It gives me great pleasure to serve as your 2019-2020 Paralegal Division Chair. First, I want to say thank you for being a member of the Paralegal Division. I hope our exciting new member benefits will encourage you to get involved while having fun networking with your fellow members across the state. Over the next year, there are several goals I would like to accomplish. Your membership provides you the opportunity for education through one of our CLE/CPE programs, networking at one of our social events, volunteering with one of our many pro bono programs , and that your experience encourages others to join our Division. Second, I hope our Division continues to see expansive growth and success, and that it will be an exciting year of opportunities and events for our members.
We recently had our 22nd annual Council Member Retreat on August 9-10 at The Childress Vineyards in Lexington. We began our retreat with our second annual Council Members Orientation. This was a great way for our membership to get to know each other, especially for our six new members, who learned about the mission and history of the Paralegal Division, the NCBA, and the PD Leadership Council. We then kicked off our first 2019-2020 Council Meeting with a full agenda followed by a tour of the vineyard and dinner at The Childress Bistro. The next day was our strategic planning meeting with a set of goals and recommendations to ensure that the Council is doing the best things to move the Division forward.
Here is a summary of our August Retreat:
During our Council meeting and strategic planning meeting. The Council discussed future CPE programming, membership updates, student engagement, pro bono programming, membership socials/events, and the future of the PD website.
Continuing Paralegal Education
The Division continues to provide relevant and timely CPE programs to its members. With the new membership benefits, the Division took a look at our current programming and ways to improve our CPEs available to all its members. If you would like to save the date, the next annual IP Institute for Paralegals is scheduled to take place on November 14, 2019. The Family Law programming will take place sometime in February 2020 at the Bar Center in Cary. More information will follow on the specific date and time. Our most attended program continues to be at our annual meeting. After much discussion and a review of our previous annual meetings, the Council is moving to a two-track day of general programing, in hopes of providing sessions that are designed to give you a full range of general topics that are relevant to the entire group.
Our next annual meeting will be held at the Convention Center in New Bern on April 24, 2020, and the Council is planning to incorporate some “fun” events to continue with NCBA’s wellness theme. More information related to these events will follow. We encourage our members to take advantage of this full one-day event, and Thursday evening reception. In order to reach members across the state, the Council has elected to hold meetings throughout the three regions (Eastern, Piedmont, and Western) on a revolving basis. The 2020 annual meeting will take place in the Eastern region, 2021 will be in the Piedmont region, and 2022 will take place in the Western region, then back to the Piedmont region, and so on. We hope by moving around the state, we reach more members across the state.
For those not yet aware of the changes to the NCBA membership dues structure, on July 1, 2019 two significant benefit changes to your paralegal membership fee of $90 include up to 12 hours of quality on-demand CLEs called “Expert Series CLE” and one section membership of your choice for free. NCBA already kicked off two expert series: The July Expert Series CLE: The Special Cases of Special Counsel: Special Prosecutions and American History and in August: Regulating Airbnb and Related Short-Term Rentals in Community and Condominium Associations. Please click here for more information: https://www.ncbar.org/power/expert-series-cle
Alicia Mitchell-Mercer and Immediate Past Chair Leslie Pegram are our blog champions who chair the publications committee. Alicia has done an amazing job with the blog, so please keep an eye out for very informative blog entries about upcoming events and articles related to the paralegal profession. Last year, to promote the Division and its members, two new blog series were introduced: first, our Paralegal Spotlight, where you will find a member profile each month; second, through our Paralegal Perspectives, which is your opportunity to submit a blog entry of your choice as long as it is relevant to the paralegal profession. There are two slots available each month. If interested, please sign up here.
Pro Bono/Community Service
Thanks to all the efforts of Annette Phelps, who was instrumental in getting the Legal on the Line, NCBA Paralegal Program underway, a partnership exists between Legal Aid of North Carolina and our PD Division. Now, with the continued efforts of council members Rachel Royal and S.M. Hernodle-Hodges, the program was successfully launched and in full swing ahead. Three attorneys and seven paralegals have accepted cases, four additional attorneys have recently volunteered and five paralegals are presently volunteering. More than fifteen cases have already been referred and completed by paralegals/supervisor teams. The program is currently in the process of implementing a batch referral system, which will be led by Paralegal Group Leaders who will receive a batch of referrals and match paralegals in their group based on the legal subject matter. Currently, there are two Paralegal Group Leaders identified. We encourage you to volunteer to assist in the continued growth of the program.
To volunteer for this program, complete the Google form linked below (be sure to click on the form for your profession). Email any questions to NCBA Paralegal Division Pro Bono Co-Chair, Rachel Royal, at firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information before completing the volunteer form, please click here to view a slideshow with detailed information about how the project works.
Other great programs to volunteer for include: Wills for Heroes, Drivers’ License Restoration Clinics, Durham Expunction and Restoration (D.E.A.R.) Clinic, High School Mock Trial Volunteering, and Lawyers for Literacy. More information to come on the Lawyers for Literacy program, as council member Shawana Almandarez will be spearheading this project. Keep a look out for future blog posts and volunteer opportunities on these programs.
From a council member to now the Chair of the Division, I’ve seen first-hand how these volunteering opportunities can be one of the most effective ways to bring members closer to our Division. Here is a clip of one of council members, Rachel Royal, talking about what she saw first-hand and how our efforts impacted the victims of Hurricane Florence.
Here are a couple of highlights from our strategic planning meeting:
Scholarship for Members and Student Engagement
Last year, the member scholarships was rebranded from the Paralegal Division Membership Scholarship to what is now called the “Member Premier Pass Giveaway” valued at $325.00. We currently give away a premier pass to two lucky winners and will now be looking at other ways to make this a better incentive for our members, by possibly increasing the numbers of “free” giveaways — just another gesture to show how much we appreciate our members and the success of our programming. We also are looking at ways to create a unified messaging platform for students to access within the paralegal programs across the state. This messaging will include the benefits of being a member of the NCBA Paralegal Division and our mission, the many volunteer opportunities and networking events available to each member, and the driving force behind why we do what we do.
The NCBA is revamping their website and the Council plans to update its website to be more user-friendly and provide you with additional information to better meet the needs of our membership. Keep a lookout for that in the near future.
As you can see, we had a very packed meeting with great ideas and recommendations, and we hope to continue to bring programming that benefits our members. We encourage you to visit our website, become engaged, volunteer when possible, and encourage others to join the NCBA Paralegal Division. As a member, we always welcome your input and suggestions. If you are interested in being more involved with the Paralegal Division, attend a CPE, come to the annual meeting on Friday, April 24, 2020 in New Bern or other social events, read a blog, post a submission to our blog, or join a committee! More information can be found here by visiting our website: NCBA PD Committee Sign-Up
I look forward to serving this Paralegal Division over the next year and will strive to make this upcoming year a continued success!