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I was fortunate enough to attend NALA’s 40th Annual Convention in Tulsa Oklahoma on July 22-24, 2015. Not only was the institute on Legal Technology fantastic, but I was able to connect and chat with paralegals from as far away as the Virgin Islands.

The event kicked off with an early bird reception Tuesday evening, where a local NALA affiliated organization was dressed in 1940’s attire. They gave out door prizes for those who were born the year NALA began (1975), those who travelled the furthest to attend (the Virgin Islands), and for those who have been paralegals the longest (I believe the lady who won had been a paralegal for almost 50 years).

Wednesday is when my Legal Technology institute began, and I learned about the some of the social media trends, and ways to obtain information off social media. Lunch was a brown bag round table discussion on ways your local organization can improve their visibility using social media, followed by the vendor’s product demonstrations. There was an opening night reception Wednesday evening, which provides attendees with another opportunity to network and meet paralegals. After the reception, I attended a dinner for past participants/current participants/and those interested in participating in NALA’s Leadership Enhancement and Preparation (“LEAP”) course. I was a current participant, who had to give a presentation on what the mission statement of the program, as well as some of the leadership techniques learned during my 12 month course of study.

LEAP was designed by NALA to help serve state and local NALA affiliated associations, as well as developing an individual’s leadership skills needed to support the affiliated associations growth and goals. We learned effective communication is an essential component of personal and professional success, and practiced multiple leadership and communication tools and techniques.

Thursday was back to Legal Technology in the morning, where we learned about e-Discovery. In the afternoon, after an unscheduled mandatory evacuation of our hotel due to a bomb threat (which the Hyatt staff and Tulsa police department handled admirably), my group gave our LEAP presentation to the entire NALA board, as well as those who wanted to watch. The board then deliberated on who they felt gave the best presentation, and that group presented to the general membership the following day.

Friday wrapped up Legal Technology with trial software, and in the afternoon it was NALA’s annual meeting and award ceremony. I received a plaque in appreciation for completing the LEAP program, along with the 9 others who successfully completed.

So, why should a paralegal consider attending a NALA conference? In addition to great institutes offering CLE credit, paralegals or those involved in the legal field should attend for the unlimited networking opportunities presented. Where else do you have the possibility of meeting other legal professionals from clear across the country, and on almost every conceivable area of law? This year I met paralegals working in corporate law, as well as one who works at a University working with intellectual property, and another who works for a local non-profit organization in North Carolina.

The conference also allows affiliate associations to set up a booth and provide others with information on their organization. The trick is to have a booth that is original, so that paralegals wandering will want to come over and talk, and offer creative gifts for those who visit your booth. This year there was everything from Minion Twinkies to Popcorn, bath salts, wildflower packets and bags containing earbuds, styluses, and a cloth to clean your electronic devise.

2016’s conference will be held in beautiful Las Vegas July 13-15. I encourage everyone to try to attend.

Amy S. Hodgson

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