MPA President’s Message

Autumn is here – days are getting shorter and leaves are already starting to change colors. It is not my favorite season. I hate to see flowers go away and it reminds me that cold winter air will be here soon. I suppose its a change we must endure every year to see spring arrive.

The MPA Board has had some changes too. Our treasurer will now be Lorie Burnley who graciously volunteered. Secretary duties will be handled by Tabitha Ivy Peterson. Thank you to everyone, including Karla Hardin, for your assistance with these new Board positions.

Do you know a fellow paralegal that would like to be a member of the Missouri Paralegal Association? Our website makes it easy to join – www.missouriparalegalassoc.org. Maybe being a member of our association is the change they need to boost their career. What a great feature to put on your resume – “member of the Missouri Paralegal Association.” The website also includes a job bank and other “Members Only” resources.

Recently, I found two publications of great interest describing dramatic changes ahead for the paralegal association. First was the Fall, 2016 issue of the National Paralegal Reporter, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations’ (NFPA) publication every MPA member receives. The issue describes “New Paralegal Horizons” and contains a number of articles regarding Limited License Legal Technicians (LLLT) and their role in the legal profession. If you have never heard of an LLLT, this is a must read. Or, if you want more information about LLLTs, the articles spell out the requirements to be one, the duties they can perform and what states are using this new designation.

I also found the Fall 2016 Future of the Profession Report from the Joint Task Force of the Supreme Court of Missouri and the Board of Governors of The Missouri Bar. This report examines the issues facing the future of the legal profession in Missouri. The report notes that society is changing at an ever-increasing pace and reassessment is necessary to ensure the benefits of the practice outweigh the costs. Contact me if you would like a copy.

Paralegals may be very interested to know that of the four sections in the report, one of them highlights ways for the profession to provide more accessible legal services to everyone. The report recommends a review of Supreme Court Rule 4-5.5 “to determine whether licensing non-lawyers under the supervision of licensed practitioners will support the profession in increasing access to needed legal services.” The report goes on to say “change is inevitable, and the future of law practice in Missouri depends on adaptation to new realities.”

Why would the Missouri Bar want to have non-lawyers practicing law? Here’s where I want to change what you are thinking and have you consider this:

  • Pro bono work will never go away – there’s always the need for access to justice. It is everyone’s constitutional right to be fairly represented. Many times, even people with moderate incomes cannot afford the legal services they require. Non-lawyers would be more affordable.
  • Instead of being seen as a threat to their business, attorneys should see non-lawyer practitioners as an expansion of services being provided to clients. As noted in the National Paralegal Reporter, a forward-looking attorney will realize this could mean more business for their firm. A new client base would be reached. Non-lawyers would not be competing with attorneys for business. They would be working with lawyers to expand services.
  • Regulating non-lawyers to practice law will give the Missouri Bar some control to prevent the unlicensed practice of law. Many individuals with legal needs are turning to self-help or using on-line legal service providers.
  • Many see this scenario to be similar to the nurse practitioner/physician relationship. It brings new options for delivering legal services.

If the Missouri Bar began using non-lawyers, this would be a tremendous change to the legal profession in Missouri. Washington State already has LLLTs specializing to assist pro se litigants with family law issues. The requirements are tough and it will probably be years before Missouri adopts a similar system, but it seems encouraging that they are thinking about a change.

Being a member of MPA will keep you informed of changes like these. Maybe thinking about all of this will make the changing seasons not seem so bad.

Kathy Widman
MPA President
jkwid432@charter.net