New NALS of Michigan president served at the Pentagon

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

When one door closes, another opens and that's certainly true for Vicki Ballinger, PLS, who on March 18 wrapped up two years as president of the NALS of Lansing chapter and was succeeded by Heidi Hopper, PLS. On April 25, Ballinger succeeded Renee Stout, PP, PLS as president of NALS of Michigan, and now oversees 10 local chapters: Berrien-Cass, Calhoun County, Detroit, Genesee, Grand Traverse Area, Greater Kalamazoo, Jackson County, Lansing, Northern Michigan, and West Michigan.

"NALS has been in Michigan for over 50 years. The Lansing chapter celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009, and was recognized by the State Bar of Michigan for its decades of good work," she says. "We have current members who have been involved for over 30 years. Our chapter is active and offers regular educational programs, social activities, and community service projects. I've kept very busy, and have enjoyed every minute of it."

Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director at Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith in Lansing, Ballinger is a six-year member, at the chapter, state, and national levels of this association for legal professionals,

"I had heard early on that you get out of NALS what you put into it, and as I've been immersed in it for five years, I know it to be true," she says. "I've put in much and received much in return. I'm thankful the members have supported me, and I hope they feel I've supported them."

Ballinger's first official role was in April 2009, as a chapter delegate to the NALS of Michigan Annual Meeting. As an annual meeting "first timer,'" she was pleased with the education offered and the recognition of members and their accomplishments.

"I was surprised by the pomp and circumstance during the opening of the meeting's general session. I was impressed by how they honored our country with a color guard presenting the flags of our state and our nation," she says. "It was quite an experience."

In early 2010, Ballinger was asked to join in a national initiative, "Think Big," to help the association develop fresh ideas for marketing and membership initiatives. That led to her being asked to participate in a national level Future Leaders Development Committee and the following year to co-chair the Next Generation Leadership (NGL) Committee. She delivered two presentations on behalf of the NGL Committee: Change Management 101 and Generational Differences.

"I truly enjoy sharing knowledge and helping people succeed," she says.

At the same time she became involved at the national level, Ballinger agreed to be nominated as the state's Marketing Director and was elected to that position for two terms, followed by a term as Certification and Education Director and then President- Elect. In this most recent role, she chaired the Strategic Planning Committee whose team effort culminated in a new Vision and Mission Statement adopted by the NALS of Michigan Board of Directors last October.

Ballinger's goals as state president are to heavily market NALS to all facets of the legal industry in Michigan; expand its reach into areas where few resources are available by offering education webinars; and create an environment that the next generation of legal support staff will embrace.

"I have great admiration for these dedicated, hard-working people who take the time to help further the careers of others, and I want to do my part to help in that noble endeavor," she says. "Our membership numbers have decreased and we have a challenge to help a new generation of attorneys with their support needs. They are unaware of what we can do to help them be successful, as we have learned from our booth at successive State Bar annual meetings. They are asking for what we help to provide well-trained and experienced legal support staff.

"NALS has the resources to keep legal secretaries and paralegals in the know," she adds. "For a relatively small investment in time and money, NALS can give them what they need. Employers have as much to gain by supporting the professional development of their staff as the individuals do themselves."

Founded in 1949, NALS that counts legal secretaries, paralegals, court reporters, office managers, educators, and human resources staff among its members has a long history of success training legal support staff.

"Whether they are just out of high school, recently graduated from a paralegal program, changing careers from a general office environment, or have been in the field for 20 years, there are always new things for a professional to learn or skills to develop," Ballinger notes.

Members enjoy access to education for a nominal cost, and opportunities for regular networking, professional development and leadership experience. "We enjoy social activities, and we have fun together," she says.

Ballinger first came to this field in 2008, after living in Grand Rapids where she worked as the Pricing & Contract Administrator at Crystal Flash Energy. When an affair of the heart took her to Lansing, she commuted for 18 months, before landing a local job as Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director of Foster Swift. In that role, she has daily interaction with the Accounting, Human Resources, and Marketing Departments, supports the Executive Committee, and has frequent contact with many of the firm's attorneys and secretaries.

"It's very interesting to work on the business side of running a larger law firm," she says.

Shortly after starting this job, she saw a flyer offering the NALS Basic Legal Training Course.

"I felt this would be a great way to become more familiar with the legal industry and would help me with my work," she says. "The decision was easy because the firm generously invests in the education of its employees."

After passing the course, Ballinger joined NALS and sat for the Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) exam in March 2009; and Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) exam a year later.

A mother of three and grandmother of two, in her leisure time the Lansing resident enjoys cooking, traveling, fine dining, old movies, and gardening.

For the past six years, her volunteer time has gone to NALS community service projects. Previously, she enjoyed supporting activities that brought people together as a community such as National Night Out, an annual event promoting involvement in crime prevention activities, police community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie.

Ballinger originally hails from a publishing background. Her father published a hobby newspaper centering on history and treasure hunting in North America, and later her parents purchased and operated a small town paper. As a teenager, Ballinger wrote articles about school events and helped her father paste up the paper while her mother prepared ads and did the typesetting.

Following in the footsteps of several family members who served in the military, she joined the Air Force, earning a Computer Operations Certificate from the Community College of the Air Force.

"I wanted an education and needed to support my family."

At the end of Technical School, was assigned to a 3-year tour of duty in the Air Force Data Services Center at the Pentagon.

"Working at the Pentagon was a great experience," she says. "It is still one of the world's largest office buildings with about 23,000 employees and 17 miles of corridors. Basically, it is a city unto itself."

Ballinger, who attended non-commissioned officer training with students from other units, has some great memories. In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan was President and Commander-in-Chief.

"We were vigilant of the communist threat even as the Berlin Wall came down," she says. "And on the morning of January 29, 1986, I watched the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion unfold on a television monitor on the Pentagon's concourse. It was an interesting time."

In the days before 9/11 days, staff could walk into the common parts of the building as if it was Grand Central Station, she adds.

"To get deeper into the 'Puzzle Palace,' certain credentials were needed. Some of the hallways are museum-like, lined with military art telling the stories of battles and heroes from throughout the country's history."

According to Ballinger, Airmen assigned to White House Communications normally wore street clothes on duty.

"However, the members of the Air Force Honor Guard were awe-inspiring in crisp, tailored uniforms," she says. "Honor Guard members had great stories about trying to remain inexpressive when comedians who were guests at White House dinners would taunt them to their face."

The military experience has been a huge asset throughout Ballinger's career.

"Our military offers some of the best training in the world for both leaders and teams," she says. "My experience in the service laid the groundwork for reoccurring periods of service to my community over the last 30 years and gave me the courage to lead many of those efforts. I hope to use my experience for the benefit of NALS of Michigan's members and in turn to the legal community at large during the coming year."

Published: Thu, Apr 30, 2015

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