Unleash paralegals

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In his State of the Judiciary address, Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant said, "The high cost of legal services has become a barrier not just to the poor, but the middle class as well." ("Chief justice: Courts at the limit, need help," Tribune, Jan. 29).

Recently, my brother-in-law, a California resident, hired a paralegal to help him probate his deceased mother's estate. He didn't have to use a lawyer; since 1998, California has allowed non-lawyer "legal document assistants" to open their own offices and perform many routine legal services, including uncontested probates.

With help from an LDA paralegal, my brother-in-law's probate went through court without a hitch, and for less than one-fifth the prices quoted by three California lawyers.

However, the Utah Supreme Court does not allow similar non-lawyers to help people prepare legal documents unless they work for a lawyer. If our judges are genuinely interested in helping average people with the high cost of legal services, why don't they follow California's example and let qualified paralegals open offices as legal document assistants?

Surely California's rules are no secret to Utah's Supreme Court.

Alan Sutton

Salt Lake City