Thursday, November 5, 2009

Paralegal Profile: Thirteen Questions for Patti Clapper ACP

Patti Clapper ACP is the President of the North Carolina Paralegal Association (NCPA) and blogs at You'll enjoy her interesting answers to The Paralegal Mentor's Thirteen Questions...

1. Where do you work and what is your job title? I have worked at Levine & Stewart in Chapel Hill NC for 14 ½ years. My job title is a little “iffy” – some days you might call me a paralegal, some you might call me a legal assistant. I don’t have a preference. You might call me the IT Department too (in fact I have a little orange hat on my desk that’s my “IT hat”).

2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? I took a Law & Justice class in high school which got me interested in the legal field. My grandmother gave me an ad that had been in the newspaper for the paralegal program at a local community college, Central Carolina Community College.

3. What is your favorite part of your job? I work for a general practice so no two days are the same and I like that. I also enjoy meeting new people and making new friends.

4. Do you belong to any professional associations? I am currently serving as President of the North Carolina Paralegal Association. My past positions with NCPA include 1st Vice President, District Director, Treasurer and Public Relations Chair. I am also a member of the National Association of Legal Assistants and the North Carolina Advocates for Justice.

5. How has your membership benefited you? Definitely the networking and friendships. My boss likes to say “can you ask your people…” He knows that if I don’t know the answer, I can usually find someone who does.6. Do you have any professional certifications? I obtained my NALA CLA designation in 1996, my NALA CLA Specialty in Litigation in 2004 and became a NC State Bar Certified Paralegal in 2005.

7. What has been the highlight of your career? Being a part of the movement to get paralegals and legal assistants in North Carolina certified by the NC State Bar.

8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? Connecting and networking through social sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Not only does this help keep you informed of current issues in the legal field, it’s a great way to network with other paralegals.

9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? How has that benefitted you? Before becoming President of NCPA, I was a frequent speaker for Half Moon Seminars and IPE in the areas of ethics and internet researching. I’ve backed off of that now, but I do have a blog where I share websites with other legal professionals. Readers can also find me on Twitter as @lglduck. I love sharing what I know with others as well as learning what others have to offer me.

10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? Get at least an Associate's Degree and get your certification. If your State offers certification, get is a soon as you complete school. If you think you might want to sit for the CLA Exam through NALA, do it as soon as you complete school. Those test taking skills tend to fade after a few years. Also, don’t be afraid to apply for a position where you don’t meet the exact criteria. You never know when you may be the only or the best qualified applicant for the position!

11. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? Definitely Sharon Robertson. She is the one who got me started with NCPA which later led to my becoming more involved with the Association and the profession in general. A local community college was hosting a curriculum improvement project for the paralegal curriculums at NC community colleges. Sharon was part of that group. I don’t remember how the conversation got started but before I knew it, Sharon had roped me into taking the Senior Editor Position for NCPA’s FORUM. As they say, the rest is history. I should also mention my instructor at CCCC, Lisa Morris Duncan. She has always been a big supporter and nominated me to be a part of the curriculum improvement project which led to my meeting Sharon.

12. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Get your name out there and network with others in the profession. Get involved in your local association, if you don’t have one, start one! Do things for your profession besides just sitting at your desk every day.

13. Is there a quote that inspires you? "We have no control over what happens to us, but we have 100% control over how we deal with what happens to us" - Coach Kay YowBonus…Just for Fun Fact: I am a sports fanatic, mostly college (I am a diehard NC State fan); I coach a U5 soccer team and my daughter’s U12 basketball team.

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