NALS gives out annual honors

 by Cynthia Price

Legal News
The West Michigan Chapter of NALS...the Association for Legal Professionals gave out two important awards April 15, following a tradition that started in 1972.
Though “legal professionals” could refer to anyone in the legal field, NALS defines it more narrowly. Paralegals, legal assistants, legal administrators and office managers are included as eligible for NALS membership, or, in other words, those who act in a support capacity to attorneys.
This year the award for Legal Professional of the Year  went to Barbara Craft, a lawyer who runs the American Bar Association-approved paralegal program at Davenport University and is Department Coordinator of Legal Studies there.
Craft is a tireless worker on behalf of legal professionals throughout the state. The award came as a complete surprise to her.
Over the years it has not been out of the ordinary to give the Legal Professional of the Year award to an attorney, including some judges, but Craft’s tie-in with the education of future legal professionals clinched the award for her this year.
In an unusual circumstance, the Award of Excellence was given posthumously. Jeanie Grasman had worked for Varnum Law before her life was cut short last year at the age of 47.
Grasman was a consummate professional whose dedication went above and beyond the call of duty. Her people skills made her stand out, and her co-worker and friend testified to the joy she brought into the lives of those who knew her.
NALS holds monthly meetings on topics designed to make the lives of legal professionals easier and offer them networking and support. The organization also runs a certification program for both PLS and ALS status.
The April 15 dinner featured certification co-chair Karen Elgersma, who conducts the programs along with co-chair Kimberly Dewey, discussing how difficult it is to achieve such certification and praising those who stayed the course. Elgersma said it was difficult even to carry the stack of books required for the courses. The PLS designation requires passing a day-long exam.
Newly-certified PLS and ALS members were introduced at the dinner. There were six PLS and six ALS new certifications announced.
Annette Jeltema, who has served as president of the West Michigan Chapter of NALS in 2009-2010 and will continue to do so next year, said she is very grateful for the confidence that office has given her in public speaking. She also thanked her employer, Warner Norcross and Judd, for allowing her to take the time necessary to do a good job. WNJ has been the home of many NALS presidents, including Janette Olexa who served off and on for a number of years.
Sandy Lavender, who serves as first vice-president and membership chair for the Michigan NALS, conducted the swearing-in ceremony for 2010-2011 officers.