CATHERINE J. DUPONT
I had an interesting cab ride from the St. George Airport to the Utah State Bar’s Spring Convention. When Carol, the cabbie, heard that I work for the state courts she told me about her recent experience with a legal issue and shared her opinion that there is no justice in the legal system. She won her case, but she found the experience overwhelming and expensive. Carol is not alone. Utah’s 2017 court records reveal that in family law cases 69% of respondents and 56% of petitioners were self-represented. In eviction cases and debt collection cases the numbers are even worse – more than 95% and 98% of respondents, respectively, were self-represented.
The alarming number of people navigating the legal system without representation contributes to the perception that the legal system is stacked against a person who cannot afford an attorney. The Utah Supreme Court and the Utah State Bar are dedicated to addressing barriers to legal representation through innovative projects designed to improve access to the courts. One of those projects is the creation of a new profession: Licensed Paralegal Practitioner (LPP). This spring, Utah’s Supreme Court approved final rules to create and regulate LPPs as part of the practice of law, making Utah the second state in the nation to establish a license to practice law outside of a traditional law degree in designated practice areas and within a limited scope of service.
How Did the Utah Supreme Court and the Utah State Bar Develop the LPP Program?
The idea to create a market-based solution for the unmet needs of litigants started with a task force created by the Utah Supreme Court in May 2015. The recommendations of that task force were then assigned to the LPP Steering Committee, which has met frequently over the past year. The LPP Steering Committee’s composition is broad, including judges from the trial and appellate courts, practitioners in each of the substantive law areas in which an LPP may practice, paralegals, representatives of colleges and universities with legal studies programs, the Dean of...