Divorce at Altitude: A Podcast on Colorado Family Law

LLP Programs and Access to Justice in Colorado with Maha Kamal | Episode 102

April 28, 2022 Ryan Kalamaya & Amy Goscha Season 1 Episode 102
Divorce at Altitude: A Podcast on Colorado Family Law
LLP Programs and Access to Justice in Colorado with Maha Kamal | Episode 102
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to another episode of Divorce at Altitude. Joining us in conversation today is Maha Kamal, founding attorney at Colorado Family Law Project. Join us to learn who qualifies for an LLP’s support, what Access to Justice is, and how the LLP program looks to solve simple divorce cases.

Maha sees the role of an LLP fitting into the legal system similarly to that of a physician’s assistant, with its own flourishing community serving a different purpose that doesn’t infringe on that of an attorney. We touch on limited scope, the development of state-specific LLP materials, and the role of National roundtable discussions, before Maha gives us a rundown of the timeline for proposal submission and eventual implementation in Colorado. 

Key Points From This Episode:

  • A definition for what an LLP is: Limited License Paraprofessional.
  • The LLP’s purpose to complement attorney work and to address access to justice crisis.
  • The process of becoming co-chair and formalizing a preliminary report.
  • The Supreme Court’s response to the report and the conversation around details.
  • What Access to Justice is and why it’s so important.
  • How limited scope ties into Access to Justice. 
  • The intent of the program to address simple divorce cases.
  • The net marital asset cap which currently sits at 200 000.
  • What happens when it is discovered at a later stage where the couple exceeds the cap.
  • Collaborations with the Utah model to develop the LLP material in Colorado.
  • What can come from hearing out attorneys: hearing points you hadn’t considered. 
  • The role of the National Roundtable discussions. 
  • Their goal for a proposal for implementation by June.
  • Her focus on families who do not have support, along with mediations, having completed her CFI training.


What is Divorce at Altitude?

Ryan Kalamaya and Amy Goscha provide tips and recommendations on issues related to divorce, separation, and co-parenting in Colorado. Ryan and Amy are the founding partners of an innovative and ambitious law firm, Kalamaya | Goscha, that pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family law, personal injuries, and criminal defense in Colorado.

If you have additional questions or would like to speak to one of our attorneys, give us a call at 970-429-5784 or email us at info@kalamaya.law.

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DISCLAIMER: THE COMMENTARY AND OPINIONS ON THIS PODCAST IS FOR ENTERTAINMENT AND INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES AND NOT FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE. CONTACT AN ATTORNEY IN YOUR STATE OR AREA TO OBTAIN LEGAL ADVICE ON ANY OF THESE ISSUES.

Ryan Kalamaya (4s):
I'm Ryan Kalamaya

Amy Goscha (6s):
And Amy, Goscha

Ryan Kalamaya (8s):
Welcome to Divorce at Altitude, a podcast on Colorado family law.

Amy Goscha (13s):
The force is not easy. It really sucks. Trust me. I know, besides being an experienced divorce attorney, I'm also a divorce client.

Ryan Kalamaya (21s):
Whether you are someone considering divorce or a fellow family law attorney listening for weekly tips and insight into topics related to divorce, toe parenting and separation in Colorado.

Amy Goscha (35s):
Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you. This is Amy Goscha we're with another episode of Divorce at Altitude, I have the pleasure of having Mohaka mall on today. How are you doing Maha?

Maha Kamal (46s):
Thanks for having me.

Amy Goscha (47s):
You're the founder. You have your own law firm, 2016. It's the Colorado family law project. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Maha Kamal (55s):
Yeah, so I've had that from gosh, now it's coming up on six years. I was really inspired by the nonprofit work that I've done in the past. And so I actually intended it to be a nonprofit organization, but that comes with its own daunting set of requirements. So I founded it in 2016 and it's really been based on a sliding scale concept since the beginning. So I've always taken sliding scale. I think it's really helped out Colorado legal services and those who kind of fall in between what I call the purgatory of being able to qualify for pro bono and still for counsel. So I have clients like a wide breadth of them, diverse clients and the lowest rate all the way up to my full rate and also provide unbundled services.

Amy Goscha (1m 39s):
Great. Well, that's awesome. There's such a need for that. So today we're talking about the LLP program. What is that? Can you just tell me what is the general definition of what an LLP is and what does it stand for?

Maha Kamal (1m 52s):
Yeah, so that's a great question because I think depending on who you ask, they're going to answer it differently because there's so many different versions of it floating around. So LP is Limited License Paraprofessional, which is what Colorado has decided to term the individuals that would work under this program. There's other variations of it. Like the triple two, I think it was no triple, I can't even remember, but as long as Washington state had a limited law technician, I think triple LT and then there's LPP, which I don't even know what that stands for, but it's all the same concept.

Amy Goscha (2m 30s):
Yeah. And in general, what is, you know, you have a good way of describing it. How has it kind of similar to what we have, you know, like in a doctor's practice, like

Maha Kamal (2m 40s):
We also, the limited licensure program is meant to compliment attorney work and also to address that access to justice crisis that we're facing. And I know we're going to talk about that a little later, but in general, I see it and I try to use analogies and wherever I can, I see The LLP as to a physician's assistant and the medical industry, right. The medical field, and they do their own thing. They go for the specific purpose of getting licensed as a physician's assistant. They're not a Dr. Light, they're they, you know, they have their own flourishing communities and they really enjoy doing PA work. That's what they like doing. And so I kind of see LLPs in the same light that they really enjoy doing limited scope law and practicing limited scope.

Amy Goscha (3m 27s):
Yeah. Because all we have right now is we have, you know, lawyers and then we have paralegals, but there's really nothing in between.

Maha Kamal (3m 34s):
Right. There's nothing in between. And I think paralegal is so many of them just really enjoy doing paralegal work. They don't want to do all the stuff that you and I do. And I don't blame them actually, but, you know, I think that the LPs would be similar. And I think that I do anticipate a lot of paralegals would get licensed as LPs to give them that extra bump, to be able to do some limited scope of practice of law. But yeah, I, I really think that's, that's the best way to put it is that they're kind of the similar to physician's assistants.

Amy Goscha (4m 3s):
Yeah. So, I mean, I've kind of become part of this recently. Can you give me a little bit of history? You know, what has your work been on this program?

Maha Kamal (4m 12s):
Yeah, sure. I think this goes back to 2015. I know David Stark was part of the original efforts and David Stark is the head of the advisory council to the us Supreme court. And he's also on, was on my originating committee. So pals, which is the paraprofessionals and legal services was an initiative that first started in 2015, according to David and the Colorado Supreme court had wanted to know a little bit more about the concept of limited licensure as it pertained to landlord tenant eviction cases, which I think is another area hot and access to justice. And so they, they formed a subcommittee and submitted a proposal to the Supreme court as to what they wanted to see in Limited License work for evictions.

Maha Kamal (5m 1s):
And, you know, as David says, the Supreme court turned around and said, you know, actually we need it for domestic relations. And so in 2020 office of attorney regulation, counsel and Jessica Gates approached me and asked if I'd like to co-chair pals to essentially, which is the Dr. Focus, domestic relations focus. And I've been co-chairing that founding committee with judge Arkin, who, you know, so we spent most of 2020 we'd started right before COVID had, so most of our meetings ended up being via zoom, but we spent a lot of time in 2020 coming up with a preliminary report for the Colorado Supreme court, which we submitted to them in may of last year in 2021. And then the Supreme court approved that program for Limited License work in domestic relations in June of 2021.

Amy Goscha (5m 47s):
And just in general, what did that preliminary report cover?

Maha Kamal (5m 50s):
The clarity report was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears and love it went through fabulous

Amy Goscha (5m 57s):
Many of work, right?

Maha Kamal (5m 58s):
Yeah. It went through a fabulous committee. I mean, we had court of appeals judges on that district court judges. We had Carter legal services. Rebecca Taylor was a miserable family court facilitator, Heather Lang from Douglas county. We had mediators and paralegals all come together and start brainstorming and then formalizing a preliminary report, which outlines the need for the program. So that address the access to justice concerns, particularly that at the current moment, we anticipate at least 75%, if not more of litigants headed into Colorado courts for family law cases are unrepresented and they're not seeking counsel either. They can't afford it or for whatever reason are not opting in for legal representation.

Maha Kamal (6m 41s):
And so that became the basis of the preliminary report. And then we flushed out the scope, what we propose to be the asset cap, which is now at $200,000 or less what NLP can and cannot do and what we envisioned in terms of the future for implementation.

Amy Goscha (6m 58s):
Okay. So that report was, or preliminary report was approved and then order was issued by the Supreme court in June of 2021. Is that correct?

Maha Kamal (7m 7s):
Right. Right.

Amy Goscha (7m 8s):
Okay. And what, what exactly did that order from the Supreme court entail? What was the next step?

Maha Kamal (7m 14s):
So then the Supreme court says, this is great. We love it. Come back to us with details. That's what we're in right now is what's known as the implementation phase. And so right after that order was approved, which was approved quickly. I was surprised I, you know, got the, we got the order. And I said, wow, the justice has really, really loved us and they want to see more. So then we went back to the drawing table and created working groups to start addressing the details and the nitty gritty of what this program would look like. And so as of our conversation in March, we are currently in those working groups and you and I are actually, co-chairing one of those.

Amy Goscha (7m 53s):
Yeah. And we've done a lot of presentations to various bars and CBA paralegal association, Rocky mountain paralegal association, which has been really fun. Well, let's go back to the access to justice issue. So just for our listeners, you know, cause not everyone's an attorney, What is access to justice and why is it so important within I guess the domestic relations area?

Maha Kamal (8m 18s):
Yeah. So access to justice is a broad term that encompasses ideas and issues surrounding the lack of legal representation and support for litigants and whether that's a cost prohibitive issue or other barriers that, that prevent litigants or parties that are trying to seek legal services from being able to obtain legal representation. A lot of that is based. So this is why our, The LLP program was formed as to kind of create a middle ground between the paralegal and the attorney. And we're hoping that their market rates would be substantially lower. So it'd be more affordable, but access to justice is it's really, I mean, there's so organizations that are abandoned together. I know in Colorado and outside of it to try to address and identify all of the barriers to reasonable accessible legal representation.

Maha Kamal (9m 7s):
So aisles is another one through university of Denver that is working on that. The Carter Supreme court has always been aware and supportive of those initiatives. And I know the bar association has several initiatives, including the modern law practice initiative, all geared towards figuring out creative solutions.

Amy Goscha (9m 22s):
Yeah. And before the LLP program came about, you know, I did a lot of work and you do a lot of work with limited scope. Would you also say that limited scope representation also helps with access to justice?

Maha Kamal (9m 36s):
Yes, absolutely. I think that was one of the first attempts actually. I think, I think of, there's been a few attempts in the past, you know, there's discussion about mandatory pro bono hours, which is free offering free legal services. And I don't know if that ever made it through, we currently don't have those requirements and then unbundled services. I want to say it was several years back now. I think it's rule 11 that allows attorneys to provide limited scope services, which means you don't take on the full case. You can define the scope of your representation. And so for me, I don't accept appearances for hearing, but you know, I'll say, Hey, I act as your consultant. I'm not your attorney on this case. And let me help you at least get through the initial process of what, what is it that you need to file?

Maha Kamal (10m 18s):
How do you fill this out? How do you serve the person? You know, what is this deadline, what to expect at this, you know, status conference. So that's really the limited scope approach for access to justice. Yeah.

Amy Goscha (10m 29s):
Yeah. And when I do limited scope, when I explained to a client what it is, you know, I say, if you need some, it gives you some help, you know? And I think court's relief as well. Same thing with LLPs. When you think about an LLP, where do you see their role? Is this, do they, are they going to be dealing with pretty like simplistic non contested type issues? Or, you know, can you explain to me how you view the role of LLP?

Maha Kamal (10m 55s):
Yeah, absolutely. I, I envisioned them, you know, the cap for divorces is $200,000 or less. And we labored over that concept, those numbers for a while and were inspired in part by what corridor legal services caps are. And the, the intent of this program is to, to address simple cases, simple divorces with little to no assets that, you know, a lot of times these parties are actually in agreement or they've been separated for several years and they just want to get a divorce. Same in the custody realm. We're still developing that out and defining it since there's no financial component except for child support. That that would be similar.

Maha Kamal (11m 36s):
This isn't meant to this program is not meant and LPs can not engage in complex litigation, so they can't go to trial, right? They can participate in assisting with discovery, but there's limits to them being able to issue discovery. So on and so forth, they can't get engaged in or involved, complex matters that are jurisdictional, the UCC, JDA and interstate conflict custody battles. They wouldn't be able to do that. Non-current standing issues, you know, when you have third parties coming in, asserting parental rights. So this is not meant to substitute in any way, the role of the attorney in complex cases. This is simply to address the simple cases. If I can put it in any other way and help those parties be able to navigate without the court having to do all the work.

Amy Goscha (12m 23s):
So you mentioned The net marital asset cap. Can you explain what that is? And it is at 200,000, but just for our listeners that don't understand what that is. Can you explain that?

Maha Kamal (12m 34s):
Sure. So when you file for divorce, this is specific to divorce. I guess you could do the same with financial disclosures for child support, but nevertheless, when you file for a family law case, the first time, whether it's custody, whether it's divorce, you file a sworn financial statement and you have to exchange disclosures. And so as part of those disclosures, you have to list all of your assets. And so the cap applies when you're reviewing those financial disclosures. So when you total up all of your assets, if that net asset amount is over $200,000 combined for both parties, that all the LLP program does not apply. So an LP could not take that case. So this is really our attempt. We had so many discussions about this.

Maha Kamal (13m 16s):
I can't even remember, but you know, we're looking at the housing market and you know, that most people have houses and we want to kick, you know, people out of the LP program that can otherwise qualify because of equity in their house. And so there's a lot of animated discussions that happen and we've settled on the $200,000 cap. And hopefully when the, once the program launches, we'll get some more data as to if that's helping or if we need to reach us that,

Amy Goscha (13m 38s):
Right, because really the target here is to help those 75%, that don't have attorneys, which is such a striking number. And then what happens if you know, The LLP doesn't initial determination determines that the, the assets are not higher than 200,000, but then later discovers that there's another asset that wasn't disclosed that takes it over the limit. What happens under that circumstance?

Maha Kamal (14m 7s):
That's a great question. And that was one of the questions that came up during the implementation phase in the working groups and also all of the focus group efforts that we're doing in presentations. What happens if, if after the initial intake, The LLP discovers that there in fact is more than $200,000 in combined assets. In that case, it's up to the judge. So the judge will have a active role in The LLP cases, and we'll be able to determine whether for good caution, it makes sense for The LLP to continue, or whether at that point, the parties need to discuss that particular party getting counsel.

Amy Goscha (14m 46s):
And I know that we're still working on some of the details on this, but in general, can you explain how does someone become an LLP,

Maha Kamal (14m 55s):
Oh gosh, what's, the qualifications group is finished and licensure. I can give you the details of that, but generally there are requirements. So there's going to be an examination that's similar to the bar exam. There is going to be supervision supervised work with, I think it's 1500 with an attorney that you would have to submit to, and then also educational pieces. So we're working with local college community colleges and universities that we've identified in offering family law focus courses that you would have to take as part of the application process. So it's a pretty, it's, it's, it's pretty, it's not, it is grueling. I'm not going to say it's not, it's not impossible, but we're, we're really intending for this to be a serious licensed position and career for many.

Maha Kamal (15m 38s):
So it's not something that you can just walk off the street and apply for and then get it the next day. You do have to show that you're committed to the work and you're serious about it. We do have the Colorado rules of professional conduct, which government, government attorneys, we do have similar rules that are being developed for LPs. So, you know, we want applicants that are very serious about their license,

Amy Goscha (15m 59s):
Right? And so they'll also have to take, you said like a family logs and an ethics exam.

Maha Kamal (16m 5s):
That's correct. Right. And we're modeling it. So there's a couple of states that have implemented this so far and they're in different stages. So Utah is one that hasn't fully implemented its version of the LLP program. And we worked quite closely with our colleagues in the Utah bar to get help from them. And we're inspired quite a bit by their model. So I know that the licensure group is working in examining the bar material, the bar exam equivalent for The LLP that Utah already administers as part of developing their material here in Colorado

Amy Goscha (16m 40s):
And, and other states, is it limited to a specific practice area like domestic relations or do other states allow their version of an LLP to practice in other areas?

Maha Kamal (16m 51s):
I think it does vary by state preliminary. I think preliminarily it's been domestic relations. I know Arizona also had protection orders, which I can totally see that being another big demand is to have LPs and protection order courts. But it's very limited right now it's been focused on family law. I know that Washington state had a program that they sunsetted and that was focused on family law.

Amy Goscha (17m 14s):
And then I guess it is important to know in Colorado, do we have the support of the family law, like the, the bar and I can edit some of this out, we edit stuff out. So let me, re-ask that question. So, you know, one question I have is, is there support for this program in Colorado, especially from the family law attorneys.

Maha Kamal (17m 36s):
I thought we have a support. I think that the family law section has been very supportive. I sat on the executive council for the family law section and the bar association and the executive council did form a subcommittee, especially geared directed for the pals initiative and LLP program. And so many of their members are actually part of our working groups. And so we've invited them, we've collaborated with them. We recognize that the buy-in and the support of the family law section is, is critical for this program. And I don't think that the program would have been passed last year, if that was not the case. That was one of the concerns of the justices. They wanted to know what the family law section thought. And so we did a lot of groundwork and reaching out to them and engagement with the family law section, as well as the paralegals association, Rocky mountain paralegals association, prior to submitting that preliminary report.

Maha Kamal (18m 28s):
And we continue to work with them today.

Amy Goscha (18m 30s):
Right. What is your, do you get a lot of questions from lawyers about how does The LLP, how are they going to fit in? Are they going to be taking work from, you know, like lawyers? You know, what is your answer when someone has that type of a question?

Maha Kamal (18m 46s):
Yeah, I get that a lot. I'm not surprised I actually anticipate it. And I think the work that you and I are doing in the education outreach committee is exactly that you just have to have one conversation at a time defuse, any fears that correct any misconceptions. And that starts with the conversation, right? That starts with hearing out attorneys. And a lot of times they come up with wonderful points that we hadn't even thought about. Right. And so then we can take that back to our working group and incorporate that, so that we've addressed that issue even before it happens. And so these conversations have been really dynamic. So the questions I get from attorneys are just that I went to law school and now we're just going to have these people licensed. So what was the point of me going to law school and incurring all of this student loan debt?

Maha Kamal (19m 27s):
For example, the answer to that is, hold on a minute, they're not taking your jobs. There is a substantial cap on what they can do, right? And that's the $200,000 or less. These are people that you would not even look twice at, or, you know, they couldn't afford your retainers. And so we're really focused on access to justice. This is something that the Colorado Supreme court has asked us to look into and there's a real need. So if we don't have any program to address this, right, then we're going to have to do mandatory pro bono hours, or we're going to have to look into something to push the access to justice, to become more of a reality. And after that, you know, I see a kind of a change in tune. We're like, oh, okay.

Maha Kamal (20m 7s):
You know, I don't have a problem with that. I didn't know that there was a $200,000 cap. So I invite it. I think it's really important for us to have these conversations.

Amy Goscha (20m 14s):
Yeah, absolutely. And then what about the structure? Like what are we seeing in other states as far as how LLPs will their version of it, how they're practicing? Are they within law firms? Are they practicing on their own? Are they forming, you know, LLP firms on their own? Like, what are you seeing or hearing from other states?

Maha Kamal (20m 35s):
So there is a national brown table that meets, and it's not just us states, but also Canadian provinces. I guess Ontario has been doing this for a really long time, which I don't, I'm not surprised given it's Canada, but they come together and they have their respective per professionals on, on some of these round table discussions, from what I gather, having attended, some of those is that they can work independently. So in the state of Colorado, we do intend that they would be able to work independently. We're not putting any limitations on that. Some of them work with them law firms. So our rules group is working on, you know, what is that going to look like? What are the ethics governing that so on and so forth. And they can, there's nothing borrowing them from creating their own firms.

Maha Kamal (21m 16s):
Right? In fact, I could see that being a better, a better measure of accountability, right. Is, is okay, we have to be serious about this. We could all get audited in terms of, are we accepting clients that are appropriate and under the $200,000 cap. And so we expect to see different scenarios with LPs. I think that there would be a valuable asset to law firms, you know, to take on the cases that they may otherwise turn away. And it would be great for paralegals to get a bump up and say, Hey, you know what, I don't need a paralegal certificate. I've got my LP and be able to bargain, you know, negotiate their salary for a little higher if they have that added skillset, you know?

Amy Goscha (21m 53s):
Right. So you mentioned that we're in the implementation phase, what is kind of the timeline that we're anticipating moving forward, you know, to get this program implemented?

Maha Kamal (22m 4s):
So our goal is to get a proposal for implementation specifics from the working groups to the Colorado Supreme court by may. So that their last session for the justices is in June. It does have to clear the advisory council. So they meet, I believe this month. And then they're going to be meeting again in may. So we're trying to coordinate our schedules to be able to get it in front of the justices this year, once the implementation proposal has been received by the car on a Supreme court, it's going to head into hearings and it'll be opened up for public comment. So at that point, you know, they'll, they'll accept all of that, you know, consider it, discuss it and see how they want to move forward on the proposal.

Amy Goscha (22m 45s):
Yeah. That's really exciting. Well, I think that was a great update on the LLP Programs. Thank you very much for that. Yeah. Before we close out, you're really into, you know, you've, you've taken some trainings, you're, you're doing some other things. Can you describe some of the other services that you're offering now, just besides, you know, being a family lawyer?

Maha Kamal (23m 7s):
Yeah. I recently started offering PC DM work. It is limited scope for a piece of damn work. So I want to focus on families and parents that are getting support. So if they're, if they've got therapists, if they got parent coaches, I'd love to work and help them through that, any, any conflict that they have or disagreements, I also am focusing more on mediation. So I'll be offering sliding scale. Mediation's already started. So if I knew if you need it, I would invite you to ask me for my, I guess, gotten, you know, my calendar, we can schedule something so mediations and I recently completed my CFI training, which I think will be really supportive to my PC DM work and also mediation. And just generally in practice, I think it's really important to have that knowledge.

Amy Goscha (23m 47s):
Yeah, that's great. Well, for all, for our listeners, what's the best way if they wanted to get ahold of you, either your website, your email, or your phone number.

Maha Kamal (23m 57s):
Yeah. So my website has to do this God awful long thing, which I'm going to have to condense at some point, but Colorado family law, project.com is the official website. If you're interested in services, then use the contact us form so that you can submit and we'll get back to with the details on availability and rates and all that good stuff, and also applying for the sliding scale options. But if you're interested in the program, they all P program Amy, they can always contact you because you've been a wonderful co-chair on the education outreach committee, but you can also email me at Maha that's MHA at Colorado family law, project.com.

Amy Goscha (24m 30s):
Great. Well thank you mama. For today. This was fun. So

Maha Kamal (24m 35s):
Yeah, I'm, I'm super excited about your podcasts have been great. So thanks for having me.

Ryan Kalamaya (24m 39s):
Hi everyone. This is Ryan again. Thank you for joining us on Divorce at Altitude. If you found our tips, insight or discussion, helpful, please tell a friend about this podcast for show notes, additional resources or links mentioned on today's episode. Visit Divorce at Altitude dot com. Follow us on apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen in. Many of our episodes are also posted on YouTube. You can also find Amy and me at Kalamaya dot law or 9 7 8 3 1 5 2 3 6 5 that's K a L a M a Y a.law.