Monday, September 15, 2008

When Social Events Override Professional Development

Across the country, national involvement takes a backseat for whatever reason. I have heard anecdotal evidence from other former board members across the country, and it prompts me to ask why national involvement isn't a priority, why so many paralegals seem unable or unwilling to see outside their geographic area.

In some cases, boards plan programs like pizza lunches and social events. It prompts another question: how many other paralegal associations are sacrificing professional development for purely social reasons? Is this actually attracting paralegals or repelling them? Or is it attracting a certain type of paralegal, the person who believes that being a paralegal is just a way to pay the bills and nothing more?

Certainly, I have nothing against socials. When I first relocated to Western Massachusetts, WMPA held an after work social gathering every month, an informal way to get to know fellow paralegals, in addition to dinners featuring educational speakers. My favorite part of the conventions are the social events; there is an amazing sense of camaraderie, and being with people who are as enthusiastic about being paralegals as I am is exhilarating and inspiring.

At the same time, though, we as paralegals are struggling to be seen as professionals. Across the country, we're watching paralegals' efforts at regulation be thwarted. Just this year, the Supreme Court ruled that paralegal fees are recoverable at market rate, rather than just the cost to the attorney. With this climate of contrasting attitudes, it is imperative that we band together nationally to present a united front, to carefully watch legislation in other states, and to be involved in our association at the national level. Social events are nice, but they are not going to transform us into professionals, nor will they project the image of paralegals as professionals.

There is no magic bullet that will ensure paralegals will be viewed as professionals, but keeping on top of our professional development goes a long way toward that goal. The local association -- and the board of that association -- should lead the way, guiding its members toward professional development and national involvement. Without that guidance, what is the incentive to join a local paralegal association? What is the incentive to be involved in the local association? I ask myself that question, and I fervently wish that an association existed in the same town as my firm so that we could hold meetings and educational sessions during lunch and be involved on the national level.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.