In June 2021, the Colorado Supreme Court requested the creation of a plan to license paraprofessionals to assist clients in certain types of family law matters. A group of judges, lawyers, court staff and paraprofessionals – many of whom have been working on this project for years – is now developing a limited licensure program that will help address the mounting need of legal assistance in family law courts. Almost 80% of litigants in family law courts represent themselves during some of the most stressful times in their lives. LLPs are intended to help bridge the gap to Access to Justice in Colorado courts by providing more affordable family law services in relatively uncomplicated matters.
Frequently Asked Questions about Licensed Legal Paraprofessionals (LLPs):
LLPs would be able to handle many aspects of financially simple cases involving dissolution of a marriage or civil union, legal separation, allocation of parental responsibility (APR), invalidity of marriage, parentage (in the context of dissolution or APR) petition, and/or protection orders, motions for contempt citations, and/or post-decree modifications of APR, child support and/or maintenance.
They would be allowed to: file an Entry of Appearance, electronically file in the state court system, and draft and sign pleadings that are standard court-approved forms. They also would be allowed to appear in court with a client, sit beside the client, and be available for questions by the client or the court. Civil and ethical rules requiring lawyers to have a good-faith basis for their filings and statements would apply to LLPs as well.
They would not be allowed to: handle cases with total combined net marital assets over $200,000, handle complex family law matters including disputes regarding common law marriages, interstate jurisdiction, and punitive contempt matters. They also would be prohibited from handling trial matters and orally advocating for clients in hearings. LLPs would be required to inform their clients in advance about the limits of their licensure and the possibility that their clients may need to hire a licensed attorney if their case is or becomes complicated.
The Colorado Supreme Court, after approving a preliminary report recommending that LLPs be allowed to provide limited legal services in domestic relations cases, has requested that its Advisory Committee on the Practice of Law develop an implementation plan. Currently, there are four Individual Working Groups focused on developing the implementation plan. The Individual Working Groups are Licensure and Qualifications, Rules, Outreach and Communications, and Judicial Systems. The Individual Working Groups intend to have the first LLPs licensed and ready to practice in late 2023 or early 2024, if the Colorado Supreme Court approves the implementation plan and corresponding rules.
LLPs will be required to take certain classes, complete 1500 hours of paraprofessional practice with law firms, attorneys, and/or courts, and pass two examinations, one on family law and one on ethics. They will also be required to complete Continuing Legal Education credits after licensure.
LLPs would be required to identify themselves as non-lawyers, including that they have only a limited license, in all advertising, and in initial client meetings. LLPs would also need to use the LLP designation in all court filings.
No, they will be private individuals who qualify for licensure.
While there is no final decision yet about funding the program, the implementation plan would not rely on tax dollars and instead use application and registration fees.