Posts Tagged ‘NALA’

Professional Association Membership Benefits

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

The benefits of belonging to a paralegal professional association have been discussed often on this blog. (See Professional Associations category) They are also the subject of a recent post on the Paralegal Today discussion forum: “Hello, I am about to complete my BA in Criminal Justice and plan to pursue a Master of Professional Studies (Paralegal) in January. Do you think it would benefit me (networking, possible scholarship opportunities, etc.) to join an organization like NALA as a student?” I agree with the answer given by Tina Medlock,

I’d suggest joining a national association and your local affiliate of that organization. Networking at the national level is always great, especially if you want to relocate, or you work throughout the country, or national involvement is part of your professional goals. However, your networks built through local affiliate will give you a much more specific chance to learn and grow as a professional. You’ll have more chances to meet people within your local legal community; more chances to volunteer; and more chances to be able to pick up the phone, call across town, and say “Hey Alice, how do you do this?

Benefits of membership are also the topic of a Paralegal Voice podcast that I recommend:

On this edition of The Paralegal Voice, co-hosts Lynne DeVenny and Vicki Voisin welcome Patricia E. Infanti, PP, PLS, President of NALS, the Association for Legal Professionals, and Kathleen R. Amirante, PP, PLS, the association’s President Elect, who discuss the opportunities provided by membership in a professional association. They look at the history and mission of NALS, what NALS is doing to attract a diverse membership and how they are informing attorneys and the general public about the qualifications for using the title ‘paralegal’.

However, I’d like to emphasize that paralegal professional association provide more than just networking and similar benefits. They provide opportunities – opportunities to advance not only oneself, but the paralegal profession itself and the communities to which the paralegal professionals belong.  So, yes, join paralegal professional associations, but do not just join them – participate, volunteer, lead those associations.

By the way, NALA 35th Annual Convention and Exhibition will be in Jacksonville, Florida July 14-17, 2010, the NALS 59th Annual Education Conference & National Forum is scheduled for October 21-24, 2010 in Branson, MO, and the 2010 NFPA Regulation / National Leadership / PACE Ambassadors Joint Conference will be June 4-6, 2010 in Washington DC.

Real Paralegals in Louisiana.

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Lest one gets the wrong impression regarding the paralegal profession from the goings-on in Jefferson Parish, I am taking this opportunity to point out that NALA’s new president elect is Karen Greer McGee, ACP, First Deputy Clerk for the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport, and a member of both the Louisiana State Paralegal Association and the Northwest Louisiana Paralegal Association. NALA’s announcement was made on March 26th, but I’m just getting to it, inspired by being in New Orleans for a visit and planning taking a look at the paralegal studies program at Tulane University tomorrow.

Congratulations, Karen! The demonstration of your qualifications and dedication to the profession could not have come at a more opportune time for the paralegal profession in Louisiana.

Paralegal Menter Mastermind Call Follow-up

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

I had a very interesting and enjoyable time last night as The Paralegal Mentor’s“Mastermind” Call of the month. I believe there is still time so sign up for a recorded version of the call at The Paralegal Mentor’ssite. Alsom, check out the other services, many free, offered there.

There is only time for a quick follow-up today and I will focus on Vicki Voison’s statement that as a new paralegal in a small town she found it necessary to “enlarge her world.” It seems to me that this is sound advice not only for each paralegal individually but for the profession as a whole.

In order for the profession to obtain a unified identity (which is not the same as unanimity of opinion), there has to be as much interaction between the members of the profession as possible, together with an exchange of ideas, concerns, problems and solutions. This has, in the past, been done through personal participation in professional associations such as NALA, NFPA and NALS, and I believe that is still the best way. However, social media presents an additional opportunity in this regard through listservs, forums and blogs.

I encourage each of you to participate as fully as you can in each of these opportunities. Professional associations provide opportunities for you to network and satisfy ethical obligations. Listserv, forum and blogs provide opportunities not only to learn, but to contribute to the development of the profession. Each of you has something valuable to contribute through your comments to blog posts, responses to listserv questions and, in general, the telling to others of your experiences, espeically those experiences that result in solutions to problems.

Certainly I view that this blog not as a forum for me, but for the paralegal profession. Your contributions are not only welcome, but strongly solicited.

What Can Paralegal Associations Do For the Profession?

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Check out what the Lafayette Paralegal Association (Louisiana) has done as it celebrates its 25th anniversary as reported at theadvertiser.com:

Celebrating their 25th Anniversary this year, the Lafayette Paralegal Association (LPA) was organized in 1984 to identify common goals and objectives in the paralegal profession. The number of paralegals in the workforce has more than doubled in recent years, and so has the LPA membership. LPA members live and work in Lafayette and the surrounding Parishes. Open to all paralegals, the Association has categories for persons who are actively working as a paralegal under an attorney’s supervision and for those who are not actively working (associate members) as paralegals. There are also categories for students and sustaining members.

LPA strives to promote the paralegal profession through continuing education, fellowship, and networking within the legal community, and by encouraging professional ethics. LPA works closely and coordinates with local Bar Associations. In the last few years, we have made great strides in promoting continuing education by encouraging certification and by providing guest speakers at monthly meetings who present varied topics of interest to members and to members of our community. Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits have been approved by NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants) for most of our presentations.

Consider especially the inclusion of the term “fellowship” as well as “networking.” Almost all associations provide an opportunity for networking. A group that provides fellowship is a treasure, indeed! Given its twenty-five year history with increasing membership it appears that LPA is such a treasure.

Which to Chose: Masters of Paralegals Studies or CP/PACE Registered Paralegal Certifications

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Megan M. has contacted me asking:

I’ve recently read several posts on your blog site, and was wondering if you could provide your thoughts on the following subject:

 

For a recent graduate from a Bachelor’s program in Paralegal Studies (ABA Approved program), do you believe it would be more beneficial for said student to next pursue NALA certification or instead pursue a Master’s degree in Paralegal Studies?

The current economy has created a limited number of jobs,  and I wonder which “add-on” would help distinguish a Paralegal in a large pool of candidates?

 

Your thoughts would be appreciated, either directly or via your blog.

I would like to hear from practicing paralegals before giving a final answer on this as they are more likely to have relevant data on this than an academic, even one who practiced law for three decades. However, my initial thought is “it depends.”

Certifications such as CP or CLA by NALA, PACE Registered Paralegal by NFPA, and PP (Professional Paralegal) by NALS are less expensive and faster to obtain than a Master’s, so they are more likely to “add-on” to your marketability in the economy as it exists now. No one knows what the economy will be like by the time you finish a Master’s.

However, unfortunately there is a great deal of confusion among the Bar over what these certifications mean. Although the ABA has recognized these certifications, many attorneys have not yet become knowledegable about them. As I pointed out in a previous post, many attorneys are confused as to exactly what a paralegal is and can do in general. The present status of paralegal education is no less confusing to many attorneys. What is the difference, in terms of the work the paralegal can perform between a paralegal certificate, an associates degree in paralegal studies and a bachelors degree in paralegal studies? What does it mean to be certified? Is being certified the same as having a certificate? Who does the certification?

Certificates of completion of a paralegal program can mean nothing more than that a person completed a few courses, but they are often confused with a person being a “Certified Paralegal.”  As NALA points out,

Occasionally, paralegals call themselves “certified” by virtue of completing a paralegal training course, or another type of preparatory education. Although a school may award a certificate of completion, this is not the same as earning professional certification by an entity such as NALA. In this instance the school’s certificate is designation of completion of a training program.

Most attorneys, on the other hand, are familiar with Master’s Degrees and are impressed by them, so a Master of Paralegal Studies may draw more attention to your resume than a CP or PACE Registered Paralegal designation. Also, you are likely to be able to obtain the CP or PACE Registered Paralegal designation fairly easily by the time you complete the Masters simply because you will have mastered the material necessary to take the exams and thus have both “add-ons.”

Your state or local paralegal association may be able to give you information regarding the prevalence of CP, PACE RP, or PP paralegals in the area and the general awareness among the local bar of their significance. You may also check websites for law offices that list their paralegal staff and see how many have the CP, PACE RP, or PP designation. A firm with several CPs is more likely to recognize the value of the certification. In general the more sophisticate the attorneys in your area are, the more likely they are to understand the significance of NALA, NFPA or NALS certification

By the way, there are advanced certifications for specific areas over and above the general CP certification. NALA, for example, offers Advanced Paralegal Certification in a number of competencies. There is also a new organization, The Organization of Legal Professionals, which is developing certification in e-discovery. (More on the latter, later.)

Filling a Gap

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

I’ve spoken often here about the importance of belonging to and participating in paralegal professional associations. Recently I began listing state associations and mentioned that NALA and NFPA have lists of local affiliates on their websites. Still there are some gaps – areas where there are no existing associations or associations that have gone dormant. Don’t let this stop you! As is the case with almost all aspects of your career and your work, be (I dislike this word) proactive – take charge. Here’s an example excerpted from a report on phillyBurbs.com:

Paralegal group fills void in county

By: RACHEL CANELLI

The Intelligencer

In the growing field of paralegals, some Bucks County Community College students believed there was a void. So, they decided to fill it.

BCCC students and alumni recently formed the Bucks County Paralegal Association. The group’s goal is to collaborate and network with other legal support staff.

“There is a real need for it,” said interim association president and BCCC student Kara McClenahan. “People want the organization so they can bounce ideas off each other, to network for employment opportunities and continue their education, and to keep up on the business, legal terms and how the community’s changing.”

The group took shape in BCCC Professor Tracy Timby’s “computers in law offices” class. The students researched the subject, and when they interviewed those in the legal community, they found people wanted such an organization. Timby, a Newtown attorney, is also director of the BCCC paralegal program

Remember when it comes to paralegal professionalism you are seldom alone. In this case you  may obtain assistance from either NALA or NFPA. It is likely there is a paralegal down the street or in the next office thinking the same thing you are.

“Independent” Paralegals

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

The definition of “paralegal” agreed upon by the ABA and NALA, and accepted by many other organizations and courts, includes the concept that the paralegal works “under the supervision and direction of an attorney” and “performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.” (Emphasis added.) The NFPA definition is slightly different and includes the statement, “This person may be retained or employed by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency or other entity or may be authorized by administrative, statutory or court authority to perform this work.”

There are instances in which paralegals form their own business and work “independently” for a variety of attorneys, i.e., they are independent contractors, but still work under the supervision and direction of an attorney. There are other individuals who work independent of any attorney. When they do they often risk being accused of UPL – unauthorized practice of law. (In a later post, I hope to discuss some of the more famous cases of this.) There are a number of issues here for the paralegal profession. One is whether such practitioners should truly be considered paralegals or something else, say “Legal Document Preparers,” a group that has it’s own national association. Another is whether this whole issue argues in favor of regulation and licensing as opposed to voluntary certification.

All of this is a rather long lead-in to a communication I recently received and am posting here ( with permission of the author) for your consideration and comment:

Hello Professor Mongue, I came across your information today as I was doing some research on the Internet. I have been a certified paralegal for 25yrs. I have my own paralegal business www.martinparalegalservices.com. Please review my website.  I would like to have an open discussion with you regarding the paralegal field.  As a business owner I am on the opposite end of what you are talking about because my business works with Pro Se Litigants only and this is an area in the paralegal profession that many paralegals would not dare try because of being accused of UPL, Unauthorized Practice of Law.
I have been in this profession for too long and I am never worried or concerned about what attorneys or being accused of UPL. It has never happened to me and never will.  I am a seasoned, veteran paralegal that has worked in the Criminal Justice System for over twenty years in many different environments and positions.  Please go through my website it explains who I am and what I do and like I said I would like to have some discussion with what you are doing for the paralegal profession I am sure I can bring a good perspective to your research.  Thank you and look forward to hearing from you soon.  Efrem
Efrem B. Martin BA, Certified Paralegal & Owner
Martin Paralegal Services LLC

NALA National Awards

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

The NALA website announces the 2009 NALA National Award Recipients:

2009 NALA Presidents Award Recipient
Michelle Erdmann, ACP
Fargo, North Dakota

Michelle Erdmann has been a “guiding force” in the Western Dakota Association of Legal Assistants and NALA, providing inspiration and motivation to paralegals on the local, state and national levels. Before leaving the region for new employment, Michelle served in numerous leadership positions for the Western Dakota Association of Legal Assistants. Her performance was described as “calm and patient,” offering guidance to members and resolutions to difficulties.

Her work with NALA includes working with the Professional Development Committee as Chair, and as a member of the NALA Board of Directors. she has also served as Ethics Chair, and as a member of the NALA Continuing Education Council. Most recently, she served as a member of the NALA Advanced Paralegal Certification Board.

2009 National Affiliated Associations Achievement Award
Connie Kretchmer, ACP
Omaha, Nebraska

A former NALA president, Connie has been heavily involved in the paralegal profession for several decades as an educator, author, and as a paralegal. She has been a member of NALA for more than 24 years, and has served both NALA and the Nebraska Paralegal Association. She is currently in her second three year term as a member of the NALA Advanced Paralegal Certification Board. She is also serving as a faculty member of the NALA CLA/CP review course, and is greatly involved in helping those seeking the Certified Paralegal credential. She has contributed to numerous CLA/CP review programs on the local and regional level, and has contributed material to the NALA CLA Mock Examination and Study Guide. Her dedication to furthering paralegal education and career enhancement has inspired members of the Nevada Paralegal Association, and the power of her personality and helpful attitude has influenced many paralegals throughout the nation.

2009 NALA Affiliated Associations Outstanding Contribution Award
Sandra D. Hatch, CP
Portland, Oregon

Sandra Hatch has taken the Pacific Northwest Paralegal Association to a pinnacle of excellence with her leadership as President. She has served on the PNPA Board for nine years, was a Past President, and is currently chair of the Legal Education Committee. She is a litigation paralegal with more than 30 years of experience, currently working in labor and employment law. Her influence is credited with bringing PNPA’s membership back from 12 members in 2002 to over 70 today.  She has also help reform a CLA/CP Study Group to prepare for the March 2010 Certified Paralegal examination.


Paralegal v Legal Assistant – Does It Matter? (Part Two)

Monday, August 10th, 2009

As a follow up to a recent post on this topic, in 2007 the Legal Assistants Section of the State Bar of Michigan changed its name from “Legal Assistants Section” to “Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section.” name change in May 2008. A story by Linda Jevahirian in the Michigan Paralegal reports the reason for the change and some research she performed regarding the use of the terms.

The change occurred “Because both terms are used in the field, similar to the way in which ‘lawyer’ and ‘attorney’ are interchangeable, the membership felt the section name should reflect both titles.” I am not sue this characterization is correct, as is somewhat indicated by Linda’s research on “Which term is more accurate?”:

In an effort to determine whether one term—“paralegal” or “legal assistant”—is more applicable, I researched the terminology most often used by a range of paralegal organizations. What I discovered is that neither is used more often than the other.

The report gives a good history of the use of both terms by organizations such as the ABA, the International Paralegal Management Association,NALA, NFPA, and some Michigan state associations. While this research does show that there is not yet a consensus on the subject, it does appear to me to indicate a trend exemplified by the report that “IPMA changed its name from ‘The Legal Assistant Management Association’ (LAMA) to its current name to mirror the ABA’s name change two years earlier.”

As I stated in the earlier post, the profession would be well served by some standardization in this regard. This report set forth at least one reason for this in its analysis of  NALS:

Get ready for even more confusion. Many legal secretaries refer to themselves as “legal assistants.” I asked a representative of NALS (a national association with state and local chapters) for its view since it originally represented secretaries and only recently changed its focus to include a broader range of legal professionals, from receptionists to lawyers. NALS has concluded that, although the terms “legal assistant” and “paralegal” were at one time interchangeable, the term “legal assistant” is now a generic term for someone who works for an attorney.

 

Paralegal v Legal Assistant – Does it matter?

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

A few months ago a post on the Western New York Paralegals Association bulletin board forum on professionalism included a survey asking whether law firms used the term “paralegal” or the term “legal assistant,” and which term respondents preferred. There were only twelve respondents so, in addition to not being a representative sample of personnel in American law offices  the responds are statistically significant. It is, nonetheless, interesting. One firm used “legal assistant,” five used “paralegal,” and two used the terms interchangeably. Nine of the respondents preferred the use of the term “paralegal,” while none expressed a preference for “legal assistant.”

As noted in a previous post here there is still a lot of confusion both within and without the legal profession as to just what a paralegal is. This confusion is aggravated by the use  of multiple terms for people who perform essentially the same roles. While NALA and ABA have agreed upon a definition, it is of little help to those outside the profession. As the medical profession has learned with regard to physician assistants, standardization of usage would be helpful in the legal profession. The fact (assuming a larger study confirmed this survey sample) that those persons performing the role prefer “paralegal” is significant.

This difficulty is compounded by “independent paralegals” and “legal document assistant professionals,” terms that will be discussed in later posts.