The Western Dakota Association of Legal Assistants (WDALA) is a non-profit corporation formed in western North Dakota in 1984 in response to a need for educational programs for legal assistants in the area. The association encourages legal assistants to commit themselves to professional development and continuing education through membership in WDALA.
As an association of legal assistants, WDALA's primary goals are continuing education and recognition in the legal field. WDALA's membership consists of legal assistants and students from 29 counties, comprising the western half of North Dakota.
WDALA affiliated with the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. (NALA), in June 1985. The national organization offers its affiliates resources and experience and assists them in their efforts to enhance the professional development of their members. While some states have approved guidelines for legal assistants or paralegals, NALA has developed a certification program on the basis of a comprehensive substantive examination. Those who succeed in passing this examination are designated as Certified Legal Assistants. The following definition of a legal assistant was adopted by NALA in July 1984:
Legal Assistants* form a distinguished group of persons who assist attorneys in the delivery of legal services. Through formal education, training, and experience, legal assistants have knowledge and expertise regarding the legal system and substantive and procedural law which qualify them to do work of a legal nature under the supervision of an attorney.
*Within this occupational category, some individuals are known as paralegals.
The Objectives and Purposes of WDALA
1. To promote networking among association members, the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc., and members of the legal community.
WDALA strives to meet this purpose through regular meetings of its membership held through the western portion of the state. WDALA sponsors officers' attendance at NALA meetings. Educational events are publicized to all members of the legal community and non-members are invited to participate.
2. To promote ethical and professional conduct.
A legal assistant is governed by the American Bar Association Model Code of Professional Responsibility and the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct. WDALA stresses ethics and has adopted the NALA Code of Ethics.
3. To further educate members of the legal profession.
WDALA offers a minimum of ten hours of continuing legal education each year. An annual day and a half seminar is held each spring, with shorter sessions being held in conjunction with meetings of the membership. Some of the topics that have been presented include estate planning and administration; medical malpractice; personal injury; mock trial; legal research; legal writing and interviewing; litigation and discovery; environmental law; accident reconstruction and family law.
4. To promote the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc.
NALA is the voice for all affiliate associations. NALA cooperates with local, state and national bar associations in setting standards for legal assistants.