can work with or w/out lawyers, or go into business with lawyers.
The Robin Hood Foundation spoke about their program which is involved in funding legal services in the NYC and fighting poverty. Work with bilingual law students and paralegals who are empowered to assist with some immigration, criminal, or other legal needs issues in the community
Next were speakers involved with developing consumer-oriented legal technology.
· Margaret Hagen of Legal Tech & Design is involved in designing various programs to make the immigration system more user-friendly, redesigning legal notices, and the fine print to make consumers more aware of what their rights and obligations are, etc.
· Colin Rule was developing his conflict resolution technology called MODIA (Modular Online Dispute Resolution Internet Application) to legal applications after having sued it for managing dispute by EBay and PayPal users. Focusing on small disputes which don’t meeting minimum jurisdictions of the courts. Applications are meant to be free or very low costs, and allowing two people to mediate, negotiate, and settle online. Feels it will work for family law i.e. divorce; landlord-tenant ad no-fault accident situations such as they have in some states. Software is now used by several sates for property tax appeals.
It was mentioned that the Mtg. in August will be during high convention and to book rooms now
JUNE 18, 2014 MEETING IN LA:
CIVIL JUSTICES STRATEGIES TASK FORCE -
Chair’s Oral Report consisted of his statement that the report would not be ready for the September Annual Meeting of the State bar. The dates for the next meetings: August 26th in San Francisco, October 10 in Los Angeles, and November 13 in Los Angeles. The initial draft of the Committee’s Report would be prepared by the October meeting, and the final report would be submitted to the State Bar in November. There were no public comments.
IDEAS FROM SCHOOLS TO ASSIST STUDENTS, LOWER DEBTS, OBTAIN JOB TRAINING AND FINALLY JOBS:
La Verne’s Flat Rate Law School Tuition Program was presented by Dr. Dean Gilbert Holme. What they are doing to keep tuition down is to only charge students (all students and no scholarships) $25K their first year and based on their performance may get their tuition underwritten then through scholarships and grants. Hoping this will result in more affordable tuition and less debt and allowing them to go into public law service since they won’t have huge tuition to owe.
UC-Santa Cruz/Hastings College of Law Accelerated Law Degree Program (3+3) was provided by Kelly Weissberg of UC-Santa Cruz (substituting for Morris Ratner at Hastings). This allows students to do their 4th yr. of college at Hastings while doing the law curriculum of a 1st yr. law student. Thus, finishing in 6 yrs. instead of 7. Not only does this result in less education expenses/less debt when starting the student’s legal career, it allows students to seek employment by the Peace Corps or other social justice agencies. Two conditions of the program is that there are no electives in the last year of school and no double majors.
The Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform Status Update Report by Jon Streeter related to the subject of increasing admissions to the California Bar and increasing access to justice through more pro bono work. Further discussed the new rules and changes to go into effect for 2016 and 2017, as well as recommendations.
Judge Laurie Zelon presented the last topic of the morning called “Access 3-D”. This Plan is posted on the Judicial Council’s web site: http://www.courts.ca.gov/partners/documents/Blueprint_Final.pdf
One of the important goals of this program relating to the management of the court system in CA due to budget cuts is to increase technological access to the Courts particularly by the public, needed due to the current court closures. The court web sites and forms are to be available in several languages, not just English (no language availability means no access).
The branch courts are to increase access by “partnering with the private bar” (to require more pro bono work by non-public sector lawyers), and meet with Legal Services groups to increase access.
Further stated, access issue was perhaps the issue of continuity (or a continuum) of services. Which means not all cases require a lawyer and perhaps non-lawyers could do it. I.e., custody situation, you might not need a lawyer, but you do need a judge. Perhaps a social worker would know better about the best interests of the kids.
It was later suggested that there could be self-help systems in the courts such as technology centers or that lawyers at the court house can do triage (deciding if one needs a lawyer or some other help), could be done by non-lawyers (i.e., similar to the Court Navigators).
The three section broke out into groups. The 3 of us attended the Future of Legal Services head by Hernan Vega. We listed the programs now in place and further examined LLLT’s roles & Crt Navigator’s roles. They are monitoring the programs out there and see what is happening as time goes on.
LLLT’s: discussed requirements, governing body I.e. not State Bar, better maybe Consumer Affairs, academic/educational requirements, testing, monitoring, disciplining, etc.
Court Navigators: was discussed what they can and cannot do
Also discussed, challenges to address:
· Short term
o Underfunding of courts and legal services;
o Allocation of funds
§ Open remote courthouse and more accessible
§ Lawyers to serve more for moderate incomes
o Ancillary services – when people get an Order, they may have no ability to fulfill it due to:
§ Language barriers, no interpreters or lack of, or costly;
§ No access to facilities or too far away
§ No transportation, etc.
§ If they get a default judgment and can’t do anything, then it accumulates interest they can’t pay either.
o Who’s the actual proper resource that person needs to resolve their issue
Then we brainstormed for ideas, suggestions, etc. anything to just get it out onto the table:
· The future also consists of advanced technology:
o Short/Long term goals
o judicial counsel’s website will soon be in multiple languages,
o using Skype like services to allow indigent litigants to make appearance for lack of transportation, locations, etc. the same as is offered to lawyers.
· Program already in place need to improve,
o lawyer referral,
o more funding for pro bono programs,
o more marketing and getting info to the public about services available to them all in one location, i.e., like 911 or 411,;
o more funding for clinics and services of non-profits already up on running.
· Review Summit Report by LSC – Legal Services Corp.
· Better security systems and face time, because now it is costly about $86 and need a way to confirm who is present is the person who needs to be there;
· Europe has a fundamental right to legal aid when in need for effective access to justice which we don’t have yet.
· Relax the UPL definition, procedures and practice and reduce (i.e., local local rules that those outside the legal community have no idea about);
· System Re-engineering issues – in technology, how and where court rules decreased/increased where necessary
· Alternative Business structure i.e., similar to Australia where co.’s have infra structures, this should be monitored and studied to see if it will work here
· Prepaid legal insurance – needs to be affordable
· ABA is working on a manual for Judges on what authority they do have (by State) and what discretionary power they have for specific issues
· What are other state’s doing and is it costs effective to expand
We need to remember that what we look for when putting something together are we reaching a larger percentage of the population and actually addressing the issue of access to justice versus just a few. We need to see the greatest areas of impact by who, what, when and how.
Ideas that were presented from the other sessions:
Contributions to the Justice Gap Fund” of the State Bar to which only 4-5 % of lawyers contribute funds, discussed incubator programs (experienced lawyers matched with students), etc.
Judicial Counsel advocacy program was discussed yet limited due to budget considerations; increase in availability of interpreters though this is a long haul due to union issues, yet if no access to interpreters no access to justice, same growth of technology, but if indigent people don’t have private access to computers they have not access to justice.
Improving self-help technology located in the courthouses or online, improving forms to be more user friendly and to be able to fill them out and file it with the courts. Many ideas came out of each of the roundtable discussions for over an hour and a half.
Of course, we ran out of time briefly discussed everyone’s meetings and set the meeting for August to continue discussions and finding solutions to recommend to the Task Force committee to review.
I met with Fran and Barbara after the meeting and we discussed several items, however, we are in agreement with the fact that they are noticing us, allowing us to participate (since they are now getting familiar with who we are), being much more transparent, and truly listening to the public and those involved in the legal community. Felt we made some headway though our participation and how LLLTs or Crt Navigators (similar to LDA’s) might be implemented in CA. It is starting to get noticed that paralegals, in fact, are the best group to move into that role, keeping in mind this would be an advancement of the paralegal profession as long as they are not called paralegals or LDA’s, etc. Barbara felt that our voices changed some of the direction in which the task force was going with regard to lay advocate licensure versus had we not participated. And we all had discussions with some of the members who were in our group and expressed their thoughts on our contributions as being valuable. I was approached as well.
Everyone agrees that showing up may be tedious, time consuming, and costly in some ways, yet it does and is making a difference and will affect the outcome. Even Stacey Hunt (past CAPA Pres.) stated she appreciated all our efforts to make a difference when these important decision makers hear from reps from our profession. And appreciates all our efforts and hard work.
As stated by the others, this task force clearly wants to implement a stronger more effective LLLT system to enable non-lawyers to provide some legal advice to the public, so long as proper protections are in place. How to implement those protections is the core of its focus and it’s casting about for ways to come to consensus on the crux of that issue. Barbara repeated the information that she gave them at the last meeting with regards to NPFA’s model licensure plan and a copy of BPC 6500 – the Professional Fiduciary Act, which established a division for the Department of the Consumer affairs to regulate and control fiduciaries (whose threshold requirement should be a standard/mirror for this new category of service provider), and not fall under the State Bar. I will continue to report on the upcoming meetings. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please discuss them with us at the board meeting or please come talk to me, I am happy to share my thoughts, enthusiasm, and all the other things the State Bar has on their plate from MCLE’s, AB 888, etc.