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Sir Winston Churchill said: “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” We know that volunteering a portion of our time is something we should do. There are reminders all around us that our help is needed. People benefit significantly from any time we contribute. However, that is not the only reason to volunteer. Volunteering has both personal and professional advantages as well. A volunteer is someone who serves in a community primarily because they choose to do so. Many people serve through a non-profit organization. A significant number also serve less formally, either individually or as part of a group. People volunteer for a variety of reasons. Some are motivated by altruistic values. Some seek social justice. Others see service as a personal fulfillment. Whatever your reason, volunteering can transform you and the world around you. This philosophy holds true to your paralegal career as well. Here are a few reasons to get involved: Gaining job experience. Volunteer experience looks great on a resume. In addition, some of the work you do could lead to a new job opportunity and/or promotion of a current position. Most volunteer activity is a group effort, which means it gives you an opportunity to meet new people and learn new areas of law. Improving your health. Volunteering has been shown to reduce stress, and boost self-esteem. Moods and emotions, like optimism and joy, strengthen both mental and physical well being. Meeting community needs. Whether answering phones at the Volunteers for the Indigent Program or cleaning up a playground in your neighborhood, volunteering helps the community look and feel better. Community service and volunteerism are investments in our community and the people who live in it. Meeting new people. Volunteering also provides a social benefit. When you work alongside others, you develop personal friendships. Also, as a volunteer you assist in uniting people from diverse backgrounds to work together toward a common goal. Thus, volunteering serves as a springboard for camaraderie and teamwork. Both of these traits are keys to a successful career in the legal field. Establishing contacts. Volunteering builds contacts on both a personal and professional level. You can connect to great opportunities and provide a useful reference for a paralegal position or return to school. Gaining new skills. Whether you enjoy computers or cooking, any interest can be developed by volunteering. For example, by volunteering at the voting polls on Election Day, individuals can learn about functions of government and the law. Also, volunteers often discover hidden talents that may change views on a specialized area of practice. Spreading positive energy. When you volunteer your energy and efforts affect the whole community in a positive way. Drawing attention to a cause. Volunteer, your time to raise money for a cause within the legal field. For example, the Philadelphia Bar Association 5K Run and Walk raises money for the Support Center for Child Advocates, which advocates for abused or neglected children. This form of volunteering serves as both a personal reward and a service to our legal community. Personal growth. By taking on volunteer duties, you will develop perseverance, patience and understanding. Volunteering also builds confidence to face daily challenges in both your personal life and career. Paralegals have available a wide variety of areas to offer volunteer services within the legal community. These include both personal and professional programs. Whether you can give only a few hours a week or even a month, the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals Pro Bono Committee has numerous programs of interest available through the Public Interest Law Center. For example, the Earned Income Tax Credit Program through the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania provides free tax assistance to low-income families with respect to filing of tax returns. While some programs require greater time commitments, other programs merely involve a few hours. The Pro Bono Committee will work with paralegals to find an opportunity that fits their schedules and interests. Often, volunteer projects are flexible with respect to time and locations. Additionally, the Community College of Philadelphia Paralegal Studies Department has developed a program where experienced paralegals serve as mentors to students. In this program, an experienced paralegal in the field is paired with a current paralegal student. The student meets with his mentor to learn about working in the legal field. The student can then contact the mentor with any questions or issues. This brief service greatly aids the student as well as the paralegal profession. So whether it is within the actual paralegal field or in the community, all paralegals are encouraged to get involved. Paralegals can make a difference and the service is both personally and professionally rewarding. So plan a fundraising event, tutor a paralegal student, donate items, serve on a committee or speak at a seminar. Any of these areas serve as a wonderful opportunity to connect with the community and explore new areas. Part of being a great volunteer is loving what you are doing. So find something that you are passionate about or something that inspires you, and then find a need in your community. Remember that you will get more out of your volunteer experience than you put into it. For additional information on pro bono opportunities contact Judith Bardsley, chairwoman of the Pro Bono Committee, Philadelphia Association of Paralegals at [email protected], and you can also visit the PAP Web site at www.philaparalegals.com. For additional information concerning the mentoring program contact Jane Jacobs, Community College of Philadelphia, at [email protected]. JANE BRESLIN JACOBS is a licensed attorney and an assistant professor at Community College of Philadelphia in its ABA-approved Paralegal Studies Program. Jacobs has a bachelor’s degree from State University of New York at Albany, and a juris doctor from Fordham University. She is a member of PAP’s Pro Bono/Community Service Committee. CHRISTINE M. FLYNN is a litigation paralegal at Swartz Campbell. She earned an associate’s degree in paralegal studies from the Community College of Philadelphia. A member of the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals, Flynn chairs the PAP Litigation Committee, and serves on the CCP Paralegal Studies Program advisory board.

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