Monday, October 6, 2008

Keeping NFPA's Focus on Advancing the Paralegal Profession

As delegates gear up to travel to Rogers this week for the 2008 NFPA Annual Convention, there are three more agenda topics that can make or break the advancement of the paralegal profession.

Defining "Practicing Paralegal." This agenda topic would delete "practicing" altogether from NFPA's Bylaws, leaving "paralegal" open to a wide variety of interpretations - most notably, someone working as a vendor who once was a paralegal. If this Pandora's box is opened, a vendor could sit on a local paralegal association's board -- or the NFPA Board. If that happens, instead of working toward paralegals' best interests, the vendor would work to advance its own interests, which are not always in line with those of paralegals. Instead, NFPA should actually define "practicing paralegal" and make it inclusive: those who work in non-traditional roles; those who do substantial pro bono work; those who are former paralegals and current paralegal educators. If I had a vote, it would be no on this topic.

Inclusion of Military Paralegals as Individual Sustaining Members. A hearty yes goes out to this topic, although it does need a friendly amendment suggesting appropriate dues, since the original topic leaves it as "local association dues," and those widely vary. Perhaps a $30 discount from Individual Sustaining Member dues would be appropriate for military paralegals who wish to join as Individual Sustaining Members. Due to the nature of the military, joining a local association is difficult, and this option would encourage military paralegals to join NFPA.

Create an Access to Legal Services Coordinator. No. NFPA has a pro bono coordinator, it seems like this is a second coordinator that would do essentially the same thing. Further, NFPA needs to focus on regulation and exams and promoting the profession. While access to legal services is important, it varies in each locality and is best left to local associations, not to mention local bar associations. As paralegals, there is only so much we can do to ensure that access to justice is equal. At some point, lawyers are needed because paralegals, quite simply, can't practice law.

Note: I will be blogging at the 2008 NFPA Convention this week. Stay tuned for updates!

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