WSR 16-05-078
[February 10, 2016]
NO. 25700-A-1137
The Limited Practice Board, having recommended the expeditious adoption of the proposed amendments to APR 12Limited Practice Rule for Limited Practice Officers; Rules for Enforcement of Limited Practice Officer Conduct (ELPOC); and APR 12 AppendixContinuing Education Regulations of the Limited Practice Board, and the Court having previously issued Order No. 25700-A-1135 regarding the proposed amendments and hereby issuing an amended order that supersedes Order No. 25700-A-1135, and the Court having further considered the amendments and having determined that the proposed amendments will aid in the prompt and orderly administration of justice;
Now, therefore, it is hereby
(a) That the new rules as shown below are adopted.
(b) That the rule amendments to APR 12Limited Practice Rule for Limited Practice Officers and the Rules for Enforcement of Limited Practice Officer Conduct (ELPOC) will be published expeditiously in the Washington Reports and will become effective upon publication.
(c) That the Continuing Education Regulations of the Limited Practice Board will no longer be published in the Washington Reports and are to be removed from compilations of statewide court rules. The original publication of these regulations in the Washington Reports in 2009 was in error. These regulations are administered by the Limited Practice Board.
(d) That Order No. 25700-A-1135 is hereby superseded.
DATED at Olympia, Washington this 10th day of February, 2016.
Madsen, C.J.
Johnson, J.
Wiggins, J.
Owens, J.
Gonzalez, J.
Fairhurst, J.
Gordon McCloud, J.
Stephens, J.
Yu, J.
(a) Purpose. The purpose of this rule is to authorize certain lay persons to select, prepare and complete legal documents incident to the closing of real estate and personal property transactions and to prescribe the conditions of and limitations upon such activities.
(b) Limited Practice Board.
(1) Establishment. There is hereby established a Limited Practice Board (referred to herein as the "Board") consisting of nine members to be appointed by the Supreme Court of the State of Washington. Not less than four of the members of the Board must be admitted to the practice of law in the State of Washington. Four of the members of the Board shall be business representatives, one each of the following four industries: escrow, lending, title insurance, and real estate. Appointments shall be for 4-year terms. No member may serve more than two consecutive terms. Terms shall end on December 31 of the applicable year. The Supreme Court shall designate one of the members of the Board as chairperson.
(2) Duties and Powers.
(i) Applications. The Board shall accept and process applications for certification under this rule.
(ii) Examination. The Board shall conduct the examination for certification required by this rule. The examination shall consist of such questions as the Board may select on such subjects as may be listed by the Board and approved by the Supreme Court. The Board shall establish the number of examinations to be given each year and the dates of the examinations.
(iii) Investigation and recommendation for admission. The Board shall notify each applicant of the results of the examination and shall recommend to the Supreme Court the admission or rejection of each applicant who passes the examination. The Supreme Court shall enter an order admitting to limited practice those applicants it deems qualified, conditioned upon each applicant taking an oath that he or she will comply with this rule and paying to the Board the annual fee for the current year. Upon the entry of such order, the taking and filing of the oath, and payment of the annual fee, an applicant shall be enrolled as a limited practice officer and shall be entitled to perform those services permitted by this rule. The oath must be taken before a court of record in the State of Washington.
(iv) Education. The Board shall approve individual courses and may accredit all or portions of the entire educational program of a given organization which, in the Board's judgment, will satisfy the educational requirement of these rules. It shall determine the number of credit hours to be allowed for each such course. It shall encourage the offering of such courses and programs by established organizations, whether offered within or outside this state.
(v) Grievances and discipline. The Board shall adopt hearing and appeal procedures and shall hear complaints of persons aggrieved by the failure of limited practice officers to comply with the requirements of this rule and of the Limited Practice Officer Rules of Professional Conduct. Upon a finding by the Board that a limited practice officer has failed to comply in any material manner with the requirements of this rule, the Board shall take such action as may be appropriate to the degree of the violation, considering also the number of violations and the previous disciplinary record of the limited practice officer. Disciplinary action may include admonitions, reprimands, and recommendations to the Supreme Court for the suspension or revocation of the limited practice officer's certification.
(vi) Investigation. Upon the receipt of a complaint that a limited practice officer has violated the provisions of this rule and in other appropriate circumstances, the Board may investigate the conduct of the limited practice officer to determine whether the limited practice officer has violated the requirements, conditions or limitations imposed by this rule.
(vii) Approval of forms. The Board shall approve standard forms for use by limited practice officers in the performance of services authorized by this rule.
(viii) Fees. The Board shall establish and collect examination and annual fees in such amounts as are necessary to carry out the duties and responsibilities of the Board.
(ix) Regulations. The Board shall propose regulations to implement the provisions of this rule for adoption by the Supreme Court.
(3) Expenses of the Board. Members of the Board shall not be compensated for their services. For their actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties, they shall be reimbursed by the Board in a manner consistent with its rules. All such expenses shall be paid pursuant to a budget submitted to and approved by the Washington State Bar Association on an annual basis. Funds accumulated from examination fees, annual fees, and other revenues shall be used to defray all expenses of the Board. The administrative support to the Board shall be provided by the Washington State Bar Association.
(c) Certification Requirements. An applicant for certification as a limited practice officer shall:
(1) Age. Be at least 18 years of age.
(2) Moral Character. and Fitness. Be of good moral character. and possess the requisite fitness to act as a limited practice officer.
(3) Examination. Satisfy the examination requirements established by the Board.
(4) Oath Application. Execute under oath and file with the Board two copies of his or her Submit an application, in such form as may be required by the Board. Additional proof of any fact stated in the application may be required by the Board. In the event of the failure or refusal of an applicant to furnish any information or proof, or to answer any interrogatories of the Board pertinent to the pending application, the Board may deny the application.
(5) Examination Fee. Pay, upon the filing of an application, the examination fee.
(d) Scope of Practice Authorized by Limited Practice Rule. Notwithstanding any provision of any other rule to the contrary, a person certified as a limited practice officer under this rule may select, prepare and complete documents in a form previously approved by the Board for use by others in, or in anticipation of, closing a loan, extension of credit, sale or other transfer of interest in real or personal property. Such documents shall be limited to deeds, promissory notes, guaranties, deeds of trust, reconveyances, mortgages, satisfactions, security agreements, releases, Uniform Commercial Code documents, assignments, contracts, real estate excise tax affidavits, bills of sale, and powers of attorney. Other documents may be from time to time approved by the Board.
(e) Conditions Under Which Limited Practice Officers May Prepare and Complete Documents. Limited practice officers may render services authorized by this rule only under the following conditions and with the following limitations:
(1) Agreement of the Clients. Prior to the performance of the services, all clients to the transaction shall have agreed in writing to the basic terms and conditions of the transaction. In the case of a power of attorney prepared in anticipation of a transaction, the principal(s) and attorney(s)-in-fact shall have provided the limited practice officer consistent written instructions for the preparation of the power of attorney.
(2) Disclosures to the Clients. The limited practice officer shall advise the clients of the limitations of the services rendered pursuant to this rule and shall further advise them in writing:
(i) that the limited practice officer is not acting as the advocate or representative of either of the clients;
(ii) that the documents prepared by the limited practice officer will affect the legal rights of the clients;
(iii) that the clients' interests in the documents may differ;
(iv) that the clients have a right to be represented by lawyers of their own selection; and
(v) that the limited practice officer cannot give legal advice as to the manner in which the documents affect the clients.
The written disclosure must particularly identify the documents selected, prepared, and/or completed by the limited practice officer and must include the name, signature and number of the limited practice officer.
(f) Continuing Certification Requirements.
(1) Continuing Education. Each limited practice officer must complete a minimum number of credit hours of approved or accredited education, as prescribed by regulation of the Board, during each calendar license year in courses certified by the Board to be appropriate for study by limited practice officers providing services pursuant to this rule; provided, that the limited practice officer shall not be required to comply with this subsection during the calendar license year in which he or she is initially certified.
(2) Financial Responsibility. Each active limited practice officer or employer thereof shall show proof of ability to respond in damages resulting from his or her acts or omissions in the performance of services permitted by this rule. The proof of financial responsibility shall be in such form and in such amount as the Board may by regulation prescribe.
(3) Annual Fee. Each limited practice officer must pay the annual fee established by the Board.
(4) Trust Account. Each active limited practice officer shall certify compliance with Rules 1.12A and 1.12B of the LPO Rules of Professional Conduct.
(g) Existing Law Unchanged. This rule shall in no way expand, narrow or affect existing law in the following areas:
(1) The fiduciary relationship between a limited practice officer and his or her customers or clients;
(2) Conflicts of interest that may arise between the limited practice officer and a client or customer;
(3) The right to act as one's own attorney under the pro se exception to the unauthorized practice of law including but not limited to the right of a lender to prepare documents conveying or granting title to property in which it is taking a security interest;
(4) The lack of authority of a limited practice officer to give legal advice without being licensed to practice law;
(5) The standard of care which a limited practice officer must practice when carrying out the functions permitted by this rule.
(h) Treatment of Funds Received Incident to the Closing of Real or Personal Property Transactions. Persons admitted to practice under this rule shall comply with LPORPC 1.12A and B regarding the manner in which they identify, maintain and disburse funds received incidental to the closing of real and personal property transactions, unless they are acting pursuant to APR 12 (g)(3).
(i) Confidentiality and Public Records.
(1) GR 12.4 shall apply to access to Board records.
(2) Unless expressly authorized by the Supreme Court or by the applicant, all application records, including related investigation files, documents and proceedings, for the limited admission to the practice of law as an LPO are confidential and shall be privileged against disclosure, except as necessary to conduct an investigation, hearing, appeal, or review pursuant to these rules.
(3) Unless expressly authorized by the Supreme Court, all examination questions, scoring keys and other examination data used by the Board to administer the LPO examinations are not subject to public disclosure.
(4) Unless expressly authorized by the Supreme Court or the LPO, the following Board and Bar records are exempt from public access: personal information in Board and Bar records for LPOs and Board members to the extent that disclosure would violate their right of privacy, including home contact information (unless such information is their address of record), Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, identification or security photographs held in Board and Bar records, and personal data including ethnicity, race, disability status, gender, and sexual orientation. LPO license status, license number, dates of admission or licensing, addresses of record, and business telephone numbers, facsimile numbers, and electronic mail addresses (unless there has been a request that electronic mail addresses not be made public) shall not be exempt, provided that any such information shall be exempt if the Chair of the Board approves the confidentiality of that information for reasons of personal security or other compelling reason, which approval must be reviewed annually.
[1] Comment Re: APR 12(d)
Powers of attorney authorizing a person to negotiate and sign documents in anticipation of, or in the closing of, a transaction are included in the documents limited practice officers are authorized to prepare. Such documents may include, but are not limited to, purchase and sale agreements for real or personal property, loan agreements, and letters of intent.
[2] Comment Re: LPO Professional Standard Of Care
The purpose of this comment is to discuss the legal standard of care to which a limited practice officer is subject, while also clarifying the limited duties of a limited practice officer compared to an attorney when selecting and preparing legal documents and to show the greater breadth of a lawyer's duties and services which a party may not expect when engaging a limited practice officer.
Generally, when a non-lawyer selects and prepares a legal document for another, the non-lawyer engages in the unauthorized practice of law. Despite this, the non-lawyer (including a licensed limited practice officer) will be held to the standard of a lawyer: "to comply with the duty of care, an attorney must exercise the degree of care, skill, diligence, and knowledge commonly possessed and exercised by a reasonable, careful and prudent lawyer in the practice of law in this jurisdiction …." Hizey v. Carpenter, 119 Wn.2d 251, 261, 830 P.2d 246 (1992). However, when selecting and preparing approved forms a limited practice officer, though having a limited license to practice law as defined and limited in APR 12, will not be authorized nor charged with many of the duties of a lawyer. Except as provided otherwise in APR 12 rules and regulations, these include the duty to investigate legal matters, to form legal opinions (including but not limited to the capacity of an individual to sign for an entity or whether a legal document is effective), to give legal advice (including advice on how a legal document affects the rights or duties of a party), or to consult with a party on the advisability of a transaction. See also LPORPC 1.1, Competence, and LPORPC 1.3, Communication.
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Unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, terms used in these rules have the following meanings:
(a) "Association" means the Washington State Bar Association;
(b) "Public file" means the pleadings, motions, rulings, decisions, and other formal papers filed in a proceeding;
(c) "Board" when used alone means the Limited Practice Board;
(d) "Board of Governors" means the Board of Governors of the Washington State Bar Association;
(e) "Chair" when used alone means the Chair of the Limited Practice Board;
(f) "Clerk" when used alone means the Association's staff designated to work with the Limited Practice Board and includes the Directory of Regulatory Services and other Association counsel where appropriate;
(g) "Closing Firm" means any bank, depository institution, escrow agent, title company, law firm, or other business, whether public or private, that employs, or contracts for the services of, an LPO for the purpose of providing real or personal property closing services for a transaction;
(h) "Court" unless otherwise specified, means the Supreme Court of Washington;
(i) "Disciplinary action" means sanctions under rule 13.1 and admonitions under rule 13.5;
(j) "ELC" means the Rules for Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct;
(k) "Final" means no review has been sought in a timely fashion or all appeals have been concluded;
(l) "Grievant" means the person or entity who files a grievance (except for a confidential source under rule 5.2);
(m) "Hearing Officer" means the person assigned under rule 10.2 (a)(1) or, when a hearing panel has been assigned, the hearing panel chair;
(n) "LPO" means limited practice officer;
(o) "Mental or physical incapacity" includes, but is not limited to, insanity, mental illness, senility, or debilitating use of alcohol or drugs;
(p) "Panel" means a hearing panel under rule 10.2 (a)(2);
(q) "Party" means disciplinary counsel or respondent, except in rule 2.3(f) "party" also includes a grievant;
(r) "Respondent" means an LPO against whom a grievance is filed or an LPO investigated by the Clerk or disciplinary counsel;
(s) "APR" means the Admission to and Practice Rules;
(t) "CR" means the Superior Court Civil Rules;
(u) "RAP" means the Rules of Appellate Procedure;
(v) "LPORPC" means the Limited Practice Officer Rules of Professional Conduct adopted by the Washington Supreme Court.
(w) Words of authority.
(1) "May" means "has discretion to," "has a right to," or "is permitted to".
(2) "Must" means "is required to".
(3) "Should" means recommended but not required.
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TITLES 2 - 14
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(a) Declaration. The Association annually sends each active LPO a written declaration designed to determine whether the LPO or the LPO's Closing Firm is complying with LPORPC 1.12 A & B. Each active LPO must complete, execute, and deliver to the Association this file a trust account declaration by the date specified in the declaration as required by APR 12.
(b) Noncompliance. Failure to file the declaration by the date specified in section (a) is grounds for discipline. This failure also may subjects the LPO who has failed to comply with this rule to a full audit of his or her books and records, or the Closing Firm's records, as provided in rule 15.1(c), upon request of the Clerk or disciplinary counsel to the discipline committee. A copy of any request made under this section must be served on the LPO. The request must be granted on a showing that the LPO has failed to comply with section (a) of this rule. If the LPO should later comply, the discipline committee has discretion to determine whether an audit should be conducted, and if so the scope of that audit. An LPO or Closing Firm audited under this section is liable for all actual costs of conducting such audit, and also a charge of $100 per day spent by the auditor in conducting the audit and preparing an audit report. Costs and charges are assessed in the same manner as costs under rule 5.3(e).
The Board may adopt regulations regarding the powers in this title subject to the approval of the Board of Governors and the Supreme Court.
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Continuing Education Regulations of the Limited Practice Board
Reviser's note: The brackets and enclosed material in the text of the above section occurred in the copy filed by the agency and appear in the Register pursuant to the requirements of RCW 34.08.040.
Reviser's note: RCW 34.05.395 requires the use of underlining and deletion marks to indicate amendments to existing rules. The rule published above varies from its predecessor in certain respects not indicated by the use of these markings.