Candace J. Sanders

I read about Candace J. Sanders in an article. She graciously offered to share her experience on becoming a Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) with our readers.

Candace is self-employed as a LLLT, and works as a Paralegal at Falkenstein Zandi, PLLC.

PRTW: In the legal world, the Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) program has garnered attention. Please explain what the LLLT program is, and how the program came about in Washington State.

CS: In 2012, the Washington Supreme Court passed the law allowing non-attorneys to be admitted to the limited practice of law in an effort to meet an unmet need - assisting the many pro se clients that need assistance in navigating the legal system and to protect them from inaccurate advice and assistance.

PRTW: In Washington State, what duties can LLLTs perform that paralegals cannot?
CS: We can give legal advice, prepare legal documents on behalf of a client, and instruct them on how to accomplish what they are attempting to accomplish (in family law only).

LLLTs can work independently, without the supervision of an attorney for most of what we are licensed to do.
(I have my own practice, but rent my office from the firm where I still do some paralegal work.)

PRTW: Does the LLLT program take away duties from attorneys and other legal professionals?

CS: No - we are assisting pro se clients that cannot afford to, or do not want to, hire an attorney.

PRTW: How does one become an LLLT in Washington State? Do you have to be a practicing paralegal before becoming an LLLT?
CS: There are both education and experience requirements. Yes - there is a requirement of 3,000 hours of attorney-supervised legal work required.

PRTW: What tips do you have for other individuals interested in the program within Washington State?
CS: Work with an attorney that is willing to delegate a lot of responsibility to you; discuss the issues and philosophy of cases with the attorney; learn what the philosophy of different cases are in your local courts - all of this is critical to being able to sit in a room with a client, and be able to give them sound, practical, and appropriate advice for their case.

PRTW: What made you choose to become an LLLT?
CS: I am almost 60 years old. The attorney I have worked with for 25 years is retiring; and I knew I did not want to work for another attorney - I wanted to have my own business, make my own schedule, and use the skill set that I have spent the last 40 years acquiring.

PRTW: Every legal professional is keenly watching the LLLT program in Washington State. Do you have any advice for paralegals or paralegal associations across the United States that have interest in a similar program?
CS: I think the experience piece of the LLLT requirements is absolutely the most critical. The education part is important, but the actual experience of working on cases, understanding every aspect of a case, and hands-on work with the clients will be critical to this new professional being able to provide the kind of service to clients that we are meant to provide.

PRTW: There are many avenues for becoming a paralegal. Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a paralegal?
CS: I was hired by the Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney’s office in January 1975 located in Washington state; and have spent the past 40+ years in the legal field. I took a correspondence course in paralegal studies; and in the late 1980’s, completed a community college program in paralegal studies.

PRTW: Please share how you became a LLLT.

CS: As soon as I learned of the program, I began the process. Because my college education was not considered (because the program was not ABA-approved at that time), I was accepted into the program on a waiver.

PRTW: Why did you choose the paralegal profession?

CS: I “fell” into it because I was looking for full-time employment and was hired by a prosecuting attorney’s office. I enjoyed the work very much, and was later employed by private attorneys where I worked less than full-time while I raised my children; and ultimately began working for a family law attorney that I have great regard for, had a lot of flexibility, responsibility, challenging work – it was a good fit. (The kind of attorney you work with as a paralegal directly impacts your experience – I would not have stayed in family law, or maybe even in the legal field if I had not worked for the kind of attorney I have worked for the past 25 years).

PRTW: What advice would you give someone interested in choosing the paralegal profession?
Without hesitation, I would encourage anyone interested in working as support staff in a law office to find a way to work in an office prior to investing the time and expense in getting a paralegal education.

PRTW: What do you think will change in the paralegal profession in the United States the next five years? What is the best way for a paralegal to prepare for these changes? With this mind, what changes will you make to continue being a successful paralegal?

CS: I predict that the paralegal profession will remain constant and the change will become in the ability for paralegals to become legal technicians – many states are already looking at implementing programs to admit non-attorneys to the practice of law and eventually, I believe, most states will do so. Attorneys are pricing themselves out of the market in many respects and the consuming public will use the most cost effective means of getting the help they need (if there are licensed technicians in the area of law they need services in.)

PRTW: What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
I would tell myself to still take the job at the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, but to allow myself the ability to consider other things I may have also enjoyed doing. It was “easier” to stay in the legal field because that is what I had learned and became skilled at doing.

PRTW: What might someone be surprised to know about you?
That I have a “creative” side that doesn’t really have a place in the legal field. I have worked so hard and so much (because I give 110% to my work) – that I neglected that part of me.

PRTW: What do you find most challenging about being a paralegal?
What has been the most challenging for me is the many years I have tried to work a full-time job in less than full-time hours - have had a lot of responsibility and a huge caseload. Because everything is very time sensitive, especially in family law – it is very fast-paced and it can be very wearing.

PRTW: How do continue to do your best work in light of these challenges?
In many ways, work has come first and other things in my life have suffered.

PRTW: Name a highlight in your career.

CS: Being accepted into the LLLT program, successfully completing the program, and receiving my license.

PRTW: What is the best book you have ever read & why?
I love Rosamunde Pilcher books. People are fascinating and you become very well-acquainted with the characters in her books.

PRTW: Have you ever been published?
No, but I am in the process of writing a book on divorce.

PRTW: What is one law in your speciality that people would be interested to hear about? Why are you interested in it?
The law that allows LLLTs to be admitted to practice. A huge percentage of people try to navigate the family law system (pro se) in the state of Washington. LLLTs should be able to give the same quality advice and service to clients that attorneys do – at a much lower cost.

PRTW: What was your educational path?
High school, community college, attending lots of seminars, and the University of Washington School of Law (as part of the LLLT program).

PRTW: How do you deal with stressful situations?
I work very well under pressure, and do not allow myself to get stressed out at work. I deal with it at home – where I sometimes crave complete quiet, peaceful music, and visiting with people I love.

PRTW: Do you possess any certifications?
I am a guardian ad litem and a mediator. I allowed my mediator certificate to lapse because the state association I was part of changed their criteria, and I really didn’t need that credential. I serve as a volunteer mediator for family law cases in Lewis County, Washington.

PRTW: What skills should a paralegal or LLLT learn today?

CS: A paralegal should make every effort to understand what is required to manage a case, the attorney’s philosophy about different issues, and how they can assist the client to keep the cost of their case down. The more the paralegal knows and can do for the attorney, the better. This can only be accomplished when the attorney trusts the paralegal, and is willing to delegate responsibility to the paralegal.

PRTW: What did you find most rewarding about being a paralegal, and what do you find most rewarding as a LLLT?
As a paralegal, I feel that I play a part in making a very difficult process a little easier for people. I have always developed a very good rapport with clients, have been able to answer their day-to-day questions, and performed work on their case which helped keep the cost of their case down.

As an LLLT I am really enjoying helping people, at a reduced cost, that may not otherwise be able to get professional legal help. It is very rewarding to be able to use all that I have learned over the years, and be able to help clients with a great deal of confidence based on all I have learned through the years.

PRTW: What role does mentorship play in your career, both as a mentor and a mentee?
The family law attorney that I have worked for the past 25 years has been my mentor. I learned so much from him, and as an LLLT, I can go to him with any questions or concerns that I have.

I have served as the office manager at our firm over the years and hope that I been a mentor to younger, less experienced staff members.

PRTW: If you weren't a paralegal or a LLLT, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?

CS: I would be writing, decorating, gardening, or maybe have a cute little candy shop!

PRTW: What tasks are you allowed to perform now that you are a LLLT versus a paralegal?
I meet with clients, advise them on what they need to do to accomplish their goals, and prepare legal pleadings, etc.

PRTW: What is a “typical day” like in your shoes?
I am doing both paralegal work and my own LLLT work (I still work for a firm; and rent my office for my own LLLT practice), so I am working on firm cases; communicating with clients; preparing documents; talking with the attorneys about what needs to be done; instructing staff; and now, I also see my own clients and do the legal work that needs to be done on their cases. Because I am still working for the firm, I find that I am doing the work on my own cases in the evenings and on the weekends.

PRTW: Are you regulated by an oversight agency?
As a LLLT,  we are governed by a LLLT Board; Admission to Practice Rules; and Rules of Professional Conduct.

PRTW: Does your Washington state or your employer require continuing legal education for paralegals or LLLTs?

CS: There is no requirements for paralegals. There are CLE requirements for LLLTs (there is no requirement for the first year licensed).

PRTW: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
My father instilled in me a very strong work ethic, honesty, integrity – he gave me a lifetime of good advice.

Candace can be reached at Candace J. Sanders, Limited License Legal Technician, WA State Bar Association #107, 950 12
th Avenue, Suite 100, Longview, WA  98632, via phone number 360-353-3897, or email.