The Oregon State Bar seeks public input on a program that would create a new level of legal licensure – similar to that for a nurse practitioner in the medical field – to provide limited legal services in two areas of unmet need.
A Licensed Paralegal (LP) could provide certain limited services in landlord/tenant (housing) and family law cases.
Currently between 75-85 percent of these cases in Oregon see litigants navigating the legal system alone, even in high stakes areas such as housing, parenting time or child custody.
“To the extent that we have a two-tiered system in these areas– some with access to a lawyer and others without - this could provide some trained help for those who may otherwise be entirely on their own,” said Kateri Walsh of the Oregon State Bar.
As proposed, LPs would be required to complete educational and experience-based requirements. They would be subject to many of the same regulatory requirements as lawyers: a character & fitness examination; adherence to ethics rules; continuing education; and maintaining liability insurance.
The program would not replace the need for a lawyer for complex legal issues in family law or other landlord and tenant matters.
It is intended to be one more tool to address the number of low and moderate income people who cannot afford a lawyer, or who have other language or cultural barriers to finding qualified help.
Further detail, a short video, and an opportunity to provide public input is at www.osbar.org/lp. Additional comment will be taken at an OSB Board Meeting in February, and public outreach will be conducted throughout the state.