PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION RESOLUTION REGARDING EMERGING MODELS FOR NONLAWYER ASSISTANCE AND PRACTICE

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association is aware that many emerging models for nonlawyer assistance and practice exist; and

WHEREAS, it is well documented that many Pennsylvanians are unable to afford legal counsel in civil matters; and

WHEREAS, in February, 2016 the American Bar Association adopted Resolution 105, promulgating the ABA Model Regulatory Objectives for the Provision of Legal Services, designed as a guide to assist the highest court of each state in developing a regulatory framework for non-traditional legal service providers; and

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association has long been concerned with ensuring the professional excellence of legal advocates, as well as with protecting the public from and educating its members about the consequences of work by untrained and unregulated providers of legal services; and

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association has long been concerned about the unmet legal needs of those unable to afford legal representation; and

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association acknowledges its duty to ensure that the legal profession remains a well-respected profession for future generations of lawyers; and

WHEREAS, the legal marketplace at present is not organized in a way that can fully meet the legal needs of all Pennsylvanians; and

WHEREAS, rapid changes in technology have created both opportunities and risks for Pennsylvanians who access legal information, forms or services in an unregulated environment over the Internet that are sometimes inaccurate or incomplete, to the public's detriment; and

WHEREAS, the proliferation of unregulated online legal providers including non-attorneys demonstrates the need for additional mechanisms to enable affordable access to justice, and

WHEREAS, members of the legal profession have also suffered as a result of recent changes to the legal marketplace, including limited employment opportunities and the rising cost of obtaining a legal education; and

WHEREAS, several states are exploring non-traditional, nonlawyer models to enhance access to justice while protecting the public, preserving the core values of the legal profession and sustaining the private practice of law by lawyers; and

WHEREAS, alternative and nonlawyer models of assistance are not a panacea for all access for justice issues; and

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association believes that the responsibility and desire to meet the needs of all Pennsylvanians is not incompatible with its obligation to consider the career needs and livelihoods of current and future members of the legal profession; and

WHEREAS, the Washington Supreme Court has implemented a Limited License Legal Technician Program, licensing and regulating a new category of limited license professionals authorized to provide narrowly tailored services in specific areas of law in response to substantial unmet legal need; and

WHEREAS, several states, including California and Oregon, are studying models for use of nonlawyer practitioners similar to Washington's Limited License Legal Technician Program; and

WHEREAS, the New York Court of Appeals has implemented the New York State Court Navigator Program, involving trained nonlawyers in providing limited assistance to parties in Brooklyn Housing Court and in debt matters in Bronx Civil Court; and

WHEREAS, several federal and state agencies permit the representation of parties by nonlawyers in particular proceedings; and

WHEREAS, in In re Queens University (Fed. Cir. 2016), the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently recognized an "independent patent agent privilege" for non-lawyers who represent clients within the patent agent's scope of practice as authorized by 37 C.F.R. §11.5(b)(l); and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association respectfully requests that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court explore and evaluate emerging models to improve meaningful access to justice for all Pennsylvanians, while protecting the public, preserving the core values of the legal profession and sustaining the private practice of law by lawyers.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association respectfully requests the opportunity to participate and assist in any exploration or evaluation of such models that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court may choose to undertake.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chancellor and/or the Chancellor's designee(s) shall communicate its position to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the legal profession and the public and to take such other action as may be necessary to effectuate this Resolution.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: April 28, 2016