Washington State Bar Association to appeal ending of LLLTs

The Washington State Bar Association is set to seek review of the state Supreme Court’s decision to end the limited licence legal technician (LLLT) program in the state. At the LLLT board meeting on June the 8th the board decided to request the Supreme court review the decision or at least provide longer for those currently training to complete their licensing requirements.

The review comes in the wake of the June 5th decision by the Supreme Court to “sunset” the LLLT program. The court felt that the costs were too high for the limited participation in the program, and ruled that all those aiming to become licensed must do so by 31st July 2021.

The LLLT program is the first of its kind in the USA and is aimed to help provide affordable legal services to the broader population in the state. LLLTs are licensed by the Washington Supreme Court to advise and assist people going through a divorce, child custody, and other family law matters, the aim had been to expand these practice areas. LLLTs consult with and advise clients, complete and file necessary court documents, assist pro se clients at certain types of hearings, and advise and participate in mediation, arbitration, and settlement conferences.

The Bar Association has requested that anyone who wishes to contact the Supreme Court about the decision should email  supreme@courts.wa.gov.

See the Bar Association’s comments.

See the Supreme Court’s letter announcing the decision (PDF).

See Justice Madsen’s dissenting opinion on the decision (PDF).

 

 

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More regulatory responses to COVID-19

Following on from last month’s newsletter, we’ve put together the following list to examine different regulator responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here it is interesting to note the development and changes, as regulators begin to get a grasp on the crisis and develop innovative responses to meet the changing environment. If you have any questions or best practice for the rest of the ICLR community, please do get in touch, and we will be happy to include any of these in the next newsletter.

Illinois has introduced executive order 2020-14, this satisfies notarial requirements that a person must “appear before” a notary public if a two-way audio-video connection is used. It also allows documents to be witnessed through the same technology.


The Law Society of New South Wales has decided to run it’s annual Law Careers Fair as an online event, rather than cancelling it. The event will use zoom to create virtual presentations, with individual video booths and company landing pages replacing exhibitor booths. More information about the event is available here. The Society has also decided to reduce its $410 membership fee to $10, for the 2020-2021 period, allowing members to redirect funds to priority areas during the crisis.


The Law Society of Hong Kong has announced that civil hearing will take place remotely, with all other non-essential court hearings currently adjourned.


The Legal Sector Affinity Group which is made up of all the legal supervisory authorities in the UK, including the Law Society, Bar Council, CILEx, and the Law Society of Scotland, has released an advisory note on preventing money laundering during the crisis. The note discussed the increased risk of money laundering at the current time and what checks can be put in place to mitigate this.


The Council for Licensed Conveyancers in England and Wales is to allow members to defer fee payments, following the near-complete standstill in the UK property market. Members will be given the option to defer paying their practice fee and compensation fund contributions for April, May and June, which can be paid off over the following 4-12 months.


The California State Bar Board of Trustees has written to the California Supreme Court offering options and recommendations for the June First-Year Law Students’ Exam and the July Bar Exam. Full letter available here. Whilst the State Bar of Califonia has put in place emergency measures waiving late payment fees, as well as extending payment deadlines for membership fees and compliance deadlines.


The Law Society of Ontario has cancelled the lawyer licensing examinations and the call to the bar ceremonies due to take place in June. The society has said that alternative summer/autumn examination dates are being explored and that the administrative aspect of the call to the bar process is being undertaken remotely, allowing students to progress with their careers, with a celebration planned later in the year.


The Law Society of Saskatchewan and the Law Society of Alberta have temporarily reduced the articling requirements to a minimum of 8 months, instead of the previous minimum of 12 months, preventing a backlog of articling students due to limits created by coronavirus. Full statements available here and here. The Law Society of Alberta has also introduced changes allowing articling students to work remotely, as well as giving instructions on the supervision students doing this.


The American Bar Association has created a “Task Force on Legal Needs Arising Out of the 2020 Pandemic”, which launched a website on the 3rd of April to provide resources and information on the ongoing crisis and how this relates to the law. Statement available here, website available here. The ABA has also backed calls to adopt emergency rules that would allow recent and upcoming law school graduates who cannot take a bar exam because of the COVID-19 pandemic to engage in the limited practice of law, under the supervision of a licensed attorney, these individuals would have until the end of 2021 to practice without passing the bar exam. They hope this would limit the disruption to students careers, and help prevent the widening of the access to justice gap.  Full statement available here.

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NCBE’s Testing Task Force and the Bar Exam of the Future

In the United States, the authority to regulate the legal profession belongs to individual jurisdictions; each U.S. state or territory sets its own rules and makes its own decisions about legal licensure. For  licensure examinations, most jurisdictions use one or more of the bar exam components produced by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), a nonprofit organization based in Madison, Wisconsin. Thirty-six jurisdictions have adopted NCBE’s Uniform Bar Exam, which is comprised of three NCBE exam components: the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and Multistate Essay Examination (MEE).  The UBE is a uniformly administered, graded, and scored bar examination that results in a portable score.

At NCBE, we are proud of the high quality, validity, and reliability of our exams, which help jurisdictions protect the public by ensuring that only competent candidates are licensed to practice law.  The legal profession in the U.S. is changing rapidly, and we realize the importance of assuring the bar exam reflects those changes. To that end, in 2018 NCBE appointed a Testing Task Force charged with undertaking a three-year study to ensure that the bar examination continues to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for competent entry-level legal practice in a changing profession.

The Task Force’s study is currently in the second of three phases. In the first phase, extensive feedback was solicited in a series of listening sessions with stakeholders from across the profession—bar admission administrators, legal educators, and practicing attorneys and judges. (A report summarizing these sessions is available on the Task Force’s website.) Currently, the Task Force is conducting a nationwide practice analysis survey of lawyers as phase two of the process. This survey will provide valuable and comprehensive information about the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics that new lawyers must have to practice effectively and ethically. The conclusions drawn from the first two phases of the study will  help inform the study’s final phase, which will consider options for designing the bar exam of the future.

The work being done by the Testing Task Force is important and timely; we are proud of this study and excited to learn all we can from it. Please visit the NCBE Testing Task Force website and sign up to receive updates as this historic study progresses.

Article provided by ICLR member, Judith A. Gundersen, President, National Conference of Bar Examiners

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Four steps legal regulators can take to embrace their data

Data has always been a foundational part of the practice of law. However, the convenience, accessibility, and speed of digital mediums is transforming the discipline from within. Law firms are stepping up the plate leveraging their internal data, as well as industry data to make their practice and delivery of services more efficient and effective. E-Discovery, case predictive technologies and even fledgling artificial intelligence programmes are proliferating across top firms globally. Small and large firms alike are engaging with varying degrees of software to manage information and leverage its value.

It is time legal regulators attempt to match pace. This month ICLR.net is focusing on how legal regulators can start to think about data’s role in improving their regulatory responsibilities. We have identified four preliminary steps to help your institution to start thinking about leveraging data.

1. Start small and close to home: Identify your data sources

Identify consistent incoming sources of data. This may be lawyer registrations, renewals and fees. This “low hanging fruit” often serves as the fundamental data base, which can yield insights such as lawyer demographics and disciplinary patterns.

2. Clean and organise your data

Unwieldy spreadsheets no longer make the grade. Setting your organisation up for success means treating your data properly and preparing it for utilisation. Categorising and cleaning your data in a consistent manner will make things easier down the road. Data should be stored in a clear and structured format, which is both secure and shareable with appropriate access permissions.

3. Collaborate with those who know data

Some institutions may want to call the professionals in from day one. Smaller organisations may be able to tackle the first two steps on their own, but to begin to leverage analytics really requires a professional touch for the best results. You should be looking for a company specialises in data structures and analytics. The legal tech sector is rich with software providers offering data management products, but working with a professional in selecting the best fit for your organisation’s data or building a unique system is what will ensure success. It is key to work with someone with the skills as well as background knowledge and insights into the legal profession and industry.

4. Fostering a data-driven culture

Legal information and data powerhouse Thomson Reuters puts it best:

“Building a data-driven legal practice is not something you assign to a task force, department, or an individual. It requires a buy-in from everyone from the top leadership down.”

In addition, it is worth saying that employees at all levels should be involved in the data system development process, to ensure compatibility and realistic adoption and utilisation of the system. The human resource is what will bring an organisation the strongest return on any data investment.

Is data analytics for your organisation?

Some regulators may believe they are too small or the resource required to harness data is too great. However, these four steps can be completed at various levels, just as law firms of all sizes are engaging in data tools. Ultimately, it will be a matter of survival for regulators to keep pace with those they regulate. Information has a strong multiplier effect, and data analytics has the power to transform regulation and industry’s productivity as a whole.


We are interested in hearing about how your institution is using data to assist in regulation. Let us know! Interested in the power of data in regulation – get involved at this year’s annual conference. Contact Jim McKay (jamesmckay@lawscot.org.uk) to become involved as a speaker or session moderator. 

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Education and Training in Ireland

In response to the report on Education and Training in Ireland published on 19 November by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA), the Law Society of Ireland has launched the Peart Commission Report, developed by an expert group chaired by Mr Justice Michael Peart of the Court of Appeal.

The report contains 30 recommendations setting out a vision for the future of solicitor training in Ireland. Law Society of Ireland Director General Ken Murphy said, ‘training solicitors to meet any and all challenges they will face in their careers is some of the most important work the Law Society does. Mr Murphy explained, ‘implementing the Peart Commission recommendations will have several benefits. It will further increase access to the profession for trainees across diverse educational, professional and socio-economic backgrounds and ensure the Law Society maintains its prominent position as an innovative professional legal educator globally.’ He added, ‘the Law Society’s education model is deeply rooted in the public interest and focussed on the future.’

Law Society Report Available Here

LSRA Report Available Here*

*This report was required by the Legal Services Act 2015 and is the first step in a comprehensive review which will involve further public consultation in 2019.

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Singapore’s Ministry of Law Accepts Recommendation to Strengthen Professional Training of Lawyers

The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) announced on 30 August 2018 that it has accepted in principle the recommendations of the Committee for the Professional Training of Lawyers on strengthening the professional training regime for lawyers in Singapore. The key recommendations include: (a) uncoupling admission to the Bar from the completion of a practice training contract; (b) lengthening the practice training period from six months to one year; and (c) raising the standard and stringency of Part B of the Singapore Bar Examinations. The Committee also made 17 other specific recommendations to address discrete issues within the professional training regime. The implementation of these recommendations will help raise the quality of legal training and better equip law graduates with the necessary expertise to meet the demands of the future economy and society.

MinLaw will work with stakeholders, including the Law Society of Singapore and the Singapore Institute of Legal Education, on the implementation of the recommendations. The three key recommendations will be implemented from the 2023 session of Part B of the Singapore Bar Examinations onwards, to give the industry time to adjust. The majority of students currently in law school will not be affected by these changes.

Read more in the MinLaw Press Release

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Solicitors Regulation Authority Assessment Organisation Appointed

The SRA has appointed Kaplan as the assessment organisation to develop and run the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).

Selected following a rigorous, year-long process, Kaplan provides education, training and assessment across professional services, including in law, financial services, accountancy and banking. It has direct experience of assessment within the legal sector in England and Wales as the provider of the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS). Kaplan will not provide training for the SQE.

The SRA and Kaplan will work with stakeholders from across the legal and education sectors to develop and test the SQE. Kaplan will then run the SQE on our behalf. They have been appointed for a period of eight years from the introduction of the SQE.

The SQE will provide a single common assessment for all aspiring solicitors. It will be introduced, at the earliest, in September 2020. The costs of the assessment will be determined once the final design is fixed, although we are aiming to provide guidance on indicative costs before then.

Full Press Release Here

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D.C. Bar seeking views on changes to Rule 46

In May we reported that the D.C. Bar Board of Governors had submitted proposed amendments to certain provisions of Court of Appeals Rule 46.  This Rule governs admission of non-ABA-accredited law school graduates, including foreign-educated individuals, to the D.C. Bar.  Michael Rybak, Senior Staff Attorney of the Office of Regulation Counsel at the D.C. Bar has been in touch to inform ICLR members that on May 31, 2018, the D.C. Court of Appeals published a notice for public comment on the D.C. Bar’s proposed amendments to Rule 46. Written comments are invited from interested parties, including other legal regulators who may be particularly keen to address the following questions:

  • (1) To what extent, if any, should considerations of reciprocity play a role in the admission of foreign-educated lawyers to the D.C. Bar?
  • (2) Should the rules permitting admission to the bar of graduates of domestic law schools not accredited by the American Bar Association be different from the rules applicable to graduates of foreign non-accredited law schools?

Views must be submitted to the Court of Appeals by July 31, 2018.
Read the Court’s notice for public comment (M-261-18) and other relevant materials here.

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D.C. Bar: eliminating admission barriers for foreign law graduates

The D.C. Bar Board of Governors has submitted proposed amendments to certain provisions of Court of Appeals Rule 46, which governs admission of non-ABA-accredited law school graduates, including foreign-educated individuals, to the D.C. Bar.

Under the proposed amendments, graduates from non-ABA-accredited law schools, including graduates of foreign law schools, may qualify for Bar admission by first completing 24 credit hours of additional education, instead of 26 hours under existing Rule 46. The proposal also would allow foreign-educated individuals to complete any amount of the additional credit hours by distance learning from an ABA-accredited law school.

“This proposal, if adopted, would make the District of Columbia the first jurisdiction to specifically allow completion of any amount of the required additional education by distance learning,” said D.C. Bar President Patrick McGlone.

Additionally, the Board of Governors is proposing to change the subject-matter requirement in Rule 46 from all credit hours in subjects tested on the Uniform Bar Examination to six credit hours from a list of specific courses described in Rule 46, six credit hours of subjects tested on the UBE, and 12 hours in elective courses.

“The proposed change to the course subject requirement would balance knowledge of fundamental American jurisprudence with elective courses useful to an applicant’s practice interests,” McGlone said.

Recognising the increasing globalization of the legal profession, the Board believes these changes would help make the D.C. Bar more competitive on the international stage, bringing the Bar in line with other major bars in the United States.

The amendments were first explored by the D.C. Bar Global Legal Practice Task Force beginning in September 2014 and were approved by the Board of Governors on February 15.  Read the Task Force’s final report to the Bar’s Board of Governors, setting forth its final recommendations to amend Rule 46.

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Reform in Legal Education and Training in Hong Kong

In the article which follows, Heidi Chu, Secretary General of The Law Society of Hong Kong kindly provides us with an overview of the ‘state of play’ of legal education and training reform in Hong Kong.

The present system of legal education and training in Hong Kong involves three stages, namely:

  • an academic stage (a qualifying law degree e.g. Bachelor of Laws “LLB” or Juris Doctor “JD”);
  • a vocational course (i.e. the Postgraduate Course of Laws (“PCLL”));
  • a workplace apprenticeship (i.e. a two year training contract with a law firm for intending solicitors or a one year pupilage at a barrister’s chambers for intending barristers).

The completion of the PCLL is a pre-requisite to entering into a trainee solicitor contract for intending solicitors. The PCLL is defined under the statute as the course provided by three specified universities (“PCLL providers”). The PCLL providers currently enjoy self accreditation status and are empowered to set their own admission criteria and conduct and mark their own examinations, subject to the PCLL benchmarks issued by the Law Society. The PCLL providers have thus become the gatekeepers to the legal profession upon both entry and exit of the PCLL, which is the entry point to the traineeship leading to admission as a solicitor.

In view of the changes that had taken place over the years including the increase in the number of PCLL providers, the varying qualifications of PCLL applicants, the widening of the scope of services provided by solicitors and the growing number of foreign lawyers in Hong Kong, the Law Society considered it important to ensure consistency in the assessments and standards of entrants to the solicitors’ profession. The Law Society has therefore proposed to introduce in 2021 a common entrance examination (“CEE”) in the format of centralised assessments for law graduates to qualify as solicitors in Hong Kong. This proposal will not affect those intending to become barristers in Hong Kong as the proposal is not to abolish the PCLL. The Law Society is finalising the details of the proposed CEE.

On the other hand, the Standing Committee on Legal Education and Training, which is a statutory committee set up to oversee legal education and training in Hong Kong, has commissioned a comprehensive review on the legal education and training area with a view to enhancing professional standards in the legal sector as a whole. The review is still on-going and a report is expected by the end of 2017.

Contributed by: Heidi Chu, Secretary General, Law Society of Hong Kong

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