Why I Joined the Paralegal Division Council

By Leslie Pegram

I’ve sat down a few times to write this particular blog. My goal is to encourage fellow Paralegal Division members to submit a nomination to become a council member. However, every time I’ve started to write this blog post, the first two sentences have always sounded like a business pitch and felt very impersonal. To me, being a part of the council is very personal. We represent a diverse group of paralegals across North Carolina from as far west as Franklin to as far east as New Bern and Wilmington. We work in small firms, large firms, government and in-house positions. Serving as a council members provides you with opportunities to grow professionally, meet new friends, and experience the value of networking. I’m very proud to be chair, and I hope sharing my experience will encourage others to apply.

The Paralegal Division is accepting nominations for new division council members through Feb. 28.  Click here to find the nomination form.

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January Tech Tip: iLovePDF Has Every Tool You Need to Work with PDFs

By Alicia Mitchell-Mercer

As the Division’s Technology Chair, in addition to helping maintain the Paralegal Division webpage, I try to share technology tips and applications (usually free) that can make your work lives a little easier. If you find today’s “Tech Tip” useful, let us know. If you have a technology concern at work and you want to see if there’s a software or process that can make things easier, email ncbaparalegals@gmail.com and we’ll try to address it in a future blog post.

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BarCARES Program Offers Help For Legal Professionals

By Mollie Schwam

One of the benefits of NCBA membership is access to BarCARES, a confidential, free service that provides referrals for counseling services. Members of local bars that subscribe to the program are also eligible. BarCARES offers participants up to three, no-cost sessions with counselors per year. If a participant wishes to have more counseling beyond that, a client can generally continue working with the same counselor using insurance benefits or other resources.

Studies have consistently shown that over the years that legal professionals have a high risk of substance abuse, depression, and suicide. BarCARES offers help with:

  • Personal issues including crisis intervention, depression and/or anxiety, substance abuse and financial concerns
  • Family issues including marriages and/or relationships, children and/or adolescents and parenting and/or family conflicts
  • Work issues, including professional stressors, case-related stress and conflict resolution
  • Stress and time management for students
  • Domestic violence

You can find BarCARES online at www.ncbar.org/members/barcares/. Or call with questions about BarCARES or access your free counseling sessions by calling the confidential assistance line, 800-640-0735, during normal business hours. You will either speak to the program coordinator or have the option to leave a confidential voicemail. After your initial phone call, the BarCARES Program Coordinator will arrange an initial session between you and a BarCARES provider.

Remember: The BarCARES program is completely confidential.

Writing Professionally: Language, Punctuation and Tone

By Morag Polaski

I am a self-confessed “word nerd.”  I love words. I love reading, and I read just about anything, including the dictionary.  But, sometimes I forget that not everybody finds the same enjoyment in words. And, I have been known to let my vocabulary get the better of me.  As paralegals, something we cannot afford to do is forget our audience. Quite simply, the “audience” is the other person with whom we are communicating, whether it is in writing or by speech.  We communicate differently when we speak to our own attorneys, opposing counsel, to the court, or to our clients. We assume a level of knowledge from the attorneys and the court (rightly or wrongly) and tend to assume less knowledge on the part of the client.  I volunteer as a Guardian ad Litem and at one point used the word “virulent” in a court report. I assumed that the word and its usage would be understood since my “audience” was a judge and a few attorneys, all of whom had a higher level of education than I did.  I was wrong. Very wrong. The judge asked for a definition of the word right there in the courtroom. (For those interested, the definition is “poisonous” or “intensely noxious,” which certainly described the family situation.)

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Chair’s Comments

By Leslie Pegram

Hello, 2019!  If 2018 was a great one for you, congratulations. If it was not so great, you survived. Congratulations to you, too.  (We’ve all been there.) I look forward to the beginning of a new year. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the prior year and set a positive path for the new year. I think it’s important to set goals – personally and professionally.  I’m sure we all share similar goals for improved health and well-being. As important as it is to nurture and achieve your personal goals, don’t forget about your professional goals. I’ll share a few of mine for 2019: 1) Continue to work hard as Paralegal Division Chair 2) Finish up the Hurricane Florence professional clothing donation efforts 3) further develop my leadership skills and 4) (finally) test for a national paralegal certification. Needless to say, it will be another busy year.

If one of your goals is to become more involved in the Paralegal Division and the NCBA, below please find a variety of opportunities to serve our fellow citizens of North Carolina:

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Research, Interviews and Unsolved Mysteries

By Rachel Royal

As a child, I was obsessed with the show “Unsolved Mysteries.” As I watched an episode, I would imagine that I would one day solve it. Anyone who knew me well as a little girl,  would probably tell you that I was irritatingly inquisitive. However, I learned at some point that asking a lot of questions was not seen as a virtue, so I began to look to books for answers. I wouldn’t consider myself a millennial because I grew up before cell phones and computers were mainstream, and encyclopedias were my best research tools. My early life was somewhat secluded because I was homeschooled and was not involved in any homeschool groups. Books were quite literally my door to the outside world. You probably can already pinpoint the origin of my love of research, but feel free to blame it on homeschooling and watching too many episodes of “Unsolved Mysteries.”

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Compassion in the Legal Profession: A Tale of Hope at Christmas

By Alicia Mitchell-Mercer

Few of us work in an area of law where calls to our offices are initiated by clients because something wonderful happened. For most legal professionals, that initial phone call from a potential client is literally an act of desperation. Their lives are currently in a state of chaos and they need someone to fix it. They need someone to understand why they are so angry or depressed. They need to feel heard and validated. Most legal clients are going through one of the most devastating and difficult periods of their lives. Perhaps there has been a failed marriage, they’ve been charged with a crime, a loved one has died, they have been injured, they are in the middle of litigation that could ruin them financially, they have been assaulted, or any number of other traumatic life events.

Have you ever felt like your firm seems to attract the most unhinged people that humanity has to offer? I know I have felt that way at times. As a legal professional it’s very easy to become jaded or desensitized to a client’s needs and concerns after years of dealing with their adversities. Sometimes they are unreasonable regarding their expectations. Sometimes they are just emotionally fragile. This does not mean that there is anything innately wrong with our clients – at least no more than the next human being. It just means that when we go through extremely stressful events, like a failed marriage, it can be difficult to process all of those emotions and make logical well-thought-out decisions.

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Trauma-Informed Care and the Legal Professional

By Alicia Mitchell-Mercer

On Friday, November 16, 2018, I attended the Mecklenburg Resilience Symposium: Building Hope for Tomorrow Through Action Today with a number of judges, medical providers, and mental health professionals. The topic of the Symposium was community Resilience or the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.

This was such a timely conference for the judicial system, which serves the needs of people affected by trauma everyday. The Symposium explained that Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone to help them persevere through difficult times.

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Apply For New Ways To Get Free CPE

By Debbie Harris

The NCBA Paralegal Division has changed the way it gives back to its members.

The Paralegal Division has replaced its Membership Scholarship with the “Member Premier Pass Giveaway,” and Premier Passes will be given away to two lucky Division members in a lottery-type drawing each year. This package is valued at $325.00, and is an exclusive NCBA member benefit providing you unlimited CLE/CPE including access to hundreds of On Demand programs throughout the Bar year (July 1 to June 30). Complete details, including benefits and terms and conditions, can be found here. As we are starting the process after the beginning of this Bar year, this year’s drawing will occur before December 31, which will give you six months to attend programming.

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Pause Before Adding Clients On Social Media

By Alicia Mitchell-Mercer
Increasingly, we’re seeing attorneys and paralegals connecting with clients on social media including LinkedIn and Facebook. When I ask why, I’m hearing that social media connections (e.g. Facebook) make the client feel like they are more than just a file. I think there’s also this belief that it’s an inconspicuous way to get your name out there and connect with their connections who may require legal services. From a marketing perspective, it may make sense to have a social media presence that includes the clients you serve, but is it a good idea?
Here are reasons to think carefully before sending or accepting a connection request:

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