There are two main hurdles for the average person getting legal assistance: not only is it complicated, but it tends to be expensive! The first prong is inherent to the field, but an easy solution to the latter prong could be getting help from the professionals who often work at lawyers’ sides: paralegals! And as seemingly easy as an answer to the problem this is, there’s a clear reason why this isn’t the correct answer (at least not right now): laws that prevent the unauthorized practice of law can be hell to anybody trying to keep their job. This suit aims to change that restriction. From Law and Crime:
Two North Carolina paralegals have filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the state’s prohibition of the unauthorized practice of law violates the First Amendment, and asking the court to allow them to step in and ameliorate the state’s “legal deserts” by offering services at a cheaper price than expensive lawyers would.
Now, before you get on your soapbox about how paralegals and AI will make it so proper lawyers will be out of a job, you should know that these paralegals aren’t fighting for the right to hang a shingle or anything:
The plaintiffs filed a complaint in federal court in North Carolina that said the state courts give unrepresented litigants online forms for summary ejectments, absolute divorces, and protective orders — forms that are “not complicated,” but that “can still be confusing.”
I was on board with this before we even got to the free speech component of the suit. It isn’t like this is dangerous — you can give a guy a gun and qualified immunity after a few months of training but paralegals helping someone with a restraining order is where we draw the line? Come on, now.
The free speech bit is interesting too. Plaintiffs argue that giving legal advice is protected speech and that the relevant question for the statute should be if the government has a compelling government interest in restricting the speech of paralegals — which could be a hard threshold to meet once you realize how vastly underserved North Carolina’s low-income families are.
Paralegals Want To Provide ‘Simple Legal Advice’ Without Getting A Law License: Lawsuit [LawandCrime]
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at [email protected] and by tweet at @WritesForRent.