Vanessa Ridgway sworn in as Clallam’s first LLLT
Vanessa Ridgway was sworn into the Washington State Bar Association as a Limited-License Legal Technician (LLLT) by Clallam County Superior Court Judge Eric Rohrer on October 12, 2016. LLLT’s, commonly pronounced “Triple L-T”, are not lawyers, but are a new class of licensed legal professionals who are allowed to practice law, help clients draft forms, and give advice to clients with legal issues in family law cases. LLLT’s are allowed to practice on their own or with a lawyer. By way of contrast, paralegals are not allowed to give legal advice nor practice law, and they work under the direct supervision of a lawyer.
The LLLT program was initiated by the Washington State Supreme Court, and is administered by the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA). Requirements for LLLT license include 10 years’ prior experience as a paralegal or at least an Associates Degree in legal studies, successfully completing a one-year LLLT legal training program at the University of Washington, passing a CORE legal skills exam, passing the WSBA LLLT bar examination, and completing 3,000 hours of experience supervised by a lawyer. Once the requirements are completed and they are sworn into the WSBA, LLLT’s become members of the WSBA, and must comply with an ethical code similar to a lawyers ethical code. At this time, LLLT’s are not allowed to appear in court for clients, nor are they allowed to negotiate on behalf of clients.
The LLLT program is the first of its kind anywhere in the world. Washington State is the only legal jurisdiction anywhere in the world where a non-lawyer can be licensed to give legal advice. One hope of the LLLT program is to provide a new option for affordable legal services. A LLLT can assist pro se (unrepresented) clients who need help navigating their way through the family court system, or work with lawyers and their clients. The first WSBA LLLT training program included 7 students. Ms. Ridgway was in the WSBA’s second LLLT training program, which included 19 students, and will be the 17th licensed LLLT in Washington State. Ms. Ridgway will be the first LLLT to practice on the Olympic Peninsula.
Upon licensing, Ms. Ridgway will begin working as a LLLT in the law office of Mark Baumann, alongside him to provide legal services to family law clients in Clallam County. (She has worked for Mr. Baumann over the last two years as a paralegal.) She will also coordinate with the Courthouse Facilitator and the Clallam Jefferson County Pro Bono Lawyers and/or BELARI pro bono clinics to offer pro bono and low bono LLLT clinics. As a LLLT, she is licensed to help clients who require assistance with the following: domestic relations matters, dissolutions, child support modifications, parenting and support issues, domestic violence actions*, committed intimate domestic relationship actions (only as they pertain to parenting and support issues), legal separation actions, major parenting plan modifications (only when the terms are agreed to by the parties before the onset of the representation by the LLLT), minor parenting plan modifications, parenting and support actions, paternity actions, and relocation actions*.
* (only as permitted by the Rules and Regulations that govern the scope of LLLT practice; see APR 28 for further information.)
A unique and positive feature of the LLLT program is that it requires LLLTs to have 3,000 substantive law hours under the direction of a supervising lawyer within a 3 year period of passing the bar exam. This is to ensure that the LLLTs can actually practice law. Whereas when attorneys graduate from law school and pass the bar exam, there is no such practical skills requirement. Unlike lawyers who spend three years in law school and study many legal topics, LLLT’s spend one year focusing on family law. In these ways, the LLLT program provides a greater level of confidence in that even “newly-licensed” LLLTs will be a solid choice for parties navigating their way through the family court system without legal representation or guidance.
More information about the WSBA LLLT program is available at the WSBA website.
Ms. Ridgway may be contacted at 360-452-8688.