For the past few weeks, retailers have put out back-to-school displays and advertised specials on backpacks, shoes, pencils and other necessary gear to get kids ready for the start of school.
Cyndy Adams made three trips to Office Depot in one day recently to take advantage of a sale on notebooks. But they weren't for her kids.
She was collecting school supplies for the Catawba Valley Paralegal Association.
Before school started, association members gathered the items and took them to the Catawba County Department of Social Services for distribution to kids who can't afford them.
Working in the legal profession often means knowing very personal details about clients, especially those who are faced with hardship. So when the association surveyed its members about how they would like to contribute to their community, DSS seemed a natural choice.
Each month, the association donates items toward a specific need. In July, it collected school supplies. In August, it's baby care items.
“Our hope is that people will know that an organization that is not associated with DSS is helping,” said association president Lynn Price. “They'll know that someone else cares.”
The association formed in 2007 to provide education, networking and support for paralegals and other members of the legal community and to promote the profession through service such as its donations to DSS. It has about 45 members from Catawba, Burke, Caldwell, Lincoln and other counties. It has a monthly meeting, a quarterly social meeting and a quarterly educational meeting.
Because the legal profession is so varied, social meetings give members a chance to learn about aspects of the law they don't regularly encounter. The meetings are also a good way to blow off steam, said Vice President Leah Poovey, who took advantage of a recent social at Pin Station in Newton to do just that.
The association also offers the opportunity to earn continuing paralegal education units. Paralegals certified through the N.C. State Bar Association must complete six hours of CPE training a year.
Members have found the educational opportunities helpful when working with clients. Adams, who works at the law office of Lewis Waddell Jr. in Newton, attended a session on domestic violence law. She said she used the information “the very next morning” to help a client.
Recent topics have included document destruction and archiving, elder law, bankruptcy and ethics. In September, lawyer Carolyn Crouch will give a course on adoption.
“Most law offices are getting to the point where they only specialize in one or two things,” said Price, who works in real estate law. “Through this association we're actually able to provide better information to our clients.”
The professional network the association creates is also a good source of information. In a recent issue of “Para Sight,” its bimonthly newsletter, Adams said, “Many times it is a coworker or friend at another law firm who provides the answer to your question.”
On the association's Web site, www.catawbavalleyparalegalassoc.org, are links to job listings, updates on community projects and CPE offerings and membership information.
Erica Batten is a freelance writer.