Posts Tagged ‘Professional Associations’

A Goddess in Disguise

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

When Odysseus went off to fight in the Trojan War, he placed his friend Mentor in charge of his son Telemachus. Odysseus was gone twenty years, ten to fight the war and ten on his Odyssey traveling back home. During this time, the goddess Athena visited Telemachaus often. She guided him in his search for his father and his efforts to stave off the many suitors seeking to marry his mother on the assumption that Odysseus was dead. She offered encouragement and practical advice during Telemachus’ quest. In order to hide her involvement, Athena disguised herself as Mentor. Today we use the term “mentor” to refer to an experienced and trusted person who advises and guides aspiring new members of a profession.

This was all brought to mind by a post by Philip Haebig on the Paralegal Group LinkedIn discussion board, describing the difficulty he had finding a mentor and encouraging the use of LinkedIn and similar media for mentoring purposes. He states in part, “In closing, it took forever to get someone to be brave enough to say yes to mentoring a young starter. It took respect and dedication in heeding that mentor’s advice. And most of all it cost me very little for the growth it has facilitated, which is why I make the most of my connections in my network. After all, one’s network can truly be their net worth. Seeing as LinkedIn and the Internet are the exact place(s) to do this with very little hassle to both potential Mentor and Mentee, I am happy to share my knowledge, resources, and encouragements. And I suggest that you do too!”

I join Philip in encouraging experienced paralegals to become goddesses/gods in disguise as mentors of new paralegals. The comments to his post reinforce the notion that paralegals associations can and do play a role in connecting mentors and mentees:

Connie Johnson
Paralegal at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP

Hi Philip – I am the President of the Inland Counties Association of Paralegals in California. My association is actually working on getting a mentoring program together something like what you have discussed. I am sharing your link with my other board members. Would you mind if we include it in a future newsletter? We have a lot of student members, we are all on advisory boards of local educational facilities, and are hopeful we can get some people to step up and be mentors such as you detailed above.

Mariana Fradman, MBA
Senior Legal Assistant, Chadbourne & Parke LLP

Dear Philip – can I please share your post with my mentees? You said exactly what I was trying to deliver during my presentation about the benefits of LinkedIn at the NYCPA Mentor Program Workshop last Thursday.

AAfPE South Central Conference

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

I recently traveled to New Orleans for the American Association for Paralegal Education South Central Conference admirably hosted by Tulane University’s School of Continuing Education Paralegal Studies Program directed by Sallie Davis. My own presentation, I believe, went well. The conference overall was an excellent example of what professional associations can do for the profession – in this case the profession of educating paralegal students by providing opportunities for members to meet, network, and share knowledge.

I particularly benefited from the presentation by Ernest Davila, J.D., Paralegal Program Director, San Jacinto College, Houston, TX, on getting the most from time and financial resources, the Using Media in the Classroom presentation by Joni Johnson, Adjunct Instructor, Tulane University, and the Teaching E-Discovery: Practices and Pitfalls presentation by Lois Elliot, also an Adjunct Instructor at Tulane University.

Even though I’ve been through fairly extensive time management training, it seems as though I pick up something new at every time/resource management presentation. For those practicing paralegal who could use time and workload management assistance (and who cannot!) I suggest, of course, my own The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional”
and posts here in the related categories.

E-Discovery, of course, is becoming ever more important and complex. Practicing paralegals involved with e-discovery may want to join the Organization of Legal Professionals an organization that focuses on e-discovery training and certifications and The Paralegal Knowledge Institute’s courses on e-discovery. In the interest of full disclosure, I am associated with both of these organizations. I am on the OLP Advisory Council, although it seems to do quite well without my advice, and I have taught in a PKI webinar.

Perhaps though the best lesson I learned is that it is possible to go to New Orleans and have a great time without straying too far from my medical restrictions on sodium and alcohol!

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:

http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/ethics_2020/20111202-ethics2020-discussion_draft-alps.authcheckdam.pdf

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.

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.

Epilogue
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 .
5 See THE HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF PARALEGAL ASSOCIATIONS 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 <http://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals.html>

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: www.paralegals.org

Benefits of Belonging to Paralegal Professional Associations

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

One of the many keyword searches that brought a searcher to this blog was “what are the benefits of membership in NALA and NFPA?” Part of the answer can be found by clicking on the significant number of posts in the “Professional Associations” category link. But this search was of particular interest to me because I am in the middle of doing a final edit on the galley proofs of the chapter on paralegal associations in The Empowered Paralegal Professionalism Anthology. So this provides me with an opportunity outside of the acknowledgments pages of that book to thank NFPA, NALA, and NALS for their permission to reprint materials from their websites that assist in illustrating the many benefits of belonging to the respective associations.

National Association of Freelance Paralegals

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

The KNOW News for February referenced in yesterday’s post also announces, :”The National Association for Freelance Legal Professionals (NAFLP) is about to launch its paralegal division and The Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP) has several online courses to benefit the career and its eDiscovery certification exam is just about to roll out.” Not at all coincidentally I’m sure, today I received an email from NAFLP about the launch stating, “The National Association of Freelance Legal Professionals is an organization providing higher continuing legal education, networking opportunities, publications and more to freelancers in the legal field.” Some of the benefits listed in the email are:

  • Over 100 webinars per year free  – many that are specifically designed for freelancers.
  • Freelancer: a monthly magazine specifically for Freelance Legal Professionals
  • Online, interactive courses to help you build your business
  • Telecoffee:  A lively monthly teleconference with other members about pertinent and important freelance topics
  • Public Member Directory
  • Discounts to seminars, publications, magazines
  • Free membership in the prestigious Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP) plus special discounts for CLE
  • Discounts from NAFLP sponsors
  • National Networking Opportunities
  • Discounts to annual conference
  • Publications, white papers, ezines, monthly newsletters and more.”

Here’s the link to NAFLP. I’ll be adding it to the professional association blogroll.

There’s More to Canada than Ontario

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

I tend to focus here on paralegalism in Ontario because that province has a regulatory scheme for paralegals, allowing them to act independently of attorneys in some instances. However, as I’ve noted previously, there is a lot more to Canada than Ontario. Paralegals from across the country belong to the Canadian Association of Paralegals (CAP), a thirty- year old organization which held its Atlantic conference last month in St. John according to the Telegraph Journal.

The announcement of the conference in this report shows the similarity of the paralegal profession and professional associations in Canada to those in the United States, including networking and an issue regarding professional identity similar to that being discussed currently on the Paralegal Today listserv:

“It’s a really wonderful opportunity for networking,” says Heather Tait, vice-president Atlantic provinces and board member of the national organization.

The conference is aimed at paralegals, law clerks and legal assistants and will be held at the Delta Brunswick Hotel. The “paralegal” designation is intended to standardize various designations, including legal assistant, legal technician, technical clerk, law clerk, etc., and to facilitate international exchange with paralegal associations in other countries.

CAP is a non-profit national organization dedicated to the professional development of its paralegals across Canada.

I found this to be of particular interest and look forward to hearing more about it:

Earlier this year, it oversaw the creation of a non-profit organization called Paralegals Without Borders Quebec, an initiative of CAP and its directors whose role is to contribute and actively participate in projects that respect and protect fundamental rights.

The Buzz About NYCPA

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

I am often impressed with and post about the work done by local paralegal associations. They provide their members with CLE, networking opportunities, and the opportunity to present their profession in the best light to both the bar and the public while satisfying their ethical obligations to the legal system and the community.  Here, for example, is recent information received from the New York City Paralegal Association:

The NYCPA board is gearing up this month to present a Legal Writing and Analysis seminar being led by Cicely Barber, Esq., who has been teaching Practices and Procedures for the paralegal program at Emory University since 2005. Later in the month we will be presenting a CLE on Advanced Adobe Acrobat for Legal Professionals with the help of Barkley Court Reporters.

Through our Pro Bono program, led by pro bono chairperson Stephanie Yuzzi, NYCPA members will be volunteering this month to assist in an immigration clinic for Haitians living in the NYC area who would like to file for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Last month, Stephanie helped to organize the delivery of two care packages for the Military Paralegal Program benefiting paralegals who have been stationed overseas and coordinated nineteen NYCPA members who participated in immigration clinics held by The City University of New York.

The NYCPA board is looking forward to presenting a Paralegal Career Fair and/or NYCPA Paralegal Week programs this coming Fall. If you have any ideas to share with us on how we can make it a successful event, please contact us, we would love to hear any suggestions.

The NYCPA has also taken a step not often taken (to my knowledge) as indicated by this:

While the NYCPA board is comprised of dedicated and experienced professionals, we are seeing to add a new level of expertise to our governing body with the creation of the NYCPA Advisory Panel>

The latest issue of the NYCPA “Paralegal Buzz” indicates that 14 “professionals, attorneys, educators and innovators accepted the association’s advisory panel. I am pleased to be one of those 14 and look forward to assisting NYCPA in their work for their members and the paralegal profession.

Paralegal Voice: NFPA on Regulation

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Lynne DeVenny of Practical Paralegalism and Vicky Voison, The Paralegal Mentor, have announced the of
“Regulation of the Paralegal Profession – NFPA Says “Yes,” is now available at Legal Talk Network. While The Paralegal Voice episodes are always interesting and informative this one is especially so since it deals with regulation, an issue frequently discussed on this blog. I previously mentioned that NFPA was holding a “Regulation / National Leadership / PACE® Ambassadors Joint Conference” on June 4-6 in Washington, D.C., that would tackle the important issues of certification, registration, and licensing. This episode of The Paralegal Voice includes some discussion of that conference. I would like to hear reports from any of you who attended that conference.

Regardless of your views on this topic, I recommend that you tune in and hear NFPA explanation of its position in favor of regulation.