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Pay Your Legal Assistant's Dues, Make Yourself Happy

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I’ve been after my legal assistant, Kristi Skipper, to provide a guest post for The Last Word.  She has graciously done so, and here, in her own words, are her Top 5 Reasons Why Your Legal Assistant Should Join a Legal Professionals Association.

A couple of weekends ago I attended the 2010 Annual Meeting of AALS…The Association for Legal Professionals.  I enjoyed this meeting a lot, and it got me to thinking about all the benefits to attorneys in having their staff members join an association for legal support staff.

There are two associations in Alabama for legal assistants, and they both offer many benefits.  AALS…the Association of Legal Professionals is part of the tri-level association NALS…The Association for Legal Professionals. The Alabama Association of Paralegals, Inc., also called AAPi, is affiliated with the National Association of Legal Assistants.

I believe that all legal staff should be active in a professional association. Here are my top five reasons:

  1. Associations offer members the opportunity to improve their skills and keep up with changes in the law. Members can attend educational seminars and conferences on current legal issues, helping them to stay on top of the ever-changing legal profession.  Having informed staff helps YOU stay informed and cuts down on training time.
  2. Associations offer certifications for legal secretaries and paralegals. Obtaining certification will build confidence in your staff and boost their knowledge, and it is a sign of excellence.  Members are required to submit proof of attending CLE seminars to maintain certification.  NALA offers the Certified Legal Assistant/Certified Paralegal certification.  NALS offers both basic and advanced certification for legal secretaries, and also a Professional Paralegal certification.  Having certified staff makes YOU look good to clients.
  3. Membership in associations provides networking opportunities nationwide. Your legal staff can meet other legal professionals all over the nation and can put those connections to good use.  Need to issue a non-party subpoena in another state? Chances are, there is an association member in that state who will be more than happy to share with you the process and forms needed to obtain the non-party subpoena.  Both AAPi and NALS maintain a Facebook page and an online community through Ning, where members can post questions and answers on topics ranging from asking for assistance with a feature on Microsoft Word, to obtaining contact names for out-of-state courts.  Having staff with contacts all over the nation extends your network, and helps YOU save time and money.
  4. NALA and NALS members are bound by a Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility. Members are required to conduct their personal and professional lives with integrity and competence.  Having staff dedicated to ethical behavior helps YOU rest easy.
  5. Association Members have the opportunity to be involved in local chapters. AAPi has several regions throughout the state through which members can be involved.  Membership is open to legal assistants/paralegals.  CLE is offered through each region, and AAPi holds two educational seminars each year.  AAPi members are involved in volunteer legal work throughout the state.  NALS is a tri-level association with a state chapter in Alabama (AALS) and local chapters in Baldwin County, Birmingham, Dallas County, Mobile, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa. There is also a student chapter in Mobile.  Anyone in the legal field can join NALS, including attorneys and educators.  Most local chapters offer CLE on a regular basis, and AALS offers CLE at meetings three times each year.  Some chapters support local charities and are involved in volunteer legal work.  Having staff involved in an association for legal professionals helps YOU, makes YOU look good, and makes YOUR life easier.

Happy staff means a happy attorney.  If you support your staff in their efforts to better themselves and you let them know that they are valuable to you, they will be even more loyal and dedicated to helping you serve your clients well.