While some jurisdictions are debating issues related on how to practice law, one of the more interesting debates that will likely become a national debate soon relates to who can practice law.
Washington state became the leader in this discussion when it approved rules to allow (and to regulate) the provision of limited legal services by state certified legal technicians (known as Limited License Legal Technicians, or LLLTs) in 2012.
Having, in essence, created a new legal profession, the Washington Supreme Court has now taken its initiative even further by announcing that lawyers can now share fees and even form partnertships with these new non-lawyer legal professionals. This makes Washington the second jurisdiction, but the first state, to allow fee sharing and joint ownership of law firms. The other jurisdiction that allows attorneys to share fees with non lawyers in limited cases is the District of Columbia.
You can take a look at the new Washington rules here. For comments on the new rule allowing lawyers to share fees with non lawyers go to LawSites and Bloomberg law.
This is a major development for the future of legal services and it will surely not be the last. I think more states will follow suit (several other states, including New York and California are working on similar proposals) and soon we will have a broader market for legal services that will include both lawyers and non lawyers. For a comment on the future of the legal services profession you can read a good paper by Prof. Andrew Perlman (Suffolk) here.