Longview’s Candace Sanders has worked in family law for the last 25 years, so it was a no-brainer when she decided to take the next step in her career.
Sanders, 59, became certified as a Limited License Legal Technician after completing the Washington State Bar Association’s program last fall.
The license allows Sanders to give clients legal advice in family law.
“I thought it would be a good fit for me because I already have experience. Also, the challenge was intriguing,” she said. “There is definitely a need for assistance in kind of an overwhelming process. Even if it’s all agreeable, you still need the right forms and to do them right.”
The program requires participants to have at least an associate’s degree, 3,000 hours of paralegal experience, complete 45 hours of American Bar Association-approved curriculum and family law courses through the University of Washington School of Law, and pass the exams.
Because Sanders had more than 10 years’ experience, she took a national paralegal competency exam for admittance. She pursued this option because paralegal classes she took at Clark College in the late 1980s did not qualify; the school was not American Bar Association-approved at the time.
She passed the national exam, then took three quarters of classes through the University of Washington School of Law. The live online classes were held twice a week and ran about 2 1/2 hours for a total of nine months.
The cost of a limited license legal technician education is about $15,000, and a legal technician’s rate is about 25 to 30 percent of a lawyer’s rate.
Sanders said she charges $50 for an office conference, and then if she’s hired, applies that fee to a flat fee for her services.
She’s been working since November to get her practice off the ground. Sanders conducts business from the same law firm at 950 12th Ave. in Longview, where she has worked as a paralegal. But even with the license, Sanders can’t represent anyone in court or negotiate on their behalf. There also are restrictions on what legal documents she can prepare.
“I think it’s going to be a win-win for everyone, and I’m certainly going to appreciate having access to attorneys for guidance I may need,” Sanders said. “I expect to have a successful business, because I think there is a large need for another option for people navigating the family law system.”
She already has several clients, mostly from word-of-mouth.
“I think it will take time to get established and prove ourselves, the legal technicians, and the value we can bring to the system,” Sanders said. “Personally, it’s been rewarding to be accepted into the program and get licensed. It’s exciting Washington state is progressive enough to implement this and saw the unmet need.”
To learn more about the Limited License Legal Technician program visit: www.wsba.org/licensing-and-lawyer-conduct/limited-licenses/legal-technicians.