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The Legal Help Crisis in Arizona

People in Arizona searching for legal help have a problem. In fact, it’s the same problem people have around the country. Fewer attorneys are focusing on cases where they represent people. More and more attorneys are shifting to corporate work. And the cost to hire an attorney is often simply too much for the average person to afford. Arizona’s Supreme Court decided it was time to make changes, so it created the Task Force on the Delivery of Legal Services.

The Shocking Findings

And what it found was not pretty. In a recent year, 86% of legal cases involving Americans with low incomes didn’t get the legal help they needed. 100 million Americans are living with legal problems impacting what are considered basic human needs, like housing, child custody, or debt collection. During one five-year period, law firm income went up, but the amount of money that came from representing individuals went down.

The Struggle of Small Firm Lawyers

But it’s hard to fault the lawyers. A recent study found that many small firm attorneys spent as much time looking for legal work as they did actually helping people. The Task Force found the justice gap has grown between those who can afford to pay for legal services and those who cannot.

The Task Force’s Recommendations

So how does Arizona fix this problem? The Task Force came up with 10 recommendations, changes to the rules that govern lawyers to help close that justice gap. All the recommendations were approved and are now being implemented.

The Four Main Changes

Four of those changes are of special interest to the public and were adopted unanimously by the court.

Introduction of Legal Paraprofessionals

The first is to create something called a legal paraprofessional, or an LP. It will allow people who are trained and licensed to give legal advice in limited subject areas.

Expansion of Law Firm Ownership

A second rule change will expand law firm ownership to include non-lawyers. The expectation is that this change will increase innovation in the delivery of legal services.

Pilot Programs for Domestic Violence Victims

The third change approved setting up two pilot programs using trained non-lawyers to work with victims of domestic violence. They would even be allowed to speak in court, which couldn’t happen before.

Opportunities for Law Graduates

Last, a rule change allows law students who have graduated but are awaiting the results of their bar exam to work under the supervision of a licensed attorney.

The Ultimate Goal

All these changes have one simple goal, to increase the ability of people in Arizona to get the legal help they need. To learn more, go to slash access to legal services.

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