Minnesota is joining the gradually growing roster of states allowing nonlawyers to handle some legal tasks in hopes of providing greater access to the court system. The Minnesota Supreme Court issued an order on March 2, 2021 approving a pilot project that will permit “legal paraprofessionals” to provide legal services in two practice areas with a high percentage of self-represented litigants: landlord-tenant disputes and family law.
The paraprofessionals will be able to provide advice and make court appearances on behalf of tenants in housing disputes in certain jurisdictions under the supervision of a licensed Minnesota lawyer who agrees to serve as the paraprofessional’s supervisory attorney. This will lower the cost of legal services to tenants which, similar to the proposed legislation concerning court appointed attorneys for public housing tenants, will result in increased abuse of process, frivolous litigation, and false accusations against Landlords with little financial repercussions against the tenants.
The state supreme court’s recent order said it was acting on recommendations from the Implementation Committee for Proposed Legal Paraprofessional Pilot Project and it took into account public comments disagreeing with the decision to move forward.
“We appreciate the views and concerns expressed in these comments, but ultimately, we conclude that the point of a pilot project is to test the assumptions that underlie our decision: that the need for civil legal aid, particularly in the areas of family law and landlord-tenants disputes is great, and that legal paraprofessionals can contribute to the legal needs of Minnesota citizens in these areas,” the order states. Paul C. Thissen, an associate justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court and co-chair of the implementation committee says the court wants to see whether the paraprofessionals can help legal aid lawyers serve more clients and assist entrepreneurial attorneys in expanding the reach of their firms through offering lower-cost services. Again, this will lead to increased attorney’s fees and costs to Landlord’s prosecuting eviction actions, a cost that will ultimately be passed through to tenants across the board by rent increases.