Minnesota Supreme Court Committee issues interim report on the Legal Paraprofessional Pilot Project

Jodi Boyne
Director of Public Affairs
Office: (651) 296-6043

Minnesota Supreme Court Committee Issues Interim Report on the Legal Paraprofessional Pilot Project

For immediate release

St. Paul, Minn. (January 24, 2022) – At the end of December 2021, the Standing Committee for the Legal Paraprofessional Pilot Project issued the Interim Report and Recommendations to the Minnesota Supreme Court required by the Order Implementing the Legal Paraprofessional Pilot Project.  The Supreme Court directed the Standing Committee to provide an Interim Report that includes recommendations and possible refinements.

The Supreme Court authorized the Pilot Project to assess whether allowing qualified and supervised paraprofessionals to provide legal advice and appear in court on a limited number of matters will increase access of justice for Minnesotans.  In order to evaluate the progress of the Pilot Project, an Evaluation Subcommittee was created. The Subcommittee established outcome measures and data sources for the three pilot goals: to increase litigant representation, improve court efficiency, and promote sustainability.

The Interim Report includes results of a survey of paraprofessionals and supervising attorneys. Among other things, the interim survey found:

  • Around half of the clients served would have been unrepresented without the assistance of a legal paraprofessional and a little over half of the paraprofessionals charged the client for their services.
  • The legal paraprofessionals who responded to the survey believe that the Pilot Project provides individuals who cannot afford an attorney with quality alternative legal services, providing access to justice for more Minnesotans.  They also requested more education on effective courtroom representation and practices.
  • Supervising attorneys found the legal paraprofessionals to be “careful, serious, and excellent.” They did not have complaints about the legal paraprofessional’s performance in court nor with how they managed cases. Overall, the supervising attorneys reported satisfaction with the Pilot Project.

In the Report, the Committee recommended expanding the area of family law cases to include those where domestic or child abuse has been alleged, clarification of the Supervised Practice Rules, and adding eligibility for rostered legal paraprofessionals to provide advice and representation in Order for Protection and Harassment Restraining Order cases. The Supreme Court will consider the proposed rule changes in the next several weeks.

The Committee concluded that, at the interim, the Pilot Project has had a positive impact and shows that legal paraprofessionals can successfully provide quality services to parties in family and housing cases.  The full Report can be found on the Legal Paraprofessional Pilot Project webpage.

About the Legal Paraprofessional Pilot Project

The Legal Paraprofessional Pilot Project permits approved legal paraprofessionals, under the supervision of a Minnesota attorney, to provide legal advice and, in some cases, represent a client in court in two legal areas: landlord-tenant disputes and certain family law disputes. The two-year Pilot, which began in March 2021, is intended to increase access to civil legal representation in case types where one or both parties typically appear without legal representation.

About the Minnesota Judiciary

The Minnesota Judicial Branch is made up of 10 judicial districts with 296 district court judgeships, 19 Court of Appeals judges, and seven Supreme Court justices. The Judicial Branch is governed by the Judicial Council, which is chaired by Lorie S. Gildea, Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.  The Minnesota Judicial Branch is mandated by the Minnesota Constitution to resolve disputes promptly and without delay. An average of 1.1 million case types are filed in Minnesota district courts every year. Visit www.mncourts.gov for more information.