These websites indicate that the services advertised are not legal services, and that documents provided and/or completed are for use by pro se litigants. I make no representation regarding the scruples of these service providers or the efficacy of their work. These are empirical questions which are beyond the scope of this article.
It is clear there are people in Oklahoma who need only limited levels of assistance, and that these needs are falling through the gaps in our system of justice. While the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct allow for limited scope representation,33 the flexibility afforded to Oklahoma attorneys has not eliminated the market served by unregulated service providers. In the fall of 2016, Oklahoma, with the leadership of the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission and the Oklahoma Bar Association, participated in the launch of the ABA’s national pro bono website. Oklahoma Free Legal Answers (OFLA) will permit citizens with limited income to submit questions to lawyers who have volunteered their time.34 Even with online access to free legal advice, there will likely remain significant unmet legal needs which exceed the limited scope of the OFLA, a problem which may soon be exacerbated by drastic budget cuts to Legal Services Corporation. Reduced-fee and pro bono services providing representation to Oklahomans in need may soon feel the pain associated with proposed drastic budgets cuts to Legal Services Corporation.35 Perhaps these shortcomings can be addressed in part by nonlawyers trained and within the framework of the existing regulatory system.
When considering further nonlawyer representation such as the LLLT model, we should seek answers to the previously alluded to empirical questions, such as: To what extent, and in what settings, are nonlawyer representatives effective? Under what circumstances would nonlawyer representation create more harm than good? In what instances can the legal needs of citizens be successfully identified and met by the parties themselves, with or without the limited assistance of legal professionals?36
If the data indicates that nonlawyer representation has been effective thus far, why wouldn’t we consider LLLTs as one means of improving access to justice? If this form of assistance, properly regulated, is both effective and affordable, shouldn’t we study it as one of many tools? In our efforts to improve the access our fellow Oklahomans have to their system of justice, shouldn’t we examine any and all options which are elsewhere successful?37 To paraphrase the Washington Supreme Court in its order creating the first LLLT rules in the country, there are many Oklahomans who need only limited levels of assistance. It may well be that affordable assistance can be provided by trained nonlawyers within the framework of the existing regulatory system. Our system of justice and our duty to our fellow citizens requires that we leave nothing on the conference table.
2. There were, as of March 8, 2017, 20 LLLTs identified in the Washington Legal Technicians Directory located at www.wsba.org/Licensing-and-Lawyer-Conduct/Limited-Licenses/Legal-Technicians/Directory.
3. These comments build upon an article published in the Tulsa Lawyer in June 2013 titled “Paralegals and the Access to Justice: Washington’s Limited License Legal Technicians Give Us Food for Thought” by Michael Speck and Christina Smith.
4. See ocla.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/CLNS14-Execu utive-Report-05-28-2015-FINAL1.pdf. This study was updated in 2015, based upon research done in the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center (SESRC) at Washington State University during the summer and fall of 2014, prior to the licensure of the first LLLTs. See also ocla.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CivilLegalNeedsStudy_ October2015_V21_Final10_14_15.pdf.
5. See www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/legal_aid_indigent_defendants/downloads/agendaforaccess.
6. See www.osbar.org/_docs/resources/legalneedsreport.pdf.
7. The Civil Legal Needs Study, published by Washington State Supreme Court, Task Force on Civil Equal Justice Funding (2003), www.courts.wa.gov/newsinfo/content/taskforce/CivilLegalNeeds.pdf.
8. See WA APR 28(D), www.wsba.org/~/media/Files/Licensing_Lawyer%20Conduct/LLLT/APR%2028%20and%20Regs%203-31-2015.ashx.
9. See www.tulsaworld.com/business/tulsabusiness/business_news/legalnewsfeatures/triple-lt-rules-onerous/article_5e8cbba3-535f-57a2-95a7-7f54b92e2071.html.
10. See the LLLT RPC, www.wsba.org/~/media/Files/Licensing_Lawyer%20Conduct/LLLT/2015-02-03%20LLLT%20RPC.ashx.
11. See WA APR 28 Regulation 12, Supreme Court of Washington Order No. 25700-A-1005 and the WSBA Legal Technician Program FAQs at: www.wsba.org/~/media/Files/Licensing_Lawyer%20Conduct/LLLT/20120615%20SCt%20Order%20%20Legal%20Technician%20Rule.ashx and www.wsba.org/Licensing-and-Lawyer-Conduct/Limited-Licenses/Legal-Technicians/Legal-Technician-FAQs.
12. See WA APR 28(F).
13. See WA APR 28(F).
14. See WA APR 28(A).
15. See WA APR 28(H).
16. See WA APR 28 Regulation 2(B).
17. See WA APR 28 Regulation 2(B)(3).
19. See www.courts.wa.gov/court_rules/?fa=court_rules.list& group= ga&set=RPC.
20. See Rule 5.9 of Washington State Court Rules: Rules of Professional Conduct.
21. See “News Analysis: Allowing Non-Lawyers to Provide Legal Services Could Help Profession” by Erin Arvelund, June 7, 2016 at:
22. See “Should the US Eliminate Entry Barriers to the Practice of Law? Perspectives Shaped by Industry Deregulation,” by Clifford Winston and Quentin Karpilow, 106(5) American Economic Review 171, (Oct. 1, 2016). I remain unconvinced by the arguments in favor of deregulation of the practice of law. The analogizing to various industries, not only oversimplifies the consequences of those regulatory changes, but also relies upon the unwarranted assumption that legal services are, for the purposes of economic analysis, a service like any other. Dick the Butcher said, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” See Henry VI, Part II, act IV, Scene II, Line 73. The administration of justice is an anathema to tyranny. The rebel Jack Cade didn’t dismiss the suggestion as demoralizing or disheartening, but embraces the notion when he replies “Nay, that I mean to do.”
23. See src.bna.com/eeX. See also “ABA House Approves Model Regulatory Objectives for Nontraditional Legal Services” by Lorelei Laird, ABA Journal, Feb. 8, 2016, www.abajournal.com/news/article/house_approves_proposed_model_regulatory_objectives_for_non
24. See ABA Resolution 105, Adopted ty the House of Delegates on Feb. 8, 2016 (newly adopted language underlined), www.abajournal.com/files/2016_hod_midyear_105.authcheckdam.pdf.
25. Closing comments are taken from “Access to Justice — There is Much Work to Be Done” by Michael Speck, 86 Oklahoma Bar Journal 400 (Feb. 14, 2015).
26. See www.justiceindex.org/findings/.
27. See www.justiceindex.org/findings/#sthash.d862tcA8.dpuf.
28. See www.justiceindex.org/methodology/#sthash.TVx81BkZ.dpuf.
29. See www.justiceindex.org/findings/attorney-access/.
30. See www.justiceindex.org/findings/self-represented-litigants/ #sthash.rlJhzx82.dpuf.
31. In 2016, the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission commissioned a legal needs study to be conducted by Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, with funding provided by the American Bar Association, and with the assistance of faculty from OSU. That study will better define the nature and extent of these unmet legal needs in Oklahoma.
32. See “The Washington State Limited License Legal Technician Practice Rule: A National First in Access to Justice,” by Brooks Holland, 82 MISS. L.J. SUPRA 75, 90 (2013), mississippilawjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/3_Holland_Final.pdf.
33. See Rule 1.2 Comments 5-8.
34. See oklahoma.freelegalanswers.org/ and Michael Speck, “Free Legal Answers in Oklahoma,” September 2016.
35. Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma Inc. and Oklahoma Indian Legal Services have received over $5 million a year in basic field funding from Legal Services Corporation since 2013, including $5,096,816 in 2016. See www.lsc.gov/state-profile?st=OK&Printable=True. See also reports indicating that the current administration is “eyeing the elimination of LSC as part of the 2017 Federal Budget.” www.njlawjournal.com/id=1202777693184/Legal-Services-Worried-That-Trump-Will-Take-Ax-to-Agency.
36. Professor Anna Carpenter of the TU School Of Law’s Lobeck Taylor Family Advocacy Clinic is a co-author of forthcoming articles which will discuss these and other empirical questions.
37. In its report and recommendations published Nov. 18, 2015, the Utah Supreme Court Task Force to Examine Limited Legal Licensing summarizes the characteristics of limited licensing in Arizona (Document Preparers), California (LLLTs or analog to same under consideration), Colorado (LLLTs or analog to same under consideration), Florida (Legal Document Preparers), Louisiana (Notary Publics), Nevada (Document Preparers), Oregon (LLLTs or analog to same under consideration), and Washington (discussed at length herein) and mentions preliminary efforts in Connecticut and Massachusetts. See www.utcourts.gov/committees/limited_legal/Supreme%20Court%20Task%20Force%20to%20Examine%20Limited%20Legal%20Licensing.pdf. Court navigators, nonattorney representatives before state and federal administrative agencies and other nonattorney representatives are not addressed herein, or the Utah Report.
Michael Speck holds a B.A. and M.A. in philosophy from OU and a J.D. from Southern Illinois University School of Law. After more than 10 years of civil litigation in Oklahoma City, and nine years of adjunct instruction at Rose State College, Mr. Speck joined the faculty at Tulsa Community College in January 2012 as the program coordinator of the Paralegal Studies Program.
OBJ 88 pg. 749 (April 15, 2017)