We've seen a number of new associations spring up lately. This is a great sign! It means that paralegals are getting much more involved in the profession, are more interested in ever in promoting the field and are developing more leaders. While it's nice to have the old standby's, it's even more exciting to see fresh, new ideas, concepts and organizations entering the marketplace. It means positive change and moving forward. Hard for some to accept, I know.
Here's a press release we received about a new bankruptcy paralegal association. Since bankruptcy is one of the hottest areas in this recession, you might want to check it out even if you are not a bankruptcy paralegal. It's always good to know other practice areas and meet other professionals.
Turea Simpson, a senior paralegal with Houston-based law firm Hughes Watters Askanase L.L.P. (www.hwa.com), has formed the Houston Association of Bankruptcy Paralegals (HABP). The HABP is the first association of its kind in Texas and just the second of its kind in the nation.
Simpson explained that she established the HABP because she saw a strong need and desire among Houston bankruptcy paralegals for continuing education and for face-to-face communication.
“Hughes Watters Askanase often sent me to bankruptcy seminars geared toward attorneys, but not paralegals. It came to me during one of these seminars that bankruptcy paralegals do not have our own events or workshops that help us continue our education which in turn enables us to be more successful at our jobs. Because bankruptcy paralegals work with paralegals at other firms on a daily basis, the opportunity to meet colleagues face-to-face is especially important.”
Simpson said that response to the new organization has been excellent. The group hosted its first social event in May, and many attendees commented to Simpson that they were delighted to meet colleagues with whom they had worked with for years, but had never met in person.
The HABP governing board includes paralegals and an attorney from several leading Houston law firms. Board members include: President and Chairman Turea Simpson, HWA; Vice President Kinni Saldaña, The Law Office of Pamela L. Stewart; Secretary Tina Pavlock, HWA; Treasurer Sandra Olivarez, HWA; Assistant Treasurer Karen Dockens, HWA; Parliamentarian Casey Mucha, Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P.; Mentorship Committee Chair Yola Galvin, Jackson Walker, L.L.P.; Membership Committee Chair Mary Shiloh, Butler & Hailey, P.C.; Newsletter Editor Dru Graves, Adair & Myers, P.L.L.C.; and Board Advisor Marjorie Britt of Britt and Catrett, P.C.
The HABP has attracted over 40 members since Simpson introduced the organization in April. The HABP offers several levels of membership, including voting and non-voting levels, with annual dues of $50. All membership dues have been waived for 2009 applications. Additionally, the HABP has received significant sponsorship. Businesses that currently support the group include: Waldron & Schneider, L.L.P., Robert Half Legal, Hughes Watters Askanase L.L.P., Britt & Catrett, P.C., and Mach 5 Couriers Inc. Apart from banner and representative recognition at HABP events, sponsors will enjoy Website recognition and advertising space when the HABP publishes its official Website.
According to Simpson, the HABP plans to maintain an active schedule of events and programs. Plans include monthly Continuing Legal Education (CLE) events with guest speakers, an annual conference, pro bono opportunities, a peer-to-peer training and mentorship program, and an online job bank. HWA partner Dominique Varner spoke at the group’s first CLE event on June 12, during which she discussed “Proofs of Claim: How to Protect Creditors’ Rights.” Other guest speakers scheduled for this year include: Diane Livingstone, assistant U.S. Trustee; Hugh M. Ray, partner at Andrews & Kurth, L.L.P.; and The Honorable Judge Jeff Bohm, United States Bankruptcy Judge.
Simpson said the HABP board has been actively seeking several accreditations and affiliations that will connect the organization to both state and national resources. Simpson is petitioning the Texas Board of Legal Specialization to begin the process that would allow paralegals to become certified as bankruptcy paralegals. She has also applied for a National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) Affiliation that will give the HABP a vote within NALA, access to national continuing education conferences, and the opportunity to promote the HABP on the NALA Website.
Simpson plans to expand the HABP statewide and nationally within coming years. “This organization is being a model for other organizations,” Simpson said. “I set the bar high for everything I do.”
About Turea Simpson
A Houston native, Simpson has been a bankruptcy paralegal for Janet Northrup, Of Counsel with Hughes Watters Askanase L.L.P., for the past eight years and has been in the bankruptcy field for over 10 years. Simpson has been a certified bankruptcy assistant since 2007 and is an active member of the American Bankruptcy Judicial Assistants (ABJA). For more information on Hughes Watters Askanase, go to www.hwa.com.
About the Houston Association of Bankruptcy Paralegals
Established in April 2009, The Houston Association of Bankruptcy Paralegals offers members monthly CLE events, an annual conference, opportunities for pro bono work, a mentorship program and an online job bank. For further information on the HABP, please contact Simpson at email@example.com or phone 713-328-2833.