Legal Services Reforms > Questions & Answers
General

Questions & Answers

Why did Arizona need a Task Force and recommendations for change?

Surveys in Arizona and nationally showed that lawyers are not able to meet the public’s need for access to quality, affordable legal services. The number of self-represented litigants has increased for decades, particularly in limited jurisdiction courts, family court matters, and in rural areas. But nonlawyers could not manage legal representations or control the lawyers' independent professional judgment.

Is there any experience with a nonlawyer performing legal services?

Yes. Arizona’s Supreme Court Rule 31 currently includes 31 exemptions that allow nonlawyers to practice law in limited situations.

Arizona created the Certified Legal Document Preparer program 15 years ago to authorize nonlawyers to prepare court documents for filing in Arizona’s courts. Currently there are 700 CLDPs. Individuals must pass a competency test to be certified to perform this service and their certification is regulated by the Supreme Court.

In 1962 in response to an Arizona Supreme Court case saying only lawyers could convey real estate in Arizona, real estate brokers brought an initiative asking voters to modify the constitution (Art. XXVI) to allow nonlawyer agents to practice real estate law by completing and modifying contracts and advising clients on real estate transactions. The Arizona State Bar opposed this initiative and the measure passed with nearly 80% of the vote. See the arguments and vote total.

What other recommendations from the Task Force are being implemented?
  • Two programs to assist survivors of domestic violence are being piloted.  One was implemented by the University of Arizona law school, the other by the Arizona Bar Foundation.  Each program provides trained advocates to assist domestic violence survivors in court.
  • Rules were approved to allow a law school graduate to practice under the supervision of a licensed attorney, while they await the results of their bar exam and Character and Fitness review. See R-20-0007.
  • Clarification to the current Legal Document Program (LDP) was made.Changes were adopted to amend lawyer ethical rules related to advertising in accordance with American Bar Association changes to the model rules on the topic. See R-20-0030.
  • Additional education for lawyers regarding the use of the unbundled legal services rules is planned.
  • Exploration of expanding the number of courts using staff to assist litigants in navigating the process are being considered. 
  • The AZCourtHelp.org website now includes information about the different types of legal representation, including unbundled legal services. Additional ways to educate about and promote the offering and use of unbundled legal services will continue to be explored.
Are there others considering similar changes to what's being proposed in Arizona?

Yes. Innovations in how legal services are delivered and regulated is a spreading national discussion. The Utah Supreme Court has already adopted their Task Force recommendations to experiment with alternatives to Rule 5.4. California; New Mexico; Florida; Cook County, Ill.; and Connecticut are all exploring the issue. The Conference of Chief Justices passed a resolution calling on states to explore innovation in regulation and service delivery. The American Bar Association passed Resolution 115 at their February 2020 meeting to encourage the same.

The District of Columbia has permitted nonlawyer partners in law firms since 1985. DC lawyers in such firms abide by their ethical obligations – despite having nonlawyer partners.

The Law Society of England and Wales, as well as the Law Society of New South Wales in Australia have allowed nonlawyer ownership/investment in law firms for years and have not experienced significant complaints about nonlawyers interfering with lawyers’ independent professional judgment in representing clients, nor have they seen lawyers forced out of the profession due to additional investment in some ABS entities.

Is there any harm in leaving things the way they are?

Yes. Problems occur when litigants can’t understand the courts or can’t afford to pay for help with their legal needs. Completing the wrong paperwork or completing paperwork incorrectly wastes the litigants’ and the courts’ time. Litigants can become frustrated and give up, denying justice and solutions that the courts were created to address. The public can find legal forms and information online which, when left unregulated, leaves the public open to fraud and abuse. A majority of the public cannot afford the average hourly fee for attorney services. Alternative providers who are licensed or certified and regulated can fill this service gap that will otherwise continue to widen.

Where can I get more information?
Register for updates as more information is available by filling out the form at https://www.azcourts.gov/accesstolegalservices/Request
See Task Force on the Delivery of Legal Services Report and Recommendations
See Access to Legal Services

View proposals and comment on them at the following sites online:
Court Rules Forum
Arizona Code of Judicial Administration Forum