NALA History

In The Beginning...


Adopted from an article by Jane H. Terhune, CLAS and Dorthea Jorde, CLAS

The National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. ("NALA"), an Oklahoma corporation, was born in Minot, North Dakota, in April 1975. The gestation period lasted a few years, and many legal professionals were directly or indirectly involved after the need for a national association for paralegals was first recognized in the early 1970's. 

The first step, in 1973, was the creation of special national seminars and workshops for law office employees who were performing legal assistant tasks on the job. Attendance at the new educational programs was restricted to men and women whose attorney-employers signed an attestation that their job functions were closely akin to legal assistant performance alluded to in the definition adopted by the special American Bar Association Committee. The programs were planned and presented by the Legal Assistant Section of the Nation Association of Legal Secretaries ("NALS"), which had supported and worked with the ABA Special Committee on Legal Assistants since 1968. 

In 1974 a task force was appointed to investigate the feasibility of a national certification examination for legal assistants. Five legal assistants, two paralegal educators, and two attorneys served on this task force, which evolved into the first Certifying Board of NALA. After a series of questionnaires to existing national certification programs and paralegal program directors, it became clear that a separate national professional association must be formed for legal assistants.

In January 1975 the task force met with the NALS Executive Committee in Tulsa, Oklahoma to draft a proposal to dissolve the Legal Assistant Section and to support the formation of a new and separate association for legal assistants. Jane Terhune and Dorthea Jorde met with NALS corporate attorney Jack Freese and NALS Executive Director Maxine Dover to draft articles of incorporation, constitution, and bylaws. The bulk of this drafting was accomplished in a two-day marathon session in a Chicago Hotel Room. 

At an emotion-packed meeting in April 1975, the NALS Board of Directors adopted the proposal, and NALA quickly became a reality. Within hours the bylaws were adopted and officers were chosen. The initial Board of Directors was comprised of nine former members of the task forces.