Robert Ambrogi has written a comprehensive survey of moves across the country in the use of legal technicians. You might be surprised (or not) to learn that New York Sate is in the forefront of this movement.
“Even with whatever success we’ve had with public funding of legal services and pro bono work by lawyers, there is still a gaping hole in our system of providing legal services to the poor and people of limited means,” says New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who has emerged as a leading advocate of allowing nonlawyers to provide limited services.
“We need to think out of the box and look at every possible avenue for filling this justice gap,” Lippman says. “You can get nonlawyers who are experts in a particular area of legal assistance and who can be more effective in that area than a generalist lawyer.”
In May 2013, Lippman appointed a committee with the specific charge of studying this issue, the Committee on Non-Lawyers and the Justice Gap. He asked the committee to focus on the use of nonlawyers in housing, elder law and consumer credit cases–areas where as many as 90 percent of litigants in the New York courts are without lawyers.
NEW YORK’S NAVIGATORS
The recommendations of this committee resulted in Lippman’s launch in February 2014 of a pilot program in which nonlawyers, called navigators, provide free assistance to unrepresented litigants in housing cases in Brooklyn and consumer debt cases in the Bronx and Brooklyn. Navigators provide a range of assistance, from general information given at help desks to one-on-one help completing legal forms and assisting in settlement negotiations.
Navigators may also accompany unrepresented litigants into the courtroom. While they are not allowed to act as advocates in court, they are able to answer questions from the judge and to provide the litigants “moral support.”
In Albany, Lippman created a second project that uses nonlawyers to advise elderly and homebound residents about their eligibility for benefits and other services…
Read Ambrogi’s complete article with more about New York programs by clicking the link below: