In the June, 2009, issue of Paralegal Perspectives, the North Carolina Bar Association newletter for the Paralegal Division, Teresa Bowling notes in “Chair Comments,”
As the year progressed, we evolved in purpose. Answering President Charles L. Becton’s charge to focus on public service initiatives, the Paralegal Division engaged in various pro-bono and public service projects. Paralegal Division members joined forces with the members of the NCBA Young Lawyers Division (“YLD”) on the Wills for Heroes project. In this innovative service project sponsored by the YLD, volunteer attorneys and paralegals assisted first responders, including law enforcement officers, firefighters and veterans, with estate planning document drafting. On a personal note, I attended the Oct. 25, 2008 Wills for Heroes event in Greensboro and found it to be THE most professionally-rewarding endeavor in my 21-year career as a paralegal. The gratitude expressed by those receiving these free services was heart-felt and humbling. This worthwhile project will continue in the coming year and I encourage all Paralegal Division members to volunteer to serve.
Volunteering for pro bono legal work is part of professionalism. It is encouraged, if not required, by most ethical codes. See, for example, Section 1.4 of the NFPA Model Code of Ethics, “A PARALEGAL SHALL SERVE THE PUBLIC INTEREST BY CONTRIBUTING TO THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE LEGAL SYSTEM AND DELIVERY OF QUALITY LEGAL SERVICES, INCLUDING PRO BONO PUBLICO SERVICES.”
It also provides “newbies to networking” an opportunity to ease into networking both within and outside of the legal system. Volunteers have a common purpose for gathering that provides a focus for communication minimizing the need for “small talk.” It can provide a forum for testing and developing networking skills that can later be applied in more difficult situations.
By the way, apropos of this blog’s continuing discussion of the use of the terms “paralegal” and “legal assistant”, as previously reported happening in Michigan, the North Carolina Bar recently changed the name of this organization. Bowling reports,
At its final meeting last year, the NCBA Board of Governors unanimously approved the Division’s request to change its name from the “Legal Assistants Division” to the “Paralegal Division.” This name change was to better reflect who we are and how and where we work as paralegals in North Carolina. A welcome, yet unintended, benefit was an increase in membership by those who did not understand that we were, in fact, a paralegal organization.
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