Thinking of NALS certification? Haven’t done so yet? Think it is too late because of . . . your age? How wrong you are! We are ALL living longer than ever and changing jobs or vocational practice areas as often, sometimes, as our shoes. A lot of “older” people are working or volunteering (or both!) more than ever, have every reason and every right to enhance themselves, manage gainful employment, and continue education in any way they choose. It is a well-established fact that mental activity contributes to health and prevents mental fuzziness in people of all ages. What employer would not want a clear-minded, educated, mature worker? So, what are you waiting for? You are still working but think you are too old to achieve certification with NALS? Nonsense.
Moreover, many of us are working and studying in our so-called golden years because we want to. We cannot envision a rocking-chair retirement and we have intellectual and financial ambitions. Meet the hottest demographic in the labor market: men and women working not only past traditional retirement age but into their 70s, 80s, and sometimes beyond. Over the coming decade, they will be the fastest-growing segment of the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among 65- to 74-year-olds, labor force participation is predicted to hit 32 percent by 2022, up from 20 percent in 2002. At age 75 and up, the rate will jump from 5 percent in 2002 to 11 percent in 2022. Meanwhile, participation rates among younger age groups will be flat or will even fall.” Now is the time to prepare for this.
I finally finished college in my 40s and changed major career paths two or three times (or more) between then and now. “Now” happens to be age 73. I only began my legal assistant journey a few short years ago and just found an appropriate new job last September—at an age when some people have either already quit the “day job” routine or are thinking about it. However, there is no quitting for this lady. I am excited about my work and my parallel involvement in NALS—and I am certified! “Many people now working into their late 70s and 80s have careers with a lot of variety that helps keep work interesting and enjoyable . . . Certain professions are notably friendly to their oldest practitioners . . . white-collar professionals in fields such as the arts, medicine, law, education, or business.” The reasons we keep working into our older years vary, but it is common for us to work in order to stay psychologically active and engaged in our communities. There are many opportunities in the legal community for education, actual employment, and for volunteering.
And here is something we can plan on and take advantage of: as the population ages, older Americans will play an increasingly important role in our economy and America’s leadership in the world marketplace. By 2019, over 40% of Americans aged 55+ will be employed, making up over 25% of the U.S. labor force. The Committee on Economic Development indicates that employers rate older workers high on characteristics such as judgment, commitment to quality, attendance, and punctuality. So we seniors already own a lot of built-in credibility, and it will be wise for us to continue building on that credibility.
“Mature workers made up 8.9% of the unemployed population in the U.S. in 2014. In 2015, 33 million Americans aged 55+ were employed and 1.3 million were actively seeking work.” And having that innate sense of purpose, a connection to one’s community, and suitable education or qualifications to match employers’ requirements is as important now as it was when we were younger. But “an AARP study revealed that nearly 1 in 5 of the 65-to-74 age group say job enjoyment is the single most important reason they still work.” I can relate to that enjoyment and camaraderie which accompanies some workplace situations. I happen to work in a tastefully refurbished heritage building in our downtown core, containing many small offices. Many of the tenants are attorneys and other similar professionals. Even though I work alone much of the time (when the attorney is in court), the friendship of all the other legal assistants and administrative support persons “down the hall” has been rewarding and reinforcing. Most of us are at an age where someone with less ambition would have retired long ago, but we are taking advantage of job enjoyment, educational enhancement, and financial security. And virtually all of these hallway friends know about NALS and have expressed their approval.
I joined NALS only recently (five years ago) and dove into the deep end of the pool with back-to-back terms on the local chapter’s board of directors. I created our successful bimonthly newsletter (900 recipients) four years ago and am enjoying my second year on the NALS national editorial board. I sat for the ALP exam and PLS exam in rapid succession over the past couple of years, and I am now thinking seriously of sitting for the PP exam in September 2016 or March 2017 and who knows what I will do after that! Too old? You have got to be kidding! I believe I have a long way to go and a lot more wonderful things to do and accomplish within my local community and with my NALS Pals across the country.
One way you can extend your youth—and your personal value—is not only by maintaining meaningful employment but by continuing your occupational education, enhancing your legal professional status, and going down the road, in this case, to NALS certification. It is a great experience and a reward you can give yourself—and your employer—for being the professional that I know you are. NALS certification exams occur at periodic times through the year, and the study materials and information you need are listed on the NALS national website, www.nals.org.
- Mark Miller, Take This Job and Love It!, AARP The Magazine, February/March 2015; http://www.aarp.org/work/working-after-retirement/info-2015/work-over-retirement-happiness.html
- National Council on Aging, Mature Workers Facts, 2016; https://www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/mature-workers-facts/
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Miller, loc. cit.
Charlene Sabini, PLS, ALP, is legal assistant for attorney David Vill in juvenile law matters in Eugene, Oregon. She is Director of Education for her local chapter, NALS of Lane County in Eugene, and has enthusiastically occupied that position for over four years. She is editor of her chapter’s bimonthly newsletter, NALS in Motion, which has been published unfailingly for four years. She has earned three successive NALS CLE Awards and will be sitting for the PP exam in September 2016. She is a proofreader on the NALS Editorial Board and has contributed articles/essays for the NALS docket and @Law. Charlene is an affiliate member of the Lane County Bar Association and was responsible for initiating that level of membership with the bar for nonlawyers in 2014. She is also a 13-year volunteer with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office in Eugene and has served as the county sheriff’s newsletter editor and is currently serving as the county jail librarian. The Oregon State Sheriff’s Association/Jail Command Council awarded Ms. Sabini the Jail Volunteer of the Year award in 2009.