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A study of the changing needs of the legal profession in the twenty-first century

Jody V Harrison, Johnson & Wales University


This research was designed to identify the changing needs of the legal profession in the twenty-first century. The study drew on a systematic random sampling of Rhode Island lawyers and paralegals. A comprehensive list of knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes (values) needed to engage successfully in the practice of law was developed by the researcher drawing on The MacCrate Report (1992); American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE) Core Competencies for Paralegal Programs (1994); MD2000, Brown University School of Medicine's competency-based curriculum (1997); Suffolk University's employer survey of paralegal use (1998); and the London firm of Herbert Smith's publication entitled Litigation (1998). The ideas from a preliminary focus group composed of an expert team of lawyers and paralegals were combined to form a questionnaire for a pilot survey. Thereafter, revised questionnaires were sent to the final sample. Completing the questionnaire involved Identifying necessary knowledge, skills, abilities and attitudes (values) required to successfully engage in the legal profession. Confirmatory factor analysis identified nine factors comprising the legal competencies of the instrument. Each factor was then subjected to analysis of variance procedures to examine for significant differences between lawyers and paralegals over the competencies identified. Principal findings revealed a significant difference in the perceptions of lawyers and paralegals regarding several of the nine measured factors. Professional Self-Development was ranked first by both groups indicating individual commitment to goals indicative of a self-governing profession. The significant differences between both groups regarding Paralegal's Career would seem to indicate that lawyers need help in learning how to make better use of paralegals, and that paralegals need to examine their career image. The legal profession may need, as Cross (1991) has defined them, a level of performer who is a “gourmet learner”—someone who designs and creates a good learning experience by recognizing the needed skills. The legal profession has many different needs in many different specialties. The role of paralegal educators will be to help lifelong learners develop a taste for good learning experiences and to choose from a wide variety of learning resources that best meet the needs at the time" (Cross, 199 1, p. 11).

Subject Area

Law|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Harrison, Jody V, "A study of the changing needs of the legal profession in the twenty-first century" (1999). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI9941906.