Gov. Roy Cooper Proclaims October 23, 2020, North Carolina Paralegal Day

By Pamela Hollern, Esq.

Gov. Roy Cooper has proclaimed Friday, October 23, 2020, North Carolina Paralegal Day! A proclamation is an official document issued by the governor to commemorate a specific time period (for example, a day, week, or month). It brings recognition, awareness, or appreciation to an issue, cause, milestone, or noteworthy event that is relevant and important to North Carolina.

North Carolina Paralegal Day is a day to celebrate the contributions of paralegals and paralegal students throughout the state. If you employ a paralegal or you are a paralegal, then you already know the indispensable role they play in the practice of law.

View the Proclamation


The Importance of Paralegals in My Legal Career

When I started as a new associate at a large Phoenix law firm, I quickly realized my law school education had done little to educate me on the actual practice of law. My first assignment was to join a team working on a large accounting malpractice case. In addition to my lack of practical legal skills, I knew nothing about accounting. My dad had always encouraged me to take an accounting class in college, and I refused because I thought accounting was boring. Once again, father knows best! With a full-fledged case of imposter syndrome flaring up, I had two choices, explain to my new firm that I was clueless or align myself with the most knowledgeable person on the team — the paralegal. The best decision I made in those first few weeks as a new associate was to march down the hall, introduce myself to the paralegal, confess my lack of knowledge, and ask for her help.

Paralegals were an integral part of my success throughout my legal career. It was a paralegal who helped me navigate the Ohio court system when I moved from Arizona to Ohio, and it was a paralegal who helped me transition from a corporate ligation at a big law practice to a brief foray into transactional work at a small boutique law firm in North Carolina. Although I never planned on becoming an educator, in hindsight, it is no surprise that I became a paralegal educator, when paralegals taught me so much about the law and the importance of the role they play.

GTCC Paralegal Student Association Requests Paralegal Day Proclamation

As the Director of Guilford Technical Community College’s Paralegal program, I am always looking for ways my students can relate what they learn in the classroom to real world experiences that impact the broader legal community. A few years ago, I was scrolling through social media and ran across a Paralegal Day Proclamation from another state. I mentioned this at a GTCC Paralegal Student Association meeting, and the students ran with it. They instantly formed a committee, started investigating what other states have done, and began drafting their own North Carolina Paralegal Day proclamation. Based on the hard work of these GTCC Paralegal students, Gov. Cooper proclaimed March 22, 2019, North Carolina Paralegal Day.

In 2020, the GTCC Paralegal Student Association decided to request the proclamation for October 23 so it would coincide with National Paralegal Day. Unfortunately, none of us anticipated a global pandemic, so North Carolina Paralegal Day almost did not happen. Under the guidelines that existed then, it was too soon to submit the request for a proclamation in February 2020. By March 2020, the Paralegal Program moved to online classes, and the GTCC Paralegal Student Association paused meetings while students scrambled to adjust to the new normal of juggling virtual classes, facilitating their children’s learning at home, essential jobs, and shared workspaces. When classes resumed in the fall of 2020, the Paralegal Day Proclamation was a top priority. However, because of the pandemic, the Governor’s Office had changed the deadlines for submitting proclamations, and now we were too late.

In the words of the GTCC Paralegal Student Association’s President, Carrie Schiotz: “My experience with this year’s Proclamation can be summed up in one word — hectic! Coming in as the new president of the Paralegal Association, I was not sure what to expect or where to get started, but that changed quickly. At the beginning of the fall semester, we discovered we were past the deadline to submit our proclamation to the Governor’s Office for approval. The Paralegal Association at GTCC had planned to draft and finalize it in the previous semester, but COVID-19 intervened, as it has in most of the legal profession. We hurriedly formed a committee, wrote and edited the proclamation, and sent it off with a plea to the Governor’s Office to accept it late — all within a week’s time. It is the most important deadline that I have ever had to meet, and the organization required to get it done while managing school and a family. It is definitely a skill that I will use in the future.”

Proclamation Committee Co-Chair, Samantha Wright, agreed. “It was a great foray into legal writing. I really felt I was making a difference/ touching the legal community, like I was part of it for the first time.”

Even though many states have expanded the role of paralegals to increase access to legal services for underserved communities, paralegals continue to take a back seat to attorneys. It can be a thankless job with long hours. “In the legal field, lawyers generally get the attention. They are the faces of their firms, the ones who represent the law to the public. Paralegals often go unrecognized — not because they are unimportant, but because they do the behind-the-scenes work that people do not usually see. Having a day that acknowledges paralegals for their efforts and knowing that I had a part in that acknowledgement gives me immense satisfaction,” said Schiotz.

Co-Chair Wright is excited to join the paralegal community and feels “blessed that our wonderful state holds out this profession with both a certifying exam and a day to be recognized. I think N.C. is leading the charge to take the paralegal profession to the next level.”


GTCC’s Paralegal Program

The role of the paralegal has evolved greatly since the inception of the paralegal career in the 1970s. To learn more about the importance of paralegal education and certification, click here. If you are interested in becoming a paralegal or have a paralegal who would like to qualify to take the North Carolina Paralegal Certification Exam, GTCC offers two career pathways. The college offers an associate degree in paralegal technology and a post-bachelor’s paralegal certificate (18 credit hours) for qualifying students. Both pathways allow graduates to sit for the NCCP exam. In addition, current GTCC students are available for internship opportunities and GTCC students and graduates for permanent job placements.

To learn more about GTCC’s Paralegal Program or to post a job opening, contact Program Director, Pam Hollern at [email protected].

Pamela Hollern is an attorney and the director of GTCC’s Paralegal Program. She has taught at GTCC since 2012, and her specialties include legal research and writing and civil litigation. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and graduated cum laude from ASU’s School of Law. She was the Note & Comment Editor of the Arizona State Law Journal and was a legal research and writing instructor for first-year law students. She passed the bar exam in Arizona, Ohio, and North Carolina and received the top score on the Ohio exam. She practiced commercial litigation at large law firms in Phoenix, Arizona and Cleveland, Ohio. Professor Hollern left the practice of law to work for Thomson Reuters, training large law firm attorneys and paralegals on Westlaw. In 2006, the Ohio native moved to Greensboro and practiced law at a boutique business firm before starting her employment at GTCC.

The Paralegal Division Blog is managed by the Division’s Communications Committee. Via the blog and listserv, the Communications Committee provides information written by attorneys, paralegals, and other experts designed specifically for paralegals in the areas of substantive law, ethics, technology, paralegal practice advice, and more. If you are interested in volunteering with the Communications Committee, please contact the Communications Committee Chair, Alicia Mitchell-Mercer, at [email protected]. If you are interested in joining other Division committees, you can review a list of committees and sign up here. You may also wish to participate in the Division by using our virtual suggestion box to submit suggestions/ideas to the Division Council, submitting a proposed blog post, nominating a paralegal for Paralegal Spotlight, or completing the Paralegal Spotlight Questionnaire if you are nominating yourself.