By Annette Phelps

It seems like it was only a month ago when I submitted my first blog as your Paralegal Division Chair.  It has been a great year for the division with a lot of new and exciting changes, challenges, and proud moments.

The year started off with my focus on how to change the internal structure of the Paralegal Division to be completely in touch with what all the sections and other divisions are involved with and how to disseminate all that information to the council and members.  A new Section Liaison Committee Chair was appointed to breathe life back into a committee that was struggling for participation.  All section liaisons are now invited to participate in all council meetings so that they have a first-hand experience of everything our division is doing.  They can then report back to each section and division for which they are a liaison, and report back to our division what opportunities are available by way of pro bono work, technology, education, and many opportunities. There are still section liaisons spots available and we welcome anyone interested in joining a section and becoming a liaison to contact us.  The networking that comes from being a section liaison is priceless.

We also started a new campaign to inform members of what our committees are about so they can become more involved in their division.  Be looking for a complete listing in future blogs of each of our committees and what they involve.  We hope you will find interest in one or more committee and would be willing to actively participate in a committee.

The biggest challenge was our Annual Meeting location change to Pinehurst this year with a slightly new format.  The decision to change the location did not come without a great deal of discussion among our council and members.  In the end, cost, feedback from members about the location, and the need for change were the driving factors for the new location and format.  The format for the program was changed to include four general sessions immediately after the joint opening program to allow more flexibility in offering a wide range of topics to interest a larger section of paralegals.  After choosing from one of the four general sessions you then got to choose from the four tracks traditionally offered.  The feedback so far has been very positive on the new location and format.  I encourage all members who did not participate in our annual meeting this year to please try us next year and provide the necessary feedback and let us know what you think.  For those that did attend, we are truly thankful you joined us in beautiful Pinehurst and hope to see you again next year.  We want to provide a great experience for everyone and we cannot do that without your feedback and support.

One of my proud moments of being Paralegal Division Chair came when the call was made to paralegals to train and become a part of a new Veterans Pro Bono Network that was getting started.  The outpouring of paralegals that went through the training was truly inspiring.  Even though the program has since been turned over to the Pro Bono Resource Center it showed that our members are always ready, willing and able to participate in helping our communities.  Another proud moment was when the Lawyers for Literacy Program in Wayne County was awarded Volunteer of the Year Award for Carver Heights Elementary School from the Wayne County Public Schools.  The Paralegal Division’s pro bono and service focus and direction over this past year has helped many citizens and will continue to help many citizens throughout the state of North Carolina. Once I hand the reigns over to your new Division Chair Debbie Harris, I plan to use my “free time” by continuing pro bono work in my local community and throughout the state of North Carolina.

Thank you for a wonderful year and I highly encourage anyone interested in leadership roles with the Paralegal Division to please get involved.  I promise you will be rewarded in many ways.  For me it broadened my network base, made me a more outgoing person and lot less shy, and renewed my passion for the paralegal profession by seeing firsthand how we can make a difference in a life and a community.