Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Small World? Make It Big!

If you've attended a Paralegal Mentor Mastermind Call, you've heard me describe how 'I live in a small town and work in a small law office...yet I made my world large through my membership in my state and national association.'When I became acquainted via social networking with Melissa Hinote CP, I realized that her she is just beginning her paralegal career and her experience mirrors mine somewhat so I asked her to write about 'making her world large.' I think you'll enjoy her excellent article. Also, be sure to note Melissa's blog at www.para-mel.blogspot.com and connect with her on Twitter as @melihi.

By Melissa Hinote, CP

I am a small town, small firm paralegal. If you have ever worked as a paralegal in a small town, you understand just how tiny your world can be. Some days, my attorney is the only legal professional with whom I have any contact.

Thankfully, I have learned that a small physical location does not necessarily mean small connections.

I majored in English in college, so the research, writing and analysis my job requires are all right up my alley. I enjoy my role, but I am the only paralegal in my entire town. Sometimes, this fact makes me feel cut-off from and insignificant to the rest of the legal community. I realized shortly into my career that I would have to put in extra effort if I wanted to stay connected.

My first step in doing so was an accident. I joined Twitter to communicate with friends but was almost immediately introduced to the active online legal community. In fact, Twitter introduced me to Vicki Voisin and several other paralegals, lawyers, and other legal professionals with whom I am now acquainted. I signed up for Vicki’s free Paralegal Mentor Mastermind calls and began reading legal blogs.

Before long, I started my own blog, Paralegalese. Just like that, the online legal community opened up to me with all of its vast information, knowledge and perspective. The Internet has allowed me to add my voice to nationwide conversations regarding the direction of legal services, the role of paralegals, and breaking news in the legal world.

In May 2009 I achieved the Certified Paralegal designation offered by NALA. Then I joined NALS. I am now a member of my local affiliates for both organizations. These groups keep me connected with legal professionals who I may not see every day, but with whom I can share information and experiences directly.

Both organizations have proved fruitful. If I have a question, need a form, or just need to vent, I now have a local legal family for these things. From my first awkward moment as the new girl at a meeting, these people have been there with open and inviting arms, an array of advice, and hard-won experience.

My firm is not large, nor is my lawyer’s practice. But my legal community is quite expansive. If I had never fallen into the Twitter legal world, never started a blog, never joined my local professional organizations, I might still be that lonely paralegal in my small town, disconnected from the many opportunities and connections out there. As it stands, I have a small but loyal group of blog readers, online friends who offer advice, encouragement and news, and several local paralegals who care about my success the same way I care about theirs.

With a little effort and sincerity, you can find great networks to act as sources of encouragement, information, and advice. If ever your world seems small, just add effort. It will double in size.

****Melissa Hinote is a NALA Certified Paralegal working for a solo practice attorney in a rural Alabama farm town. Her blog 'Paralegalese...promoting, encouraging, and discussing the role of the paralegal through a daily dose of anecdote" is at www.para-mel.blogspot.com

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