Lisa Stone, ACP
When I was a young paralegal, the firm I worked for paid for its paralegals to belong to multiple professional associations. For several years, I only belonged to the national association through which I am certified, NALA. Opportunities for continuing legal education were plentiful to me during those early years so I didn’t think too much about joining a local association.
A few of the more experienced paralegals at my firm invited me to attend the monthly lunch meetings held by the Tulsa Area Paralegal Association (TAPA). I did that several times and eventually became a member. For several years I did nothing more than attend the occasional monthly meeting.
As I was approaching the 15-year mark of my paralegal career, I began to look for opportunities to be more involved in the paralegal industry, both on a local level and on a wider scope. I was still at the same firm where I started my career and while I was very happy with my job, I had noticed that the legal industry was changing all around me. It began to become clear that if I didn’t expand my view, I could wake up one day and find myself trapped in a narrow practice niche with no other skills or experience and a shrinking list of network contacts.
I craved ways to meet other paralegals, not just in other firms like mine, but in corporate legal departments, government agencies, and non-traditional settings. I was curious about what other paralegals did. I worked in a specialty practice group I loved but I worried I would become a one-trick pony. I also had a very natural curiosity about learning about other areas of the law, at least at a level that I could carry on a semi-intelligent conversation if I was ever in a situation to make a first impression on someone.
With all these thoughts swirling around my brain, I swallowed my apprehension and introduced myself to the then-president of TAPA, June Brown. I told June I was looking for a way to be more involved and asked if there were any opportunities for a volunteer. My timing was prescient. June had just been re-elected as the president and was putting together her board and committees for the following year. She needed someone to lead community outreach, an important part of TAPA’s mission. I accepted the challenge and joined the TAPA board the following year as a member of the community outreach committee. I attended the board meetings and became an integral part of the TAPA leadership. That automatically led me to attending most TAPA events and I suddenly made a lot of new friends and acquaintances. I began to pay more attention to the monthly meetings that covered topics I previously would have ignored. I learned a few things outside my normal practice area and got some exposure to attorneys in Tulsa I would normally have had little opportunity to hear.
My year on the community outreach committee led to a board position the following year. During that time, I attended my first NALA convention and began to make contacts and acquaintances on a national level. I was eventually appointed to the Certifying Board for NALA, the national organization with whom TAPA is affiliated. This national position has introduced me to attorneys, paralegals, and paralegal educators from across the United States and who work in a wide variety of practice areas. We work closely together throughout the year and strong friendships have been forged.
A few years later and I am the president of TAPA for 2018. I have made some very dear friends and discovered some very important relationships as a direct result of being involved with and serving TAPA. The networking opportunities are invaluable. I have also found our outreach opportunities in our community to be very rewarding on a personal level. I am passionate about our profession and am committed to representing paralegals and the value that we provide to the legal profession.
This is my story. How about creating one of your own? If you’re already a member of TAPA, how about taking that step and getting more involved? Not ready for that yet? Try introducing yourself to someone new at the next meeting. Exchange contact information. Maybe you’ll make a new friend that knows something about what you do!
If you’re not a member of TAPA, why not check us out? Visit our website to learn about the events we have planned for this year. We’re holding a minimum of four seminars, each with 2-3 hours of educational sessions and a meal. These seminars are completely free with your membership. For the cost of our annual membership, you can easily experience at least 10 hours of legal educational sessions on a variety of interesting and timely topics.