I know what to expect: the impact of prior experience on legal empowerment

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Increasing legal empowerment is a key objective of governments and justice systems worldwide. Consequently, the impact of judicable events on legal empowerment is a question of some significance. Subjective Legal Empowerment (SLE) is a measure of legal empowerment based on individual perceptions. SLE is based on Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy. In this study, a sample of over 500 respondents from a Dutch legal assistance clinic were asked about their prior experience of legal conflicts, and completed measures of SLE in relation to a range of legal domains. The results show that previous experience of legal problems results in lowered SLE ratings across a range of different domains, regardless of success/completion of these problems, and that experience within specific legal domains results in significantly lowered empowerment ratings for future problems of that nature. The implications for both the measurement methodology and for the future design of legal procedures are examined.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-205
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Human Development and Capabilities
Issue number2
Early online date28 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2016


  • legal conflicts
  • legal empowerment
  • capabilities
  • capability approach
  • human rights


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