Association Spotlight: Minnesota Paralegal Association

  1. What are the highlights of the organization’s past?  MPA was founded in 1974 as one of the charter organizations of the NFPA.  It was originally called the Minnesota Association of Legal Assistants.  The first minutes of the Steering Committee, dated January 28, 1974, reflected seven legal assistants in attendance and focused on the importance of the professional attitude of the legal assistant.  Another key focus of the meeting was continuing education, and they brainstormed on ideas of speakers, alternating formal meetings with informal meetings, and developing committees to spread the word about legal assistants to the legal community. Finally, the association discussed being a resource center for paralegals. Our official filing as a non-profit organization with the MN Secretary of State was 2/25/1975. MPA now has over 800 members, and membership been up over 1,000 members at times. The Association’s name was changed from Minnesota Association of Legal Assistants to Minnesota Paralegal Association (MPA) on September 13, 1995.  MPA has had award winners like current President Nancy DiPasquale, who won NFPA’s pro bono award in 2007, and the MPA has routinely met the President’s challenge for having at least two new RPs in each calendar year. In 2013, we had the most new CRPs in the NFPA, a distinction we shared with Philadelphia Association of Paralegals (PAP).  MPA’s main focus is still on educating paralegals.  We have three active chapters outside of the St. Paul/Minneapolis area, and two new chapters in the works who meet monthly and provide speakers and CLE for our outstate members.  We have several practice-area sectionals that meet monthly, and we strive to hold two CLEs per year – one geared toward transactional law, and the other geared toward litigation.  Our annual convention also provides a day-long selection of educational sessions. In 2010, we revamped our entire website, and in 2012, we introduced our new Facebook page, opening up new lines of communication with our members.  MPA continually strives to keep pace with the changing world of law and technology and keep abreast of what’s important to our members.
     
  2. How is your organization celebrating its 40th Anniversary?  We will be highlighting our anniversary on our website and Facebook page with a “celebration banner,” and we’re making it the theme of many events, such as the Spring Gala, Annual Convention and Fall Gathering.  We intend to share information from our early days of formation, such as meeting minutes and photos.  We may also be honoring past MPA presidents at our convention.  We plan to put together a Facebook “now and then” page to show how the role of paralegals has changed and evolved over the last 40 years.
     
  3. What fundraising efforts does your organization undertake? Our primary fundraising activity is our annual convention, which offers a full day of CLE in addition to two keynote speakers and opportunities to network with other paralegals and vendors.  Vendors purchase a “booth” where they can market their wares and services to paralegals in attendance.  We also offer various levels of sponsorships to local vendors, giving them various benefits, including exhibiting their hyperlinked logo on our Citations newsletter and website, speaking opportunities, and ability to attend MPA functions at no extra charge.  Finally, we have a very active “job bank” where employers can place ads for paralegals, and where paralegals can post their resumes  and find valuable resources to assist them in their job search. 
     
  4. What pro bono efforts does your organization undertake?  Members of our association have been active with Wills for Heroes, Military Paralegal outreach, Feed My Starving Children, Family Law Self-Help Clinic, Coats for Kids, Build a Backpack campaign and Ella’s Halo.  We typically collect money for one charity or another at every major association event. 
     
  5. What types of scholarships does your organization offer its members? We offer two scholarships for paralegals interested in taking the PACE exam and two for the PCCE exam.  We also offer two student membership scholarships and two association member scholarships.  Winners of these scholarships can choose either a year’s free membership or attend our annual convention at no cost.
     
  6. How do you attract and/or increase membership?  We offer discounted membership for the month of October each year, giving each class of membership 10% off their membership fee.  This also qualifies them for the Grand Prize Drawing at our exciting Fall Gathering, typically held at the end of October.  We also attract membership by increasing the value of our educational offerings.  Our wonderful practice-area sectionals each meet six times a year and present interesting, cutting-edge information in each practice area.  Outside of the immediate Twin Cities area, we have local chapters that meet on a monthly basis and provide members with a “local connection.”  In addition, we hold networking events where paralegals can meet, greet and network with each other.  We go out to the paralegal schools to present to classes and advertise the benefits of membership in the MPA.  Student memberships can be purchased at a greatly-reduced cost, and with our job bank as a member benefit, that’s a great deal for them.  Finally, we keep our social networking sites up-to-date with association happenings to attract non-members to join.
     
  7. What are the top 3 events your organization holds each year? 1) The Winter/Spring Gala is a fun networking event, where we typically have a sit-down dinner and entertainment of some type.  This year, we’re going to the Walker Art Center. 2) The Annual Convention, typically held in May or June, features a breakfast and luncheon keynote speakers that will engage all of our members regardless of their area of practice, plus several educational tracks for attendees to pick and choose from.  It is a great day of education and networking.  3) The Fall Gathering, usually held at the end of October, is the culmination of the membership drive for the next year, and where new Board members are elected.  These main events feature wonderful door prizes, donated by our sponsors, which are very well-received and a highlight of the evening.
     
  8. What types of companies sponsor your organization.  Our sponsors are companies that provide legal services to our members and their employers, including litigation support companies, court reporting firms, document management companies, corporate agent companies, messenger/service of process companies, legal research firms, legal recruiting, etc.
     
  9. What schools are associated with your organization?  We try to connect with all of the schools that offer paralegal programs throughout the state.
    1. American Institute for Paralegal Studies, Inc.
    2. Inver Hills Community College
    3. Minnesota State University – Moorhead
    4. Winona State University
    5. St. Cloud Technical & Community College
    6. Lake Superior College – Duluth Campus
    7. University of Wisconsin – Superior
    8. Hamline University
    9. Minnesota School of Business – Globe College
    10. North Hennepin Community College
    11. Rasmussen College
    12. Alexandria Technical College
       
  10. Are your founding members still actively involved in your organization?  No, their names don’t appear in our membership rolls anymore.
     
  11. What future projects is your organization working on and/or planning?
    1. First priority is to grow our membership, which is partially being accomplished by setting up new chapters in Greater Minnesota, including St. Cloud and Winona.
    2. We are in the planning stages of starting MPA Student Affiliated Groups, which would consist of students at various schools and led by the respective paralegal educators at the schools.  We’re hoping this is a way to get students more involved in MPA, help them network and get jobs and hopefully light a spark in them to volunteer with MPA. 
    3. We are also drafting a plan for Paralegal Certification through our association for our state.  We feel this would be a way to gain some accreditation and professionalism for the paralegal profession to the outside world, as well as possibly enhancing a paralegal’s chance of getting hired or promoted within the workplace.

Minnesota Paralegal Association

modified 4/1/2014

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