In the mid-1980’s I graduated from Meredith College and the Meredith College Paralegal Program and began my career as a bright-eyed paralegal. I loved everything about what I was doing, but I especially enjoyed volunteering and building relationships through professional associations.
Fun with Volunteer Work
Sometime during those early years, a group of paralegals and lawyers from the Wake County Bar Association and the Raleigh-Wake Paralegal Association volunteered with a local Boy Scouts chapter in the Law Explorer program. The Law Explorer program was created to allow high school students to learn various roles in the legal profession.
These students approached the Wake County Bar Association with the goal of participating in a mock trial. There were both teenage boys and girls who participated in this project, and parents who served as chaperones.
After rallying our volunteers, we ordered a mock trial kit, and we meet on weeknights with the kids. We took turns hosting the coaching events at the law firms where we worked, and we chipped in for pizza for practice that often lasted several hours.
In no time, we were in the Wake County Courthouse coaching and cheering our teams on to victory. The kids had a blast, the parents were pleased as punch, and we took pride in our role of helping them accomplish their goal.
Today, as I write this, I wonder if any of those kids went on to paralegal school or law school? Even if they didn’t, they left with a better understanding of our justice system and they had the confidence-building experience of leading a trial team, making arguments in court, and hopefully they saw our role as volunteers as something to emulate as well.
At the time, I couldn’t begin to see what a 40-year career looked like, and it certainly never occurred to me that my friends would go on to become outstanding leaders in their field.
The paralegals in this group were among my closest friends and Debbie Lawrence is still my “ride or die”. Laura Powell Lee and Tricia Diltz Millward were long-time paralegals at Smith Anderson, and both served in local and state paralegal associations in leadership roles, as well as volunteering within their communities.
The volunteer lawyers rose to the top of their profession as well serving as the Assistant U.S. Attorney EDNC (Dan Boyce), Clerk of Court at the N.C. Court of Appeals (John Connell), practice group leader of the Medical Malpractice Defense team at Smith Anderson (John Madden), Senior Resident Superior Court Judge of the 10th Judicial District (Paul Ridgeway), and Assistant U.S. Attorney EDNC (Kieran Shanahan).
I didn’t find a study that said helping high school students produce a mock trial correlated to winning a judicial election, but it’s no coincidence that those who give of themselves, and their time are also those who are preparing themselves for career and life opportunities.
Health Benefits of Volunteering
Psychology and Aging published a four-year study on the benefits of volunteering in adults 50-years-old and over. The study showed that those who volunteered at least 200 hours the year prior to the study were less likely to develop hypertension.
A CNN Health article reported that volunteering has shown benefit in reducing pain, minimizing stress, improving depression, reducing the risk for cognitive impairment, and that volunteering will help us live longer.
Loneliness and isolation are recognized as epidemic in our world today. Volunteering allows us to feel closer to one another, expand our community, and strengthen bonds between co-workers, friends, and family. One study found that people who volunteer over 100 hours a year are some of the healthiest people in the U.S. and find volunteering a way to counteract the effects of anxiety, depression, and stress.
Volunteerism is the engine that keeps our communities healthy and vibrant and makes us healthier and happier. In my personal experience, volunteering expanded my relationships within the legal community which helped me as my career developed and expanded my friend circle.
There are so many opportunities for giving back. Find the opportunities that work for you and reap the rewards of volunteering!
Camille Stell is the President of Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services and the co-author of “RESPECT – An Insight to Attorney Compensation Plans” published in December 2022. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at email@example.com or 919.677.8900.