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V for Volunteerism

published January 15, 2007

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( 13 votes, average: 4.5 out of 5)
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<<For example, if you want to stay within the legal field and volunteer your professional skills and knowledge, you can assist with pro bono cases, help out at a legal aid clinic, or donate some of your time to your local paralegal association.

Martha Jones, a certified legal assistant (CLA) from Austin, TX, won the State Bar of Texas' 2005 Exceptional Pro Bono Award for the Paralegal Division. Jones, who works at the law firm of Ausley, Algert, Robertson & Flores, LLP, was also named "Outstanding Volunteer" by Volunteer Legal Services (VLS) of Central Texas in 1994; she even helped create a pro bono clinic in the late 1980s.

A family law legal assistant, Jones volunteers with the VLS Pro Se Divorce Clinic for people with children. In an article on the State Bar of Texas' website, she said the clinic captured her heart. She also said that volunteering makes her more compassionate toward her clients.

"Jones brings a wealth of experience and information to the clinic she serves," the article said.  "She regularly goes above and beyond what is required or expected of her: giving her telephone number to a pro se litigant with special needs, personally checking on service, personally calling out-of-county process servers to arrange service, updating forms to keep current of legislative changes, and simply holding someone's hand or giving them a hug because they are overwhelmed by the process.  In addition, if not for Jones, many paralegals would never have desired to volunteer for VLS."

However, if you want to volunteer your talents within the legal field, as a paralegal, you should educate yourself on the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) beforehand so that you don't get yourself into any situations you shouldn't.

Gerald R. Cummings, Sr., a certified litigation paralegal in Columbus, OH, said that some states are thinking about doing away with UPL statutes and others are proposing civil penalties for UPL. In order to educate yourself on UPL, Cummings suggested listening to and/or watching UPL cases on the Internet.

"One source of UPL cases I found particularly informative is the live coverage of Ohio Supreme Court proceedings, complete with streaming audio and video. By checking the calendar for live video on the Supreme Court website, you can follow proceedings involving UPL," he told the Ohio State Bar Association's Paralegal News.

To read an article on the current status of UPL around the nation and to find out more about recent UPL cases in your state, you can visit the American Bar Association at

On the other hand, if you want to step outside of the legal field and volunteer with another organization that is important to you or an organization you would like to learn more about, there are plenty of options.

Brett L. Miller, an attorney with Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs in Columbus, OH, chose to volunteer in the fight against breast cancer after his sister was diagnosed with the disease. For him, the experience of volunteering for a cause close to his heart has been empowering.

"For years, I dabbled in volunteerism but never really found my inspiration," he said in an article in Paralegal News. "That all changed when my sister, Sally, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990. From that day forward, I focused my volunteer efforts on supporting cancer research."

After his sister's death in 1997, Miller began focusing his efforts on helping find a cure for breast cancer. Currently, he helps recruit people to participate in and contribute financially to the annual Komen Race for the Cure, and he helps with the fundraising for Stefanie Spielman's annual Champions Luncheon.

"While the fight against breast cancer is certainly my priority, I continue to volunteer for other causes. Why? Because nothing makes me feel better than trying to help in whatever small way I can," Miller said in the same article. "So, whatever the cause and whatever your motivation, I encourage you to get out there and get involved. You will make a difference and feel great while doing it."

Not sure what organization you would like to volunteer with? Websites such as can help link you up with a cause that you care about. VolunteerMatch makes it easy by allowing you to search for volunteer organizations within your zip code. Once you have browsed through the list and found some that you are interested in, you simply register as a VolunteerMatch member, and an email is sent to alert the organizations about your interest in serving.

published January 15, 2007

( 13 votes, average: 4.5 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.