This year is the 25th anniversary of the International Paralegal Management Association (IPMA). Surprisingly, not everyone has heard of this influential and powerful association, even after all these years. In fact, compared to associations such as NFPA and NALA, it keeps a comparatively low profile.
Yet, the organization is comprised of over 600 paralegal managers in the U.S. and Canada. I was fortunate enough to be one of the co-founding members, yes, 25 years ago when I was but a mere puppy.
Originally called the Legal Assistant Management Association (LAMA), the group changed its name as the profession took on members from outside the U.S. and the term legal assistant began to mean a legal secretary, who was not often trained as a paralegal. Requirements for membership include the duties of supervising at least one paralegal. There are also five categories of memberships: regular, associate (paralegal with some management responsibilities), academic, emeritus and sustaining (available for vendors).
Paralegal managers can hold a variety of positions such as a working supervisor (must bill time) to a full-time administrative or director position. The managers are from law firms, in-house legal departments and government agencies.
IPMA offers a fantastic yearly conference, usually held in the fall of each year. This 3 day event attracts paralegal managers, attorneys, administrators and educators who come together to concentrate on the latest trends in paralegal management. It's probably one of the best networking events in the paralegal field today.
Additionally, Altman Weil underwrites a comprehensive utilization and salary survey with IPMA. This is probably one of the more detailed paralegal surveys today. While it concentrates on major and mid-size law firms in metropolitan areas, it gives you a very good picture of the current paralegal marketplace.
I remember when we first started the organization. I was a brand new paralegal manager. Eight of us from around the country got together and decided to start the organization. We each put in $400.00, totaling $3200 and with that money, we started the organization and held our first conference. I've watched this organization grow over the years and influence many important career changes in the profession.
Things are different today with the Internet, social media, webcasts and other types of technology that can bring you together faster and with more ease. However, if you are looking for something that will stretch your career, increase your visibility and give you a lifetime of wonderful memories, you might think about starting an association. In all of the organizations I've belonged to, the awards that were so thoughtfully given to me, the international network I am fortunate enough to be a part, nothing really stands out or means as much to me as the relationships that I was able to create and that lasted throughout my career all these years later as those with the members of IPMA.
Congratulations, IPMA. It's been one heck of a wild ride.