Words from a NALP Late Bloomer

by Rashida West
NALP Bulletin+
February 2024

As a new board member, one of my biggest joys from service has been getting to know the wider NALP membership. For me, the members, and the professional relationships that I have developed have always been the most important part of my NALP experience. And they are the reasons why I continue to be an active NALP member.

I have had the pleasure of being a NALP member for over 15 years and have worn many different hats at my law school. So much has changed in the profession from when I first started as a public interest career advisor in a small CSO of three people. I had no prior career counseling experience and was learning the job on the go. I was not someone who had the opportunity to attend the Newer Professionals Conference and was only two weeks on the job at a brand-new law school when I attended my first Annual Education Conference in Toronto.

Even though I was staying in the overflow hotel, the experience was still a bit overwhelming. But that first NALP conference got me hooked. I was so impressed by the enthusiasm and knowledge of everyone I met and each member’s willingness to share and collaborate. Initially, I thought this was solely limited to the members of the public interest community within NALP, but over the years I came to learn it applied to everyone.

I would characterize myself as a NALP late bloomer. Although I loved my NALP experiences, I was hesitant to be more than a passive member. I always thought someone had more experience or would be better suited to serve. I turned down several opportunities to get more involved and it was not until I was in a rut in my professional life that I chose to get more involved with the organization. This was one of my best decisions.

After finally accepting a NALP nomination (and losing a few times), my first experience volunteering was as a member of the Conference Planning Committee. I had a blast. The experience was intense and a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun! The fun had been missing from my professional life for a while. And every opportunity to serve NALP since has been like this. Becoming a more active NALP member, reenergized me and allowed me to continue to develop in my professional life. It also gave me the opportunity to become more engaged with the NALP staff.

The dedication and expertise of our NALP staff and their support of the NALP membership has been instrumental to my success in NALP leadership roles. I highlight the NALP staff because they make the aspect of volunteering for NALP a much less daunting prospect. Many of us are hesitant to become more active because of a scarcity of resources at our institutions or fear of being over extended, but I assure you it is doable. There are so many ways to become involved and the NALP staff will be there to support you at every step.

For NALP to continue to evolve and remain the premier association for legal professionals, we need the knowledge, expertise, and innovation of our members. There is a role for everyone. I look forward to meeting and talking with many of you this spring at the Annual Education Conference in Boston. Feel free to contact me or any other board members. We are here to represent you and want to hear from you. I hope you will consider getting more involved with NALP this year. Do not wait to be nominated!

Rashida West is the Director, Pro Bono & Public Interest Programs at Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law. She also serves on NALP’s Board of Directors.

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