Posts Tagged ‘NFPA’

NFPA Provides Webinar on Pro Bono Work: Register Now!

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

As frequently discussed here (see “Volunteering” category) pro bono work, of course, benefits the persons receiving the services and the public, but provides just as much if not more benefits to the paralegal performing the services in the form of experience, networking, fulfilling ethical requirements, and just plain feeling good about doing good as well as benefiting the paralegal profession. So I please to re-post this announcement posted by Theresa Prater on NFPA’s LinkedIn discussion board:

Announcement from National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. – PRO BONO WEBINAR – MARCH 29 — REGISTRATION OPEN

Here is the link to the registration form for the first NFPA Pro Bono Webinar to be held on March 29:

Our speaker is Michael Adler of Philadelphia, whose topic is “Meaningful Giving: The Benefits of Helping Others While Networking Through Pro Bono Work.” This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about networking opportunities while giving back. There is no CLE credit for this webinar.

This is a free event for NFPA members; there is a small charge for non-members. We hope to make pro bono webinars available throughout the coming year.

Alternative Law Practice Structures

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Whenever the ABA gets involved in anything involving “nonlawyers” (a term that, when used by the ABA using is going to encompass persons with some connection to law not just members of the public, i.e., inter alia paralegals), paralegals ought to perk up and make sure their voice is heard. According to the a post by Robert Hrouda, RP, Vice President and Director of Positions and Issues at National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc., on the NFPA LinkedIn Discussion Board:

NFPA Comments on ABA Discussion Draft Regarding Alternative Law Practice Structures

Good morning everyone. In early December, 2011, the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 published for comment a Discussion Draft with cover memo relating to Alternative Law Practice Structures. In sum, they are discussing changes to ABA Rule of Professional Conduct 5.4 in order to allow nonlawyer ownership in law firms. The ABA Discussion Draft can be found at:

On January 27, 2012, NFPA responded to the ABA in support of this proposed rule change. NFPA’s response is available on the NFPA website, front page banner, and also on the website under the VPPI tab, Regulation (See National section of Regulation tab).

This is one of the many advantages of professional organizations such as NFPA. However, it is only an advantage if the association does indeed speak for you on an issue. Take some time and read the proposed rule change and decide whether NFPA was correct in supporting it. If you are a member of NFPA, let the leaders know whether or not you support its support of the proposed change. NFPA is a good organization in part because of its leadership, but any organization is only as good as its membership in the long run.

Paralegal Superstar

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

There appears to be no escaping headlines like “Paralegal Who Faked Kidnapping and Law Degree Is Sentenced for Embezzlement.” For awhile I referenced such articles in posts collected in the category entitled, “Paralegal Crimes.” Lately, however, I just ignore them unless there is something in the article that sparks a comment about an issue of particular importance to the paralegal profession. Instead, my focus is on those paralegals who exemplify the best what professional paralegals and the paralegal profession can be personally and professionally. Once the dust clears on some other matters requiring my time and attention, I hope to create a page on this blog for articles about paralegals who win “Paralegal of the Year” awards. In the meantime, congratulations to RoxAnn Mack of Longmont, Colorado. The Longmont Times-Call reports in part:

LONGMONT — She rolls up her sleeves to give back in all sorts of ways — by donating blood six times a year, researching arrest warrants for homeless people in Denver, leading a team in the annual Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Race for the Cure and more.

Yet, it surprised Longmont’s RoxAnn Mack in 2011 when her pro bono paralegal work and community service won recognition from the Colorado Supreme Court, the Colorado Bar Association and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations.

In December, she got one more kudo when, a website dedicated to serving and connecting paralegal professionals, named her one of 12 “paralegal superstars” nationwide. She will be featured on the March page of the organization’s calendar.

“I was kind of surprised by all of this because I just didn’t think that I had done enough,” Mack, 51, said.

Take a moment to read the entire article. Of notable significance, it seems to me, is the breadth of the recognition of her achievements – not only fellow paralegals, but the state bar and Supreme Court.

Paralegal Appointed to State Pracitice of Law Board

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

I’ve posted here from time to time about bar associations integrating paralegal professionals into their meetings and membership, and about court recognition of the role and value of paralegal professionals, each such instance being an advancement for the paralegal profession as well as the individual paralegals involved. Today, an additional step – a paralegal appointed to Washington State Bar’s Practice of Law Board. Here’s the announcement from Theresa Prater of NFPA from the NFPA LinkedIn group board:

Congratulations to NFPA Member Sue Beichley, Appointed to the Washington Practice of Law Board!

Sue Beichley, a paralegal at Injury at Sea in Seattle, WA, a member of the Washington State Paralegal Association, was recently appointed to the Washington State Bar’s Practice of Law Board. She attended her first meeting last week in Olympia.

This is a great stride for the paralegal profession — courts and lawyers who value input from our profession.

More information on the Practice of Law Board can be found at

The Paralegal Contract

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

My last post was a set of 10 New Year Resolutions for Paralegals. Number two on the list is “Join a professional association.” I am, in general, a big fan of professional associations as anyone who checks out the “Professional Associations” category can attest. When run effectively they provide benefits to the individual members, to the public, and to the profession itself. In this “guest post” Clifford Smith argues that the ABA and most paralegal professional associations have made the profession into one that is subservient rather than independent, thus curtailing rather than enhancing its historical roll. [Clifford also contributed an article on Independent Paralegals to The Empowered Paralegal Professionalism Anthology.] When I contacted Clifford for permission to re-publish his “The Paralegal Contract” article, he informed me that there is now a Part II to “The Paralegal Contract.” Only Part I is reprinted here, but Part II can be read by clicking this link.

Here is Part I:

The Paralegal Contract
By Clifford C. Smith*

If the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau were alive today, what would he have to say about paralegals? 1 Would he say paralegals are born free and everywhere they are in chains? Perhaps not such a dramatic statement, yet at the heart of his central work, Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique, there is an underlying premise of freedom.2
Here, The Paralegal Contract briefly describes the evolution of the independent paralegal movement and the organizations that have emerged around paralegals, vying for control of the paralegal profession through certifications, regulations and educational guidelines. Ultimately, The Paralegal Contract encourages all paralegals to act from a deeper center of awareness, as opposed to the subservient support role that has been endorsed by paralegal organizations and advanced by the ABA’s Standing Committee of Paralegals. In many ways, law and its application has become separated from the higher principles of equality and social justice, resulting in unhappiness among many members of the legal profession, from paralegals to lawyers.

Much of the legal work being performed today is extrinsically motivated and revolves around personal financial outcomes, rather than on the intrinsic motivation to deliver legal services to those who need it the most – poor people with no access to justice.3 With the present global economic crisis, the way law will be delivered and practiced is being transformed, as consumers look for affordable solutions to legal problems that don’t involve traditional aspects of law delivery. In effect, corporations and small business will continue to slash their budgets and look for legal solutions through self-help resources, interactive legal software, internet-based law solutions, alternative dispute resolution, and online mediation. Paralegals have an opportunity to be at the forefront of this major transformation and shift, while also challenging and expanding their present roles in the legal workplace.

Paralegals – A Brief History
There are two distinct paralegal groups that emerged around the same time – one was the legal assistant who worked for a lawyer or law firm – and the other was the independent paralegal, which evolved out of the self-help law movement driven by the countercultural movement of the 1960s. Both took rather different paths. For the most part, the legal assistant was not a mainstream concept in the 1960s or 1970s, since most legal assistants worked behind the scenes and little was known about their actual function in the law office. On the other hand, the self-help legal movement was driven by a California based publisher known as Nolo Press, and by non-lawyers who provided self-help legal services directly to consumers.4 Gradually, these self-help providers became known as “independent paralegals,” and many of them operating self-help law clinics were unjustly targeted and shut down, because they were competing with lawyers.

Thus, it was through controversy that independent paralegals gained media recognition and the term “paralegal” stuck in the minds of consumers looking for affordable solutions to their legal problems. It was also through consumer trust and an affinity towards paralegals that propelled the name into mainstream consciousness. It was much later that the term paralegal was incorporated into what was generally referred to as the legal assistant working for a lawyer or law firm. Even magazines like the Legal Assistant Today, years later changed its name to Paralegal Today.

The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) is the only national organization that incorporated the word paralegal in its name from its inception in 1974.5 It was founded by eight local associations, some of which later changed their names to incorporate the term paralegal:

Atlanta Association of Legal Assistants (Georgia Association of Paralegals); Minnesota Association of Legal Assistants (Minnesota Paralegal Association); Rocky Mountain Legal Assistants Association (Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association); and San Francisco Association of Legal Assistants (San Francisco Paralegal Association).

One of the first proprietary schools for paralegals was the Paralegal Institute, Inc., which was formed in 1972, in New York. The founder, Carl E. Person, is a Harvard Law School graduate and attorney, who brought an antitrust action against the ABA in connection with its Guidelines and Procedures for Approval of Legal Assistant Education Programs. 6 Person’s contention was that the ABA’s paralegal school accreditation program violated antitrust laws and that it was designed to eliminate competition and restrict entry into the market for the recruitment, training and placement of paralegals. That it was unreasonable when applied to proprietary schools such as the Paralegal Institute. Little did Carl Person know that years later the Department of Justice would bring an antitrust lawsuit against the ABA for numerous violations and anticompetitive practices. 7

The 1980s and 1990s saw the widespread expansion of paralegal educational programs and paralegal organizations marketing memberships and certifications, while enacting a variety of guidelines to oversee the paralegal field. In 2000, Governor Gray Davis signed AB 1761, a bill that defined and regulated paralegals under California law. It is important to note, however, that prior to the adoption of the bill, that it was paralegals who were providing self-help law services directly to consumers and with the passage of AB 1761, they were forced to trade in the designation “paralegal” or “independent paralegal” for Legal Document Assistant (LDA). Yet, it was those pioneers who popularized the term paralegal and put it on the map, along with the many independent paralegals working in other states, such as New York, Florida and elsewhere.8
This important point often gets blurred following the consolidation of the title paralegal by national and local paralegal organizations. Even the ABA itself changed from “The Standing Committee of Legal Assistants” to “The Standing Committee of Paralegals.” Younger paralegals entering into the field, today, may be unaware of this blurring of the term paralegal.

What we now have is control over the title so that paralegals are placed into a one size fits all definition of the profession, when historically it was not.

The Pioneers
The pioneers who propelled the paralegal self-help movement to the forefront were notably different from the legal assistants who worked for lawyers and law firms. It was the latter group that converged around NALA and the NFPA, where both organizations played a
part in shaping much of what we have in the way of restrictive ideology and of paralegals working under the supervision of lawyers. 9
Yet both organizations have failed to advance independence on the part of paralegals and in many respects, have become miniature extensions of the American Bar Association and its relegation of paralegals to working under the supervision of lawyers, which is at the heart of the ABA’s definition of a legal assistant or paralegal.
A legal assistant or paralegal is a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.
Despite those qualifications of education, training or work experience, paralegals now find themselves micromanaged by a variety of organizations and inescapably locked into support roles, while being controlled along each step of the way.

The Paralegal Contract is about remaining true to the higher principles of equality and social justice, rather than being defined by any one professional organization or regulatory body desiring control over a group through use of its collective power.
The consolidation of the paralegal profession by paralegal organizations and the American Bar Association has created a tragic situation where paralegals are prevented from realizing their full potential and growth, as independent professionals. Thus, figuratively, they have traded their freedom for a form of paralegal servitude.
That even though paralegals must enter into social contracts with lawyers and the organizations overseeing them, in doing so, they should not lose sight of their fundamental vision of freedom and inner recognition of independence.
For a true association of paralegals to exist, there must be the unanimous consent of all its members.

* Cliff is a writer and holds an advanced paralegal credential. He is also a graduate of Duke Continuing Studies.
1 Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born on June 28, 1712 in Geneva, Switzerland. Rousseau’s philosophical writings have greatly influenced modern philosophy.
2 Rousseau’s work, The Social Contact, describes the relationship of man with society. Rousseau argued that no social contract can exist without the unanimous consent of all its members, resulting in a true association, instead of an aggregation, which has no validity. The framers drew from Rousseau when drafting the U.S. Constitution.
3 “Intrinsic motivation” refers to motivation that is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself; and “Extrinsic motivation” refers to the performance of an activity in order to attain an outcome, which then contradicts intrinsic motivation. See Ryan, M. R., & Deci, L. E. “Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being,” American Psychologist, 2000
4 Nolo Press was formed by two lawyers, Charles (Ed) Sherman and Ralph (Jake) Warner, both of which had worked for legal aid in the late 1960s. Seeing a need for affordable legal services, they began publishing self-help law books and training non-lawyers to assist consumers with uncontested divorces through the Wave Project. More and more independent paralegals began using Nolo resources to assist consumers in self-help law. See “Nolo History” at .
6 Paralegal Institute, Inc. v. American Bar Association, 475 F. Supp. 1123 (1979).
7 In 1995, the Department of Justice brought an antitrust action against the American Bar Association. The lawsuit alleged numerous violations under the ABA’s law school accreditation process, along with other anticompetitive practices. See
8 See Ralph Warner, et al., Independent Paralegal’s Handbook, 6th Ed., California: Nolo (2004) (Provides a historical background on the self-help law movement and independent paralegals working throughout the United States).

9.The ABA’s Standing Committee sets out a variety of guidelines on how paralegal services can be utilized to the benefit of lawyers. See the “ABA Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services,” and “Economic Benefits of Paralegal Utilization” available at <>

Updated: The Paralegal Handbook

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Theresa A. Prater has a post on the NFPA LinkedIn discussion board regarding the new version of The Paralegal Handbook:

The Paralegal’s Handbook – updated

A new edition of The Paralegal’s Handbook has been published and is available on Amazon for a great price. It is a guide to the tasks and responsibilities a paralegal may be asked to undertake. Authors are NFPA past president, Anita Hayworth, RP and past vice president, Leslie Cox, RP. It is a valuable tool to have on your desk for quick reference. If you link to Amazon through the NFPA website,, you also help NFPA.

I suppose that in a way The Paralegal Handbook  could be competition for my own The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional, but I see them as complementary, each providing a fine supplement to the other. So, if your are looking help out your favorite paralegal this Christmas, access Amazon through the NFPA website and buy both!

Paralegal Certification Colorado

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

There is proliferation of website proporting to give information about paralegal careers, educational opportunities, and the like. Unfortunately some, even if well-intentioned, ought not to be relied upon by anyone. For example, one such site (no, I will not give a name or link) states, “Obtaining paralegal certification in Colorado is relatively simple witih some excellent community college and degree programs available to those seeking a paralegal qualification.” Aside from the poor proofreading and editing (yes, I expect more from this type of website than I do of a blog), this is quite misleading and contributes to the general confusion regarding the distinction between obtaining a paralegal certificate and getting paralegal certification.

I do not believe that Colorado as a state requires or provides for certification of paralegals. (Please feel free to forward me the information if I am wrong on this.) In any case, this website provides no information on paralegal certification either as it pertains to Colorado or to certification exams offered by NFPA or NALA. Rather they offer some, not really helpful information regarding some paralegal programs that provide paralegal certificates and degrees.

Bottom line – if you want to know about paralegal education go to a well-established, respected source such as the American Association for Paralegal Education. (Disclosure: I am on the Board of Directors) Likewise for paralegal certification: check the websites for NFPA, NALA, and comparable professional associations. FMI: Check out The Paralegal Professionalism Anthology.


Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Among the exhibitors at the recent AAfPE Conference was Tracy Young, President of NFPA. NFPA has long been a leader in paralegal certification programs focusing primarily on the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE) and RP certification. It now offers an exam to certify the competency of entry-level paralegals in core competencies. Not surprisingly the exam is entitled the Paralegal Core Competency Exam (PCC Exam).

NFPA materials state:

The PCC Exam is designed to test the core competencies in early-career and entry-lebel paralegals and takes into account coursework in paralegal programs as well as actual skills considered essential to basic competency in the profession. [I like to think that those two categories are not mutually exclusive – indeed, that they go together.] The exam also covers law office technology and ethics.

This credential would presumably look very good on a resume for someone trying to break into the first-job market dominated by ads citing “at least two years of experience” requirements, since he two years of experience requirement is often inserted to ensure that the applicants have certain core competencies. For more information check out the PCC Exam Candidate Handbook.

FAPP’s Essential Piece

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Until a couple of weeks ago I did not know about FAPP – the Foundation for the Advancement of the Paralegal Profession despite numerous trips to the NFPA website. Fortunately, I received an email from Kathleen Miller, R.P. who clued me in. For those of you who might also be unaware of this excellent venture, here’s some info from the Foundation’s website:

The Foundation for the Advancement of the Paralegal Profession (the Foundation or FAPP) resulted from the desires of the member Associations of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) to create a repository for the profits from the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE) to be administered by an independent organization. Through NFPA, the Foundation became the benefactor of the PACE proceeds.

Mission Statement
The Foundation’s mission is to promote and advance the professional and educational standards of paralegal professionals. In furtherance of the foregoing, the purposes of the Foundation shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

To promote higher professional standards within the paralegal profession;
To increase competency among paralegal professionals by sponsoring and conducting educational seminars and classes;
To sponsor publications devoted to issues relating to the paralegal profession; and
To serve as a resource for the public and private sector interested in the
paralegal profession.

But  the real purpose of this blog is to bring a particular FAPP program to your attention. This program just went up on the site so you are less likely to be familiar with it. As Kathleen put it to me Essential Piece is , “a new campaign the Foundation is developing–the Essential Piece–which is designed to impress upon all paralegals nationwide that they are an Essential Piece to the advancement and promotion of the paralegal profession.” This is, of course,  a point I’ve been making on this blog since I started it, so I was very pleased to see NFPA, which has always made this point implicitly through its work and programs, through FAPP take on the task of advancing the premise formally and expressly.  There’s even a lapel pin!

Read more about the program here.

NFPA’s Annual Convention is just around the corner.

Friday, September 9th, 2011

From the NFPA LinkedIn Group board comes this reminder about the upcoming NFPA National Conference.  I am a big advocate of professional associations in general and NFPA in particular (see the “Professional Associations” category) and encourage any of you who can attend to do so. I’d go myself, but I’m scheduled to moderate a panel on “Teaching in the Cloud: WIMBA” at the AAfPE National Conference in Baltimore two weeks later and there’s a limit to the number of days I can devote to conferences.

You still have an opportunity to participate in NFPA’s Annual Convention, seminars, student workshop and Pro Bono Conference October 13 – 16, in Bloomington, MN. Meet colleagues from across the country, take your pick from 24 seminars on issues including such topics as: Social Media and the Paralegal, Employment Law, Prep, Pray, Live Through Trial, Bankruptcy Petitions and several ethics offerings, as well as seminars designed to provide insight into NFPA’s PCC and PACE exams. There are full day and half day seminar packages available.
For more information check the NFPA website: