Subj: Commission on Nonlawyer Practice
Date: 95-08-06 02:15:38 EDT
From: Rich Dunn
By Gail Appleson
CHICAGO - A commission created by the American Bar Association released
a report Saturday recommending that nonlawyers play a greater role in
helping the public meet their needs in the nation's legal system.
''When adequate protections for the public are in place, nonlawyers have
important roles to perform in providing the public with access to
justice,'' the ABA Commission on Nonlawyer Practice concluded in its
study made public during the ABA's annual meeting.
The group suggested that each state should decide whether and how to
regulate nonlawyer activity. Nonlawyers include paralegals who help
clients under the supervision of a lawyer and legal technicians who give
advice or do legal work without such supervision.
The report has not been presented to the ABA's policy making body and so
it does not reflect the view of the world's largest legal group.
Four of the 15 commissioners also released two minority reports
supporting the commission's conclusions but stating they would have
placed greater emphasis on the importance of protecting the public from
harm that may be caused by nonlawyer activity.
The findings came after the commission heard testimony from about 400
people in 10 hearings and reviewed more than 2,000 documents.
The study found that large numbers of low and moderate income people --
some studies show as many as 70 percent -- do not hire lawyers to meet
their law-related needs. Instead they go without help, represent
themselves, or turn to nonprfit agencies or non-lawyers.
The commission also found that enforcement of unauthorized practice of
law statutes has declined in recent decades in all but a few states.
''There are huge, astronomical needs that are not being met,'' Zona
Hostetler, a Washington lawyer on the commission, told reporters.
She said there are two main reasons why people do not hire attorneys:
cost and ''the fear of entanglement with lawyers.''
Hostetler said new technology has also made it easier for people to
handle their own legal problems. For example in Phoenix, where courts
have computerized programs to help individuals, parties in 50 percent of
divorces do not hire lawyers, she said.
The commission also recommended that the bar explore new ways of
providing their own services to better meet the needs of moderate income
Among suggestions were that lawyers offer limited help at reduced cost
to those who want to handle their own problems and permit paralegals in
their offices to provide expanded services. It also recommended that
lawyers participate in more prepaid legal insurance plans.
SOURCE: Mercury Center (Keyword MERCURY)
Brought to you by - The 'Lectric Law Library
The Net's Finest Legal Resource For Legal Pros & Laypeople Alike.