by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
Education and economics were two issues driving the creation of a new paralegal association in Jacksonville.
The First Coast Chapter of the Paralegal Association of Florida will hold its first monthly meeting at 11:45 a.m. Thursday at the Wyndham. Travel, time off from work and the expense of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminars for paralegals led to the creation of the new association, said Linda Whipple, president of the local chapter of the Paralegal Association of Florida.
“Because of where we are, there are not a lot of CLE opportunities available here, so we have to travel,” said Whipple, who is a paralegal with the law firm of Spohrer & Dodd. “A lot of paralegals can’t afford to travel and most firms are not covering those CLE costs, so this association was formed to keep those costs down.”
The association is open to First Coast paralegals and legal assistants in Duval, Nassau, Clay and St. Johns counties. The First Coast Chapter was officially approved by the state association May 9. It begins with 50 charter members.
The new paralegal association will focus on substantive continuing legal education for paralegals and legal assistants as well as professional networking. Mentoring paralegal students is also a focus of the association.
“We are matching students from Florida State College at Jacksonville with mentors to help them in the profession,” said Whipple.
“The idea is that a lot of the paralegals coming into the field don’t have the benefit of experience and attorneys are reluctant to hire them. We are also going to be offering very intense how-to workshops for both students and practicing paralegals on assorted topics.”
The first seminar is planned for July 23 at FSCJ Kent Campus.
Events are being planned to benefit the Jacksonville community.
Additionally, First Coast paralegals will support the activities and charitable events sponsored by The Florida Bar, The Jacksonville Bar Association, and other bar associations in Northeast Florida. A specific charity has not been identified by the association because it wants the opinion of the membership.
“We want this to be a very membership-driven organization,” said Whipple.
“It’s not just the board making the decision for the membership. We want to put it out there for the association to make a decision on.”
Whipple is one of many members who also want to give back to the profession and pass on the knowledge that they have gained throughout their careers.
“I realize that I’m not going to be involved with this profession forever and I wanted to help the profession before I, eventually, do retire,” said Whipple, whose 30-plus year career has included being named “Paralegal of the Year” by the American Association for Justice in 2009.
For more information contact Helen Westbrook, Membership Committee co-chair at 483-5341 or [email protected].