In a bid to enhance access to legal representation and make it more affordable, the Colorado Supreme Court has taken a significant step by approving the licensure of legal paraprofessionals. This move, encapsulated in the new Rule 207 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, is aimed at addressing domestic relations matters and bringing justice within the reach of a wider population.
Colorado now joins a select group of states—Arizona, Minnesota, Oregon, and Utah—that issue limited licenses to non-lawyers for the practice of law. Washington and California have also developed such programs, though they are not actively licensing non-lawyers at present.
Under this new rule, licensed legal paraprofessionals (LLPs) will have the authority to complete and file standard pleadings, represent clients in mediation, and accompany them to court. While they can answer the court’s factual questions, they are restricted from presenting oral arguments or examining witnesses during a hearing.
Motivation Behind This Move
A notable motivation behind this move is the substantial number of individuals representing themselves in domestic relations cases, which stood at 74% of cases in Fiscal Year 2022. By permitting non-lawyers to provide limited legal representation, the Colorado Supreme Court aims to bridge the gap in legal services for those who cannot afford conventional legal aid.
Applicants aspiring to become LLPs will have to undergo rigorous examinations, meet educational prerequisites, and amass practical experience in family law. They will also need to pass ethics and professional conduct exams and fulfill continuing legal education requirements.
This landmark decision is the result of meticulous planning by the Advisory Committee on the Practice of Law, which was commissioned by the Colorado Supreme Court in 2021 to devise a licensing strategy for legal paraprofessionals. A dedicated subcommittee of legal experts and stakeholders was instrumental in shaping the rule, which has undergone public scrutiny before receiving final approval. The first licensed legal paraprofessionals are anticipated to emerge by July 2024, bringing a new dimension to legal practice and accessibility in Colorado.