Proposal for a limited practice rule to narrow North Carolina’s access to justice gap

The North Carolina Supreme Court and State Bar are urged to explore a limited practice rule to allow certified paralegals and unlicensed law school graduates to provide limited legal services. This proposal aims to enhance access to affordable legal assistance while protecting the public interest and addressing the widening access to justice gap.

The access to justice gap in North Carolina is significant, with many low-income individuals unable to obtain necessary legal help due to limited resources. Legal aid is crucial for ensuring equality before the law, yet nearly one million people annually are turned away. Despite efforts by legal aid organisations like Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC), resource constraints mean that only a fraction of those in need receive assistance.

The proposal highlights the need for additional legal support and the potential for a limited licencing programme. This would enable trained and certified non-lawyers to provide specific legal services, similar to how nurse practitioners operate in the healthcare sector. Such a programme could increase the number of legal service providers and help meet the growing demand for legal assistance.

The North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice (NCCALJ) has previously recommended measures to address the access to justice gap, including assisting self-represented litigants and adapting to changes in the legal services market. Implementing limited licencing for non-lawyers could significantly narrow the justice gap and ensure that more individuals receive the legal help they need.

In conclusion, while a North Carolina Legal Technician (NCLT) programme would not entirely solve the access to affordable legal services crisis, it could play a critical role in improving access to justice. By enabling qualified non-lawyers to provide limited legal services, the proposal aims to protect the public and address the urgent need for legal assistance.

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(Disclaimer: This academic article has been authored by a group of scholars specialising in law. It is not an official report from any law society or professional legal organisation. The views and analyses expressed herein are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the positions of any law society. This article is intended for academic and informational purposes only.)

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