Wow, 2020 has been the longest and shortest year in my memory! I can’t believe conference is just around the corner and I will assume the role of President of IPMA in a short couple of weeks. With everything that has happened this year, pandemic, raised awareness of racial injustices, personal struggles and the reimagining of my professional life, it is hard to believe that this has all happened in one year (or actually closer to 6 months.) The year 2020 is truly a watershed moment that has made an indelible mark on our lives. So what’s next?
So many people want 2020 in the rear view mirror as quickly as possible. I totally understand that sentiment. However, there are so many lessons learned this year that we need to remember them and incorporate them in how we move forward. The IPMA has not been exempt from feeling the impact of this year’s events. Those changes have been positive and to some degree negative. I want to build on all of them.
Let’s get the negative out of the way first. The pandemic took a bite out of our finances. With a membership drop and the projected income from conference not anticipated to match past years’, our association is back in austerity mode. As many of your past presidents agree, we know how to do austerity! Being an eternal optimist, I see these challenges as opportunities for success.
I believe our members will be back once the crisis is over AND we are introducing ourselves to many new potential members. The fundamentals of IPMA has not changed, we are the premier resource for education and networking among legal professionals. We have built it, they will come.
You ask how? The positives from this year are many. They are making us stronger. We along with everyone else has been pushed into the virtual world, some kicking and screaming. We met this challenge head on. Under the leadership of our president, Patty Maxwell we forged ahead and looked at everything we do and how we could continue and expand our offerings with a virtual focus. Our annual conference and local chapter meetings was when we met in person. All of our other activities were not face to face. Today they are! Zoom has allowed us to see and talk to our members like we never did before. More and more members are feeling comfortable turning on the video feed and that is building our connections across the association. Zoom is here to stay and it will serve us well into the future.
Having spoken and listened to so many of you this year, I think this has been a great year for paralegal/practice group management. We all have been on the front line of figuring out how to get our jobs done and effectively supporting our paralegals and legal professionals to remain productive. We are a creative group and those lessons learned will help us in the future as we transition from an exclusively remote work environment to whatever the hybrid remote/office model that I believe will be our future. IPMA will continue to be on the forefront of sharing the lessons learned and reimagining the way law firms and legal departments function.
I look forward to supporting and facilitating the work of our Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board as it grows from its initial stages. Racism needs to be exposed and rooted out in all avenues of life. We need to continue to educate ourselves on these realities. As managers we have the opportunity to make and direct decisions that impact the inclusion of all members of society.
Confidence! That is my word for 2021. We have struggled mightily this year, but we have succeeded on so many levels. We need to be confident of what we have learned and make sure we use our voices to speak up and share the lessons with our colleagues at work and within IPMA. I look forward to continue to work with everyone I have met over the years and I am excited to meet the rest of our members in the coming year.
The American Bar Association (“ABA”) has long appreciated the value the paralegal profession can bring to the legal world. The ABA established a Standing Committee on Paralegals whose mission “is to improve the American system of justice by establishing ABA standards for the education of paralegals and by promoting attorneys' professional, effective and ethical utilization of paralegals.” The Standing Committee is comprised of attorneys familiar with the paralegal profession and/or active in paralegal education and development, with a goal to “develop[s] and promote[s] policies relating to the education, employment, training and effective use of paralegals.” The Approval Commission works with the Standing Committee to promote high quality paralegal education through the approval of paralegal education programs that are in compliance with the ABA Guidelines for the Approval of Paralegal Education Programs (“Guidelines”)
. Together, the Standing Committee and the Approval Commission set the standards for high quality paralegal education and paralegal programs undergo a rigorous approval process on a regular basis in order to be considered an ABA Approved program.
The Approval Commission is comprised of attorneys and paralegals working in the field of paralegal education, representatives from professional paralegal and paralegal education associations such as AAfPE, NALA, NFPA and the IPMA, a paralegal and a public member. Approval Commission members chair and second site visits, write site visit reports and present programs for approval and reapproval at Approval Commission meetings. As the IPMA representative on the Approval Commission, I can attest that the Commission takes very seriously its mission to evaluate paralegal programs up for approval and reapproval and their compliance with the Guidelines.
The Standing Committee and Approval Commission was also recently tasked with the issue of whether the ABA’s definition of paralegal should be updated in light of modern usage. In April 2019 I attended a meeting of the Conclave, a gathering of associations and groups invested in the paralegal profession and education and the topic of modifying the ABA’s definition was raised by ABA representatives. The National Federation of Paralegal Associations had previously sent a request to the ABA to revisit their definition to remove the term “legal assistant.’ The definition adopted in 1997 by the ABA read as follows:
“A legal assistant or paralegal is a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.”
The discussion to modify the definition centered around the deletion of the term “legal assistant.” Some saw the term legal assistant as more applicable to legal secretaries in today’s market. Others voiced that use of the term “legal assistant” on a resume made the reviewer consider that the candidate had performed more clerical instead of substantive work. Questions were raised as to whether the two terms create confusion, thus contributing to a “branding” problem and whether two job titles describing the same roles creates confusion among the general public about what a paralegal does.
Thomas McClure, the Approval Commission Chair and Conclave attendees noted that the Standing Committee would be continuing their discussion on modifying the definition soon and he was interested in the Conclave members’ thoughts as to the impact of the removal of the term “legal assistant” might have on our respective constituencies. Although at the Conclave meeting no one raised significant opposition to the proposed change, he suggested the question be raised with our membership and any feedback sent to the Committee. The IPMA’s Board of Directors did not have any concerns with the removal of the term legal assistant from the ABA’s definition of paralegal. No other associations raised issues with the modification. The ABA Standing Committee and Approval Commission continued to seek feedback on changes to the definition from the legal community and stakeholders in paralegal education and the profession and to discuss the topic at Committee and Commission meetings before submitting a resolution to the ABA House of Delegates.
Thus, at the February 2020 ABA Midyear meeting, the ABA's policy-making body, the House of Delegates, adopted the current definition of paralegal, as recommended by the Standing Committee on Paralegals. The current definition now reads as follows to mirror current usage and to highlight the substantive work paralegals are expected to perform. The term “legal assistant” is now removed from the definition:
“A paralegal is a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.”
*The views presented in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views or policy of the American Bar Association.
How I Give Back to My Community
By: Tracy Schumm, Director of Legal Professional/Professional Services, Snell & Wilmer LLP
Thanks for reading the second article in our “How I Give Back” series. The idea behind these articles is to learn more about how IPMA members and their firms give back to their communities and the legal industry and learn more about our members while we’re at it. I’m thrilled I was asked to write for the series and share how I give back to my community. I hope you enjoy it!
A little about me. My husband and I are raising two equally amazing and exhausting kids while balancing our careers, a happy home, family, hobbies, scouts, athletics, etc. Believe me – I have a full plate, but I always find myself saying yes when given an opportunity to give back. I volunteer, I answer the call when asked, and I’m always happy I do. So, you’re probably asking why I add more to an already loaded plate and it’s a valid question. In order to tell you how
I give back, it’s easier to tell you why
I give back.
Former Arizona Cardinal and fallen Army Ranger, Pat Tillman once said, “Passion is what makes life interesting, what ignites our soul, fuels our love and carries our friendships, stimulates our intellect, and pushes our limits.” I have immense respect for Pat and his legacy. These words have deep meaning and I always challenge myself to live them. I give back because it gives me a greater sense of purpose, it exposes me to new things and people, and it feeds my passion for life. My why
My first love and passion has always been education. I earned my bachelor’s degrees in political science and secondary education and had contently planned to teach high school history, sociology, and economics for the rest of my life. Instead, I followed my college sweetheart (now husband) to Arizona and landed a great job at a prestigious law firm in Phoenix where I am now celebrating my sixteenth year. That said, I still love teaching and continue to have the utmost respect for our educators.
Good news is I still fulfill my love of teaching in a couple ways. I have been a volunteer for Junior Achievement for the last five years. I am a trained volunteer teacher working with 6th
graders teaching them about economics, personal finances, and high-growth careers. I also participate in mock interviews and networking activities with high schoolers. I find this time in the classroom rewarding and look forward to the post-Covid days when I can volunteer again. I am also on the advisory board and an adjunct faculty member with Phoenix College’s Legal Studies program where I teach the communications section of the NALA CP preparation course and occasionally organize resume writing workshops for paralegal students. I thoroughly enjoy being a member of the local education community because I satisfy a passion while also playing an influential role in paralegals’ early careers.
I am also a strong advocate for first responders. The passion to advocate for first responders comes from a tender and personal space in my heart. My big brother Bill has always been my hero. He was smart, fun loving, and driven. He fulfilled a professional dream when he became a flight nurse working on a helicopter trauma team in Chicago. On October 15, 2008, while on a lifesaving mission, his helicopter crashed and all onboard were killed. He was 31. On April 22, 2009, I found myself at a House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee Hearing in Washington DC to advocate for increased safety measures for medical helicopters. The Air Medical Safety Act passed the House and was introduced to the Senate in June 2009. Through this tragedy, I knew I needed to take the best parts of Bill, the parts I admired most, and carry them with me forever. This is what drives my continued passion to advocate for those who sacrifice their own safety to save others.
To honor my brother’s legacy, I have also become passionate about advocating for our active military. I support the Pat Tillman Foundation in providing scholarships to our extraordinary service men and women. I have this foundation to thank for my love of running as I participate every year in Pat’s Run along with 28,000 other Phoenicians. My fundraising efforts are always done in my brother’s name. I also support our veterans who struggle with re-entry to civilian life. I have participated in training (and even joined the Army Reserves for a day) to learn how to better advocate for veterans who are seeking employment after their service.
If you’re looking for ways to give back to your community, I encourage you to peel back your reasons of why
and find your passion. The stronger the why,
the easier it is to follow through. If you already know your why
, then the rest is easy. We all have unique opportunities to give back to our communities. Next time you have a chance to volunteer or are asked for your time, I challenge you to say yes. You never know what that experience will teach you about yourself.
IPMA Talk Live Wrap-up
By: Gary Platton, Mass Tort Manager, Ulmer & Berne LLP