Paralegal Education and its Appealing Demand

The globalization of economy is changing forever the way in which law in America is practiced and the way in which it is taught in American law schools. Changes involve both the areas of law that attorneys need to know and the technological capabilities that they must have. A few years ago, it was common for most law schools to offer a general course in international law, although not necessarily every year. The largest law schools would have a few more specialized international law courses.Increasingly, however, there is an international dimension to nearly every area of practice and this is being reflected in an internationalization of the curriculum. At law school, for example, now have courses in such diverse areas as paralegal education, international criminal law, international business transactions, international environmental law and international human rights law.
The environmental lawyer must know what steps can be taken to address air pollution from Canada, water pollution from Mexico or fluorocarbon emissions in Germany. The corporate attorney has to be able to draft contracts for the purchase of raw materials from anywhere in the world and know how to enforce them before courts or arbitration tribunals in foreign as well as American jurisdictions.Dealing with the world economy also requires specialized technical skills. Massive amounts of information about foreign laws and transactions previously available only in the largest libraries in major cities now are available, sometimes at virtually no cost, on the Internet. This means lawyers can provide many services more quickly and cheaply than before, but only if they are properly trained to use these tools. Law schools must continue to move quickly to ensure that their graduates are proficient in rapidly changing information technologies.The globalization of the economy is one important trend that is transforming paralegal education, but it is not the only one. Continued complaints about the cost of legal services and the growing unwillingness of even very large companies to pay for on the job training for their attorneys have had a clearly discernible impact on the way law is practiced and, again, the way it is being taught in law schools.To reduce the cost of the single most expensive legal service – prosecuting or defending a lawsuit – many courts are encouraging litigants to pursue alternative forms of dispute resolution. Law schools thus must train their students to find ways to resolve disputes outside the courtroom. Whereas, only a few years ago law schools might have offered a single course called alternative dispute resolution, they now must offer distinct courses in negotiation, mediation and arbitration.
In order to shorten the learning curve for new attorneys and to make them more effective earlier in their careers, law schools have placed a new emphasis on training students in professional skills. Lawyers in early America learned their craft by studying in the office of a practitioner. When universities began to teach law as an academic subject in the 19th century, there was a shift toward emphasizing the more theoretical dimensions of the subject.Although law schools long have offered the occasional course to trial practice, there has been a recent explosion of efforts to bring more practical training back into the curriculum. More and more instructors integrate simulation exercises into their classes, so that students don’t just talk about contracts, they actually draft one. A new American Bar Association accreditation standard adopted only last summer now requires all law schools to offer their students experience in dealing with real clients, whether through off campus field placement programs or on campus clinics.This is not to suggest that the law and paralegal education have become less jurisprudentially interesting. The globalization of practice means that lawyers must have a broader conceptual understanding than before, not a narrower one. During the past two decades, law schools have witnessed the emergence of numerous new perspectives on law and justice, drawing on many different fields outside the law, such as economic analysis, literary criticism and feminist theory.
Further, the emergence of new technologies, in addition to providing opportunities for problem solving, also raises novel and fascinating paralegal issues. The challenge for law schools thus is to produce attorneys who have the imagination and creativity to address the novel problems created by our increasingly interdependent world and rapidly changing technology, while also stressing the development of concrete skills. This is truly an exciting time to be engaged in the study and practice of the law.

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