TThe “T” Shaped Lawyer and the Competent Collaborative Paraprofessional (CCP)

Law Students Need to Dot Their “I” and Cross their “T’ With a “CCP”

(Part II)

A Professional Legal Career Perspective


John G. Kelly

B.Com., LL.B., M.Sc. (international relations) M.A. (Jud.Admin) F.CIS


According to Amanda  Smathers,


Twentieth-century lawyers were “I-shaped”—they had deep legal knowledge and skills—but 21st-century lawyers must be “T-shaped.” A T-shaped lawyer still has deep legal expertise but also has the ability to collaborateacross many disciplines, such as technology, business, analytics and data security.


The basic idea is that a T-shapedprofessional has a depthof knowledge in one discipline (the vertical stroke of the T) and a breadth of knowledge across multiple disciplines that allows for collaboration(the horizontal stroke of the T).

The 21stCentury Push on a 20THCentury Legal Profession


Law students and aspiring legal professionals need to look no further than a Supreme Court of Canada decision for validation of this statement. The court lambasted the legal profession’s limited elite “I” expertise in not having the requisite expertise and acumen to amend criminal law practice and procedure by utilizing 21stcentury “case- flow management” technology drivenprinciples and practices to fix unconscionable delays in criminal trials. The Supreme Court took control out of the hands of the legal profession and mandated reasonable time lines that the bar has to abide by in criminal trial proceedings[1].


This is not an isolated example. The Supreme Court of Canada’s Family Justice Action Group[2]found that the legal profession was  utilizing it’s “ I” expertise  to steer divorces through expensive court litigation. The unaffordability for the mainstream population was influencing  well in excess of 50% of divorce claimants to rely on user friendly technology[3]to self- represent rather than engage the services of a lawyer. The federal government has responded by tabling amendments to the Divorce Act that will require lawyers to refer divorce clients to mediators as the preferred first instance divorce professional services providers[4]. New paradigm mediation is embracing a growing array of technology applications and ADR techniques to facilitate cost effective constructive divorce dialogue.[5]


The Curse of Specific Knowledge[6]is Impeding a Critical Bar Learning Experience


I encourage you to access the above article and read it in its entirety, but to do so with the proverbial “grain ofsalt”. Should you read it in the context of the conventional practice of law context you may well miss the central theme and succumb to the excitement within the legal profession that’s on the verge of embracing it for the wrong reasons. There’s  a cohort in the established legal profession that is arguably too excited about the concept of the “T” shaped lawyer out of self-interest. They’ve interpreted the message and meaning in a manner that’s comfortable to the establishment. What Amani Smathers is articulating is the cause and effect of fundamental disruption in the legal services market[7]and a corresponding clarion call for dramatic restructuring of the legal profession and, by implication, legal education. The establishment interpretation, which is characteristic of dominate players in a market when confronted with a disruptive paradigm shift[8], envisages legal education being broadened to encompass a wide range of law related knowledge bases. The end result would be a “Renaissance” lawyer capable of designing and delivering any and all manner of legal and law related professional services. To put in the context of the Smathers’ article, this version of  “21stcentury lawyer” would have an unparalleled “breadthand depth   in law and law related enablers.


How to Dot the “I” and Cross the “T”


Jason Moyse, co-founder of Law Made, has developed a succinct interpretative analysis  that is in synch with the central theme of Smathers’ seminal article. I’m enclosing his diagrammatic illustration below.[9] Yes, “new paradigm lawyers”do have to acquire a “depth”of knowledge in a legal “niche” that extends beyond the JD  generic professional education. This is obtained with a graduate LLM law degree. Yes, that depth”level of legal knowledge must encompass a breadthlevel of competency in the emergent technology and law related enablers that facilitate “professional services” capability in that “niche”. However, breadthis not synonymous with “best practices capability”


New paradigm lawyers” are going to have to collaboratewith a wide range of new paradigmlaw related professional services providers and/or technology enablers as illustrated on the lateral line of the “T” Bar. Welcome to the emergence of the “newparadigm paraprofessional[10]The paraprofessionalwill have the depthof knowledge necessary to enable the technology and/or legal services enabler to function at a “best practice level” and the “breadth   level of competency in the “I” law niche  to “collaborate”with the expert lawyer.  The paraprofessional will require graduate level education that is multi-disciplinary (enabler depth& law breadth)to “collaborate”at a comparable best practice level. This is “best practice level” design and delivery of legal  and law related professional services in the “21stCentury Dynamic Professional Services Market” where the mantra is “Law When Necessary but Not Necessarily the Law”.


It’s Time to Integrate  the” “CCP” into the Legal Services Mix


I’ve labeled this new paradigm paraprofessional as the “Competent Collaborative  Paraprofessional (CCP).  This is the undergraduate with passion or predominant interest in a subject or discipline that has a legal component embedded in the core knowledge competency. What are these subjects and/or disciplines? The question is rhetorical. It’s become increasingly difficult to identify an area where there’s no intersection with law when it comes to the application of expertise in knowledge management of any discipline. Moreover, technology and compatible professional fields such as legal project management, billings management, case flow management,  ADR, etc., are now acknowledged as core enablers in  “best practices”in law and law related professional services. UK law schools have taken a leadership role in the design and delivery of innovative direct entry “Combined one- year graduate LLM/MA Lawdegrees that provide this emergent cohort of “CCP’s” with the requisite learning experiences required for  “depth”in the “best practice”  collaborative relationships with a lawyer with comparable LLM expertise in the “depth”of the “I” legal niche.

 JD & LLB Graduates &  Aspiring Professionals looking for graduate credentials to open doors in the “21stCentury Dynamic Professional Services Market

Take the Advice of the Canadian Government and Go Abroad to Acquire the requisite“depth”and “breadth”of  expertise to acquire “T” best practices “collaborative” capability

Learning abroad may have once been seen as an optional extravagance. It now needs to be recognized as a national imperative. Providing students with international experience is a smart investment in their future success – and Canada’s[11]

The Canadian government has come to the realization that the future prosperity of the country is dependent on developing an incoming generation of professionals with the skills and knowledge management capability to be active participants in the global economy and international political arena. “Global education generates the skills, understanding, outlooks and relationships that can help our country at a time of rapid change in the world and at home”[12].






[6]Andrew McAfee, Erik Brynjolfsson, The Machine Platform Crowd- Harnessing Our Digital Futures. New York. WW. Norton & Company. (2017) at P.21

[7]Clayton M. Christensen, The Innovator’s Dilemma. Boston. Harvard University Business School Press (1997).


[9]Jason Moyes,Innovation in Education for 21st Century Lawyers with the launch of the LexisNexis Law Made Roadshow,


[10]Richard Susskind, Daniel Susskind Oxford, The Future of the Professions, Oxford University Press. (2015)

[11]Report of the Study Group on Global Education. Global Education for Canadians – Equipping Young Canadians to Succeed at Home & Abroad. CIPS – University of Ottawa, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. (November 2017). (


[12]Ibid at P. 10

Posted in Future Law Perspectives.