The Paralegal Member Scholarship Essay topic this year was “What are the benefits of being involved in paralegal associations?” The winning submission is courtesy of Paralegal Division Member Phebe Kirby. The Paralegal Division Member Scholarship provides an award of a Paralegal Division membership, a section membership, registration for the 2018 Paralegal Division Annual Meeting and Seminar, a CLE/CPE Passport to attend eligible programs tuition free, and up to $100 travel expense reimbursement (total value of approximately $800).

What are the benefits of being involved in paralegal associations?

I have been a paralegal for over five years now and I must say that I do love my job. However, a few months ago, I was struggling with two estate files, and it was beginning to cause me a lot of undue stress. Normally, I am able to leave at five and I don’t have an issue with working overtime or bringing my work home with me. But with these two estates files, I was pondering my dilemma at home, thinking about the issues constantly and talking about it to my husband until he frankly was bored. I am not sure why I struggled so much. We don’t do estates in my office, and I let the whole situation become overwhelming to the point that I was not sure what to do.

One day during this time, someone sent an email to the NCBA Paralegal Division requesting help with a matter they were unfamiliar with. It dawned on me that I too could ask for help with my situation that I was dealing with on the estates I was working on. I sent out a question to see if anyone had an example of the form I needed to send to the clerk. Within minutes I had four responses with at least two good examples and one copy from a book that dealt with estates of the form I needed. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it sooner and I lamented how I had struggled unnecessarily all that time when I had the help of my fellow paralegals available so readily. Just by sending a simple email, something I do all day long, I received the help I needed. That is just one of the many benefits of being involved in a paralegal association.

Another benefit of networking is for help in the search for a job. There are postings on many of the paralegal association websites, or if a firm needs to fill a job vacancy, they can request to be placed on the website or Facebook page for that association. We had a need to look for another paralegal earlier this year and I was able to send out a job request through the NCBA Paralegal Division email network. I also had them put our ad on the Catawba Valley Paralegal Association’s website.  It was very convenient. I have seen many other firms use this to fill a vacancy as well.

The Catawba Valley Paralegal Association meets once a month to offer CPE classes or for a social event. They offer enough CPE classes to cover the requirement each year. The classes are convenient and always very useful. I served on the board of directors for two years and enjoyed brainstorming about fundraisers to help with our scholarship fund or for community outreach. They have collected books for the DSS child library, where each child can take a book home when they visit. They have also collected school supplies for Maiden Elementary School. Being involved in these activities is a great way for the association and the paralegal profession to give back to the community.

The Catawba Valley Paralegal Association started a scholarship for a student of paralegal studies at Western Piedmont Community College in honor of Lynn Price, a paralegal in Hickory who had passed away with cancer. I am not sure if they were able to sustain the scholarship due to lack of funds, but it was a very good thing for several paralegal students who benefited from it those few years they were able to award it to someone.

There are many benefits to being a part of a paralegal association from networking for assistance, for a job, community outreach and CPE credit. I am very glad that I have been a member of two very good paralegal associations for a number of years and I have benefited greatly. I will continue to use the resources they offer to further my work as a paralegal.

Ms. Kirby is a paralegal with The Deaton Law Firm, PLLC in Denver, N.C.