I run a project in the US that works to connect low-income residents to the legal services they need (see www.projectlegallink.org). I am exploring some early ideas about building out a community advocate/paralegal arm, potentially focused on family law issues. I am very curious to learn more about other efforts that focused on family law (divorce, custody, guardianship, restraining orders), and particularly on custody.
I’m also very curious to learn about any community paralegal projects - on any legal issues - in the US.
Thanks so much in advance for any leads!
Project Legal Link
I would be very interested to learn more about your efforts! In the US, there are some emerging efforts to accredit paralegals. In Washington state, there is a new Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) rule, which allows LLLTs - non-lawyers - to become certified after passing an examination, engaging in continuing education, following rules of professional conduct, and showing proof of financial responsibility. The requirements are relatively stringent, but once met, the LLLTs will be able to advise and assist clients in certain approved areas of law. The first practice area this has been applied to, actually, is family law. This is a very interesting initiative, though not precisely a “community paralegal” approach. There are also efforts in NYC to try and introduce a community paralegal approach, particularly through recruiting volunteers.
I would say in the area of family law, more efforts have been concentrated on addressing domestic violence. There are numerous non-legal “advocates” who are trained to provide support for survivors of domestic violence, and these advocates may help survivors in navigating the justice system and obtaining restraining orders. For example, the Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project works closely with survivors on an individual basis (http://dvrp.org/). Similarly, quite a few victim advocacy programs (sometime stationed within courts) exist across the country to walk individuals through the process of obtaining restraining orders. However, it seems like fewer programs exist for other aspects of family law like custody or divorce, for example.
I would love to discuss further or hear of any other initiatives in this area!
Thanks so much Akhila! I would love to hear more about your thoughts in this area. As you described, the efforts I know of are either more formal (ie WA state) or only DV-focused. In the Bay Area, our family law resources are nearly all for clients with DV situations. Clients without have a hard time finding help or guidance, and it seems like this could be an interesting fit for a more community-based model. If you want to chat further, let me know! email@example.com.