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My Opinion

National Association Impact

Paralegals split on benefits of membership.

By Heidi Lowry

September/October 2008 Table of Contents


At a time when many national paralegal and legal professional associations are hosting their annual conventions, LAT’s most recent My Opinion survey polled paralegals to find out just how active they are in these organizations. The membership results are split: Just over one-half of respondents (50.7 percent) are not members of a national legal professional association, while just under one-half (49.3 percent) are members. Among those who are not members of a national association, the reason most often given for not joining is that it’s too expensive (26.9 percent). “At present, I have a hard time justifying the cost to the benefit,” said a 22-year paralegal from Scottsdale, Ariz. Other paralegals would join if their employers footed the bill. “I will consider doing it if the firm I work for will pay all the expenses,” said a 9-year legal assistant from Lake Wales, Fla.

Respondents who are not members of a national association also cited other reasons for not joining, including: they don’t see any benefit to their career (11.6 percent), national association membership isn’t included as part of their local association membership (9.6 percent), they don’t know how to join (9.6 percent), they don’t have time (7.7 percent) and their local association offers all the benefits that they need (7.7 percent). “I want to join and be more active in paralegal associations but find I have to work an additional job, which takes a lot of my time and I just can’t cover the costs involved either,” said Maube Mor, an 8-year paralegal from Columbus, Ohio.

Despite the fact that approximately half of respondents said they are not members of national associations now, 54.5 percent of those who are not members said they plan on joining in the future. Only 3.1 percent who currently are not national association members have no plans to join, while 42.4 percent don’t know if they will join in the future. “I’m unsure of the bonus it would have in my current job or any in my local area,” said Stephanie Pate, a 7-year legal assistant from Panama City, Fla.

Of those who are members of a na­tional association, 42.9 percent are members only, 16.3 percent attend the annual conference, 14.3 percent serve as officers, 10.2 percent are part of a committee and 6.1 percent act as committee chairs. “My involvement has not only enhanced my career beyond words, but it has also opened many other doors that I never expected. The leadership experience is second to none and the many friendships are priceless,” said September D. Holmblad, PP, PLS, a 29-year paralegal from Blaine, Minn., and committee member and past national president of Nals … the association for legal professionals.

Cost also was a factor in the level of involvement for respondents who are members of a national association. “I would attend more national conventions if my firm picked it up,” said Mathew Laskowski, a 10-year senior paralegal from Manville, N.J., who is a member of the National Association of Legal Assistants. “[I]f I’m faced with doing more with my local [association] or sacrificing my vacation funds to attend the national convention, I’ll always do more with my local [association], although I would like to be more involved with my national [association].”

Those who joined a national association did so to keep updated on important issues in their profession (22.3 percent), to become more involved in their profession (19.4 percent), to network (16.5 percent), because their local association membership includes a national association membership (15.6 percent), to enhance their career (13.6 percent) and to promote paralegal utilization (8.7 percent). “I try to attend as many educational conferences and membership meetings as my budget will allow. My membership in each association (local, state and national) has greatly enhanced my professional career,” said Donna F. Dupree, CLAS, a 16-year paralegal specialist from Riverside, Calif., and a member of NALA.

Overwhelmingly, respondents who said they currently are members of a national association felt that membership has enhanced their careers (72.7 percent). “I derived great benefits from being a member of national associations,” said Roxanne R. Reynolds, PLS, a 35-year paralegal from Spartanburg, S.C., and a member of NALA, Nals … the association for legal professionals and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. “Joining an association is something I strongly urge all legal professionals to do.” Just 18.2 percent of respondents felt that being members of a national association has not enhanced their career and 9.1 percent stated that they didn’t know whether it has enhanced their career.

Among national association members who took the survey, 37.2 percent are members of NFPA, 32.6 percent are members of NALA, 11.6 percent are members of Nals … the association for legal professionals, 7 percent are members of the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc., 7 percent are members of the American Bar Association and 2.3 percent are members of the American Association of Paralegal Education.    


Survey Results

Are you a member of a national legal professional association?

     Yes: 49.3%

     No: 50.7%


If you are a member of a national association, how are you involved?

     Officer: 14.3%

     Committee chair: 6.1%

     Part of a committee: 10.2%

     Attend annual conference: 16.3%

     Member only: 42.9%

     Other: 10.2%


Has membership in a national association enhanced your paralegal career?

     Yes: 72.7%

     No: 18.2%

     I don’t know: 9.1%


If you are not a member now, do you plan to join a national association in the future?

     Yes: 54.5

     No: 3.1

     I don’t konw: 42.4%


Total survey responses: 67



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