Securing access to justice in family law may soon be a bit easier! The Colorado Supreme Court recently approved a new rule that permits licensed legal paraprofessionals (LLPs) to represent clients in certain domestic-relations proceedings. Colorado now joins four other states—Arizona, Minnesota, Oregon, and Utah—in issuing licenses for non-lawyers to practice law on a limited basis.
The need is clear. According to the Colorado Supreme Court, 74% of parties in the state’s domestic-relations cases represented themselves. And the cost of legal representation continues to steadily increase, putting counsel out of reach for many Coloradoans. Services offered by non-profits, like Colorado Legal Services and Metro Volunteer Lawyers, and lawyers acting pro bono cannot meet the great need.
The new rule is the culmination of several years of study and deliberation. Amid widespread concerns about access to justice in Colorado, the Advisory Committee of the Supreme Court established the Providers of Alternative Legal Services (PALS I) Subcommittee in 2015. The Supreme Court, taking the PALS I subcommittee’s findings into account, determined that family law cases could most benefit from paraprofessionals’ assistance. In 2020, the Supreme Court asked a new subcommittee, PALS II, to focus on how licensed paraprofessionals could be used in family law. The PALS II subcommittee recommended in June 2021 that the Supreme Court create an LLP program. The Supreme Court approved the recommendation and requested that the subcommittee develop an implementation plan. The PALS II subcommittee issued its plan, and the Supreme Court conducted public hearings.
The result is the new Rule 207. Under the Rule 207, LLPs may write and file standard pleadings, represent clients in mediation, and accompany clients to court and answer a court’s factual questions, all only in certain domestic-relations cases. LLPs may not present oral arguments or question witnesses in a hearing.
A permanent LLP Committee and an Office of LLP Admissions, to be housed within the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel, will oversee the LLP program. To be an LLP, an applicant will need to pass state LLP examinations; meet educational requirements or demonstrate at least three years of relevant substantive experience; pass an ethics course and a professional conduct examination; complete 1,500 hours of substantive practice experience, 500 hours of which must be in Colorado family law; and prove their character and fitness. The first LLP licenses are expected in July 2024.
Congratulations to all involved in this tremendous effort!
Isabel J. Broer is an Assistant Attorney General in the K-12 Education Unit of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. Isabel co-chairs the office’s internship program and founded and leads its DEI book club. She previously clerked for Justice Monica M. Márquez and Judge Christine M. Arguello. Prior to attending Harvard Law School, Isabel taught ninth grade algebra in the Denver Public Schools. She enjoys skiing, hiking, camping, and reading in her free time.