Posts Tagged ‘Volunteering’

Be Part of the Solution – Volunteer

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

Marianna Fradman, frequently as source for materials that end up here, posted a link to “Pro Bono Report 2015: Treading Water” on the New York City Paralegal Association‘s Linkedin discussion board. The report itself is interesting as are other articles on the “Justice Gap” on The American Lawyer‘s website. I was drawn to the post by Marianna’s lead-in comment, a reminder that all legal professionals be part of the solution to the justice gap problem:

Special Report: The Justice Gap
Big Law is flourishing, yet legal aid is in crisis. Is it something we, paralegals can do? The answer is yes. We can volunteer. It gives a satisfaction, much needed experience and yes, it looks good on a resume too.

Volunteering for pro bono projects benefits you, the paralegal profession, and the public. There’s more on the topic, including some typical volunteer projects in the Volunteering category on this blog. Contact your local paralegal association for opportunities in your area.  Maybe you lead by example your attorneys into doing more to assist in resolving the justice gap!


NYCPA and City Bar Justice Center: Pro-Bono Volunteer Opportunity

Monday, February 25th, 2013

I’ve post here frequently about the value of volunteering and pro bono work to individual paralegals, the paralegal profession, and the communities the paralegals serve. Today I’ve just enough time to pass this opportunity from NYCPA on:

Dear Volunteers:
You are invited to participate in a Superstorm Sandy Helping Legal Handbooks Project as per the details below:                
  • Volunteers to apply stickers to multiple Superstorm Sandy Helping Legal Handbooks.
  • Before these legal handbooks can be mailed to the victims of the hurricane, an error in the handbooks must be corrected.
  • These legal handbooks are in great need in the areas hard-hit by the storm.
  • We will coordinate one mailing project date and time according to the majority of the available volunteers.
Potential Volunteer Dates: February 27, 2013, February 28, 2013, or March 01, 2013
Times: 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM or 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
RSVP: This event is open to New York City Paralegal Association members and non-members. Please send an E-mail to the Pro-Bono Chairperson at probono@nyc-pa.orgwith two potential volunteer dates and times, your contact information (Full name, address, and cell phone number).The Pro-Bono Chairperson will confirm the date and time of the mailing project and provide you with the address and time of the project. Please do not go down to the mailing project without receiving a registration time and date. If you have questions you can leave a message at 516-851-4007.

Advance Directives for Seniors project

Monday, March 5th, 2012

This story is notable for several reason including the obvious value of the project. One of significance is the fact that the article refers to “attorney – paralegal teams.”

Advance Directives for Seniors project visits Jacksonville townhouse
by Kathy Para, The JBA Pro Bono Committee Chairwoman

A team of volunteers including seven attorneys, four paralegals, and five law students gathered Feb. 25 to assist local seniors in creating advance directive documents.

The project was a collaborative effort of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Florida Coastal School of Law, The Jacksonville Bar Association and the Northeast Florida Paralegal Association.

The pro bono attorneys included Robert Morgan, Krista Parry, Bruce Duggar, Robyn Moore, Debbie Lee-Clark, Hollyn Foster and Pat Vail.

Paralegals Margaret Costa, Regina Colbert, Donna Hoffman and Courtney Brown, as well as law students Gabriella Vero, Hayley James, Melissa Cohenson, Camille Higham and Amanda Gray serving as scribes, witnesses, notaries and interviewers.

The attorney-paralegal and attorney-law student teams created and executed the advance directive documents including Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate Designations, Living Wills, and Designations of Pre-need Guardian for 24 local senior citizens.

For more on how this project operates (just in case your association is looking for a project) click here for the full story in the Jacksonville Financial News and Daily Record.

More on advanced directives and other end-of-life planning in the next post.

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 Gains Woman of Excellence Award

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

The 17th Annual Women of Excellence Awards, presented by the Lafayette (Louisiana)  Commission on the Needs of Women, include the Founder’s Award to Nancy Goodwin. According to this report:

Mrs. Goodwin is a paralegal with the law firm of Ziegler & Lane.

Prior to becoming a paralegal, Mrs. Goodwin was the Director of the Louisiana Coalition on Jails and Prisons and Coordinator of the Louisiana Committee to Abolish the Death Penalty. She has spent many years as a paralegal working on prison abuse litigation and death penalty defense. She has also been a long time advocate for disabled people who have been denied Social Security benefits.

Her proudest achievement is that she was able to help continue Bill Ziegler’s law firm as Ziegler & Lane after Mr. Ziegler’s death. She says the best advice she ever received was, ‘Don’t let other people govern your reactions.’ Her motto is; It’s what you do with what you’ve got that counts. Others call her a true hero.

This, of course, follows nicely upon my recent post on pro bono work, but I was also taken by Ms. Goodwin’s dedication to Mr. Ziegler and Ziegler & Lane. I suspect this is in a large part due to respect paid to her by them. One theory is that this exchange of respect is more likely to occur in small firms than large, and perhaps this case illustrates that point, although there is some evidence of it occurring in slightly larger firms. In any case, Ms. Goodwin is clearly able to establish a good relationship with her attorneys. I also note that Ms. Goodwin is listed, with her photo along with two attorneys on the firm’s “About” page, as a “Non-attorney representative.”

Paralegals help expand pro bono services for low-income senior citizens

Monday, August 8th, 2011

The Northeast Florida Paralegal Association is part of a consortium of groups banding together to provide legal services to low-income elderly. According to the Jacksonville Daily Record:

Building on the current efforts of dedicated Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA) pro bono attorneys Pat Vail and Joe Meux, attorneys, paralegals and law school representatives met July 12 at the offices of Akerman Senterfitt to discuss plans for expanding services to low-income senior citizens in Northeast Florida.

The expansion in services will be modeled after the Military Reservists Wills and Advance Directives Pro Bono project that has been offered to Navy and Army reservists at local military facilities.

The services will help to organize their affairs and by planning ahead, these seniors will protect their rights and make informed decisions about their health care, property and family in the event of their own incapacity or death.


By helping senior citizens make these choices, the Senior Citizen Wills and Advance Directives Pro Bono project will help provide stability, dignity and comfort to the seniors and their families as they make decisions during end-of-life chapters.

“There has been deep discussion over how to broaden the reach of the advanced directive program by encouraging other lawyers, paralegals and law students to participate as well,” said attorney Pat Vail, who has provided leadership and advocacy for this population.

Vail added that there have been many “willing hands” interested in helping to provide services to seniors, including members of the Elder Law section of The Jacksonville Bar Association, service coordinators at residential centers, Florida Coastal School of Law, the Northeast Florida Paralegal Association and Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.

This is an excellent idea. In general, bar associations and paralegal associations should work together to maximize access to justice in the United States.  There are no losers and many winners when this happens. The lawyers accomplish far more than they would without the assistance of paralegals. The paralegals gain experience, network, project a good image with both the bar and the public, and satisfy  ethical obligations. And the benefits to the community are obvious.

Kudos to all involved.

Good Wills Return Good Will

Monday, January 31st, 2011

I’ve been remiss in posting as I put the finishing touched on The Empowered Paralegal Professionalism Anthology. It’s due today, so the last week has been hectic as it was also the first week of classes. And I’ve had formatting problems – any one know how to get Word 2010 to restart footnotes at a new section? Just telling it to do so using the toolbar does not seem to work! 

But enough about me. This post is about volunteer paralegals. John Brubaker at reports:

First responders and volunteer attorneys and paralegals exchanged a lot of good will here Saturday.

They also exchanged a lot of good wills.

“First responders are always thinking of us,” said Denise Farrell, president of the Lancaster Paralegal Association. “We’re here to thank them for putting their lives on the line for us every day.”

The thanks came in the form of wills, powers of attorney and living wills drawn up by attorneys and notarized and witnessed by paralegals at no expense to police, firefighters, paramedics and other first responders.

The legal volunteers and first responders mingled at the Lancaster County Public Safety Training Center near Manheim in the first Wills for Heroes event held in the county this year.

Instead of charging $250 or more for the services, the attorneys and paralegals provided pro bono advice and processed all legal forms without charge.

“It’s one way we can give back to them for what they do,” said J. Dwight Yoder, president of the Lancaster Bar Association, which coordinates the program along with the paralegal association.

Read more:

I written here often on the benefits of volunteering to the community, the profession, and the volunteer. Check out the “Volunteering” category for other stories of paralegals doing good by doing what they do so well.

Pro Bono Benefits

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

I’ve posted here previously on the benefits of doing pro bono paralegal work, i.e., volunteering. In a recent report regarding a Chicago area legal aid group, a paralegal volunteer sums it up quite well:

Wendy Dávila, a three-year CGLA volunteer, takes the time out of her busy schedule as a full-time paralegal to help CGLA as interpreter for Spanish speaking potential clients. She finds great satisfaction in helping the community.

“Giving back is one of the biggest satisfactions, at least to me,” Dávila said. “I do it because it comes from the heart and it makes me feel good. I don’t expect anything in return.” Dávila said working with CGLA has not only helped Chicagoans in need–it has helped her personally as well.

“…You develop new friendships, gain important skills and experiences that will help later in life. You also build confidence and self-esteem, make connections that can lead to a job or career and most important[ly], [are satisfied by] getting things done and helping others.”From family and housing law to criminal defense, CGLA wants all residents to know their options.

And it helps meet ethical requirements!

Connecticut Paralegal of the Year Demonstrates Professionalism

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Today’s The Connecticut Law Tribune reports on Patricia B. “Pattie” Chouinard who recently received the first ever Connecticut Paralegal of the Year award. The reward seems well deserved for many reasons. Here are some of the comments from the story that emphasize Pattie’s professionalism:

“Don’t ever turn any [assignment] down,” Chouinard said she tells college students that she mentors and new associate lawyers she helps train. “The best thing you can do when someone asks you to help with X, Y and Z is to say, ‘Absolutely,’ and learn as you go. The hands-on experience is so much more valuable than anything else.”

She’s able to balance the demands of about 20 business lawyers who need her assistance morning, noon, night and even some weekends. All the while she plays critical leadership roles with the Central Connecticut Paralegal Association and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations.

She also coordinates the projects and workloads for the other paralegals in the business law department. And she assists the firm with orientation and training of new associates.

“She makes a client’s problems her own and addresses them in a way that makes sure the client is well taken care of,” added Brooks. “If she needs to be here at night, in the wee hours of the morning, she’ll do that.”

Chouinard is especially proud of her involvement with the Central Connecticut Paralegal Association. For 20 years, she’s served on the group’s board of directors in various capacities. She’s currently vice president.

Chouinard has also participated in a bevy of CCPA pro bono activities, including annual Utility Day events at which the paralegals are partnered with Statewide Legal Services. The volunteers help consumers work out schedules to pay off their overdue utility bills.

Last but not least, Chouinard sometimes mentors paralegal students and some, she said, have gone on to become attorneys. “It’s wonderful. Students are like sponges and soak up anything and are willing to learn anything,” Chouinard said.

Before leaving Pattie, I’d like to extend kudos to her firm.  Here’s what Pattie has to say about them:

She adds that the attorneys at Shipman & Goodwin have always made the firm’s paralegals “an integral part of the team…”

Shipman & Goodwin clearly have reaped the rewards of this attitude regarding paralegals while providing an environment where Pattie has been able to fully actualize her potential to the benefit of herself, her profession, her employers, the legal system, and the public. Congratulations to both.

Volunteering Opportunities and Stories

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Today’s post returns to a frequent topic here – volunteering as an essential part of being professional. (See the “Volunteering” category.) But today instead of the sermon coming from me, I’m relying heavily on two posts from other blogs. First, Lynne DeVenny at Practical Paralegalism has a post entitled “Be the ONE – Message to Paralegals,” that reports, ” Kathy Para, an attorney for Jackonsville Area Legal Aid in Jacksonville, Florida and the Jacksonville Bar Association’s Pro Bono Committee Chair, is looking for legal professionals to be “The One” to help make a difference, even if it’s in a single pro bono case.”

This post is excellent not only for the report, but for the additional information Lynne provides including these links:

The National Pro Bono Volunteer Opportunities Guide
Directory of Pro Bono Children’s Law Programs
The National Domestic Violence Pro Bono Directory
CASA State and Local GAL programs

Finally, Lynne provides her own story as encouragement:

It is an incredible feeling to make a difference in the life of a person who could not otherwise afford representation in the legal system. Volunteering your time will make a difference in your life, too. The years I spent as a Guardian ad Litem changed the way I see the world forever, and may have contributed to a decision I made years after I submitted the report in my last case: to adopt a child from the foster care system.
Which brings me to the second post. Apparently coincidentally Melissa at Paralegalese also tells of her recent experience in a post entitled, “Giving Back, Paying Forward.”  I’ll not repeat the entire post here, but here are the first and last paragraphs, which echo Lynne’s feelings about volunteering:
I’m ashamed to say that it has been years since I sought out volunteer work of any kind. But I broke that streak recently when I volunteered at the monthly Saturday legal clinic sponsored by the Memphis Association of Legal Services (MALS). Thank goodness that I did.

I’ve decided to make the MALS Saturday clinics a monthly habit. It feels good to be donating time toward the field I love. If you are a legal secretary, paralegal, law student, or attorney in the Memphis area, and you are interesting in volunteering, visit the MALS website.


Many of my posts here have pointed out that volunteering is an opportunity to network, gain experience, and satisfy ethical obligations. The bottomline though is that it is an opportunity to do good. Networking, experience, satisfying ethical obligations and feeling better about oneself are just terrific side-benefits that contribute to professionalism.