New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman today announced a committee to study "the role that appropriately trained and qualified non-lawyer avocates can play in bridging New York's justice gap." This follows a Washington State rule that allows for licensed paralegals with limited authority. And the California State Bar is studying the same issue.
Meanwhile, the bar has categorically refused to investigate how educated and character-tested non-lawyers may participate in the delivery of legal services and how that participation will help make legal services available to those who cannot now afford them but can afford something. The fact that the near-poor are largely cut off from legal help in civil matters has been long decried and as long uncorrected.
Given the traditional bar's new competitors (outsource companies; differently trained lawyers abroad in differently constituted firms; compliance officers who, after all, advise on compliance with law; companies selling computer-driven legal advice like Turbo Tax sells tax help; Axiom and its competitors), you'd think the organized bar would want a seat at the table, if only to help formulate adaption to the new world that technology and cross-border practice entail.
Sadly, not demonstrably. "If I don't recognize what's happening, it can't be happening," is not an attribute of leadership.