Well, it's that time of year again -- time to sit down, reflect on the past year and draft some resolutions for 2012. While many of us will set personal resolutions, remember that it is equally important to outline some professional resolutions for the new year. Here are my top 10 suggested professional resolutions for paralegals in 2012:
1. Get a checkup. You are no good to anyone if you are not healthy. If you are overdue for a physical or need to schedule blood work, make an appointment today. Your personal health goes hand-in-hand with your well-being and being able to carry out your job duties. Take a moment to be a happy and healthier you in 2012.
2. Join a professional association. There has never been a more exciting time to join your local paralegal/professional association. Joining an association will help to develop your professional relationships and keep you informed of overall trends in the paralegal profession.
3. Learn something new. We all get caught up in routines, so take a minute and expand your professional horizons. Whether you decide to take a class at a local school, learn an updated computer program or return for completion of a degree program, go ahead and commit to learning something new next year.
4. Take the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam and obtain your PACE RP credential. This is one of my professional goals for 2012.
Paralegals receive two major benefits by taking PACE. The exam provides a fair evaluation of the competencies of paralegals across practice areas and creates a professional level of expertise by which all paralegals can be evaluated.
So join me and sign up today for your application packet. Remember that if you do not meet the requirements to take PACE, you can register for the new Paralegal Core Competency Exam instead and obtain your CRP designation. For more information, please visit www.paralegals.org.
5. Join your local bar association. Some paralegals will read this and ask why. Well, there are numerous reasons.
Paralegals can strengthen connections, network possibilities and raise their professional profile by joining their local bar association. Also, paralegals can partner with the local bar association to contribute to the advancement of the legal profession by serving on committees.
The bar association also offers a wide variety of pro bono and continuing education opportunities for paralegals. You can also keep apprised of professional developments in all legal areas. In Philadelphia, visit www.philabar.org for more information on an associate membership.
6. Participate in pro bono/community service. Of course, we all have very busy lives -- but whether it's for one day or one hour -- take time and give back to the legal community. Make a difference in someone else's life and at the same time improve your skills and widen your experience.
Perhaps team up with your boss, another attorney or paralegal in the office and choose a pro bono opportunity that works for your schedule.
7. Mentor, mentor, mentor. The next generation of paralegals needs you.
Remember when you started your first job or graduated from school? Remember wanting to ask for advice or direction? Sign up to be a paralegal mentor today.
Information on local mentoring opportunities can be found on the PAP website at www.philaparalegals.org.
8. Manage stress. Although we certainly can't do something for ourselves every day, set time aside and treat yourself to a guilty pleasure -- whether it be watching reality television, playing Wii or getting a manicure/pedicure, it is important to recharge your batteries once in a while in order to manage daily life at your job.
9. Use GoodSearch. Think of how many times a day you search for something on the Internet. Every time you search using the GoodSearch engine, which is Yahoo-powered, GoodSearch will donate 1 cent to the charity/school of your choice. You can change your charity as often as you want.
There is also an online shopping component to GoodSearch through GoodShop, where more than 100,000 coupons are offered and a designated percentage of your purchase will be donated to the charity of your choice. Using GoodSearch and GoodShop is an easy way to give -- at no cost to you -- and to really make your online time count. Visit www.goodsearch.com for more information and to download the GoodSearch toolbar.
10. Identify a weakness. Take a moment and pick one weakness that you would like to develop into a strength during the new year. For example, do you have a fear of public speaking or poor time management? Once you identify your weakness, research and determine if there is training available in that area -- perhaps take a seminar, workshop or read a book that can help foster personal growth in your professional life.
As we turn the page from 2011 to 2012, we should keep in mind the words of the poet Edith Lovejoy Pierce, who said: "We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called 'Opportunity' and its first chapter is New Year's Day."
So take a few moments today to seize the opportunities to enhance your professional status in 2012. Best wishes for a safe, happy and healthy new year.
Christine M. Flynn is a defense litigation paralegal at Swartz Campbell with more than 20 years of experience in the field. Flynn is the president of the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals as well as chair of the litigation committee.