NALS state president to wrap up her term

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Renee Stout, who on April 25 will wrap up a year’s term as president of NALS of Michigan, has had a fun, busy year spearheading this organization for legal support staff.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the members of the Executive Committee and working with them,” she says. “Each meeting taught me something new – from strategic planning to criminal law.

“The highlight has been the time spent with my friends and the assistance my local chapter members have provided throughout the year to me and to NALS of Michigan,” adds Stout, whose presidential duties took her to Mackinac Island, Lansing, Battle Creek, Bingham Farms, Tustin, and Houston. “These women continue to amaze me with their friendship, hard work, and dedication to the legal profession.”

Stout, who has worked in the legal field for 30 years and holds the designation of Certified Professional Paralegal (PP) and Professional Legal Secretary (PLS), is a member of the NALS Grand Traverse area Chapter where she has served as president and twice been honored as Legal Professional of the Year. She enjoys interacting with others and helping in any way she can.

“I strive for quality, professionalism, and an excellent reputation in my career and in my volunteer activities,” she says.

In her work at the Jay Zelenock Law Firm in downtown Traverse City Stout serves as legal assistant, paralegal, receptionist and bookkeeper.

“I love my job,” she says. “I’ve always loved my work, from onionskin and typewriters to slogging through pages of medical records. I find every day brings something new to learn.

“I enjoy working with clients and helping them with their journey through the legal system. I feel very lucky to have worked with some wonderful attorneys, and I’ve learned patience through dealing with others who were not so wonderful. I’m very appreciative that I have a career in the legal field, a great group of NALS pals, and an employer who respects me as a professional.”

Her employer, Jay Zelenock, has been extremely supportive of her NALS membership and leadership.

“I believe he would attest to the fact that I’ve learned new information from my NALS activities and it has been useful to clients and money saving to the office,” she says. “NALS membership is something that should be encouraged and funded as an employee benefit – it benefits the employee while at the same time benefitting the employer. It’s a win-win situation for both, and the cost is much less than most seminars and webinars offered elsewhere.”

A graduate of Traverse City High School and Northwestern Michigan College, Stout cites the importance of legal support staff belonging to a professional organization such as NALS.

“The laws are always changing, and many employers who do not provide training or adequate reference materials to their support staff many times end up using outdated forms or documents, which can be quite embarrassing for them or costly to the client,” she explains.  “Competent staff is key to successful law firms, not to mention the fact that ethics rules require attorneys to provide training to staff.”

Hundreds of hours of legal education through the NALS tri-level association have helped Stout give valuable input and knowledge to her employer.

“Studying for and then teaching the subjects on the NALS certification examinations has kept my skills up to date and my knowledge relevant for myself, my employer, and my other volunteer endeavors,” she says. “As an office administrator, I always encouraged certification – it shows me an employee is competent for a job in my office.”

Also a member of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), Stout strongly believes that employees should utilize and take advantage of the benefits of NALS membership.

“The initiative and effort by an employee who strives to be better through education and networking show the employee’s recognition of the difference between a job and a career,” she notes.

NALS networking opportunities have helped Stout to obtain information from all over the country.

“I’ve made many, many friends, and we share our expertise with each other when the need arises,” she says. “Whether finding a court reporter, hand-delivering documents, learning which hotels to use, or helping a friend find work in a new city, tasks can made easier through professional networking.
For me, membership in NALS, NALS of Michigan, and Grand Traverse Area Legal Professionals has given me confidence, leadership skills, volunteer opportunities, and lifelong friends. I simply cannot imagine my life without my NALS pals.”

Stout, who will hand over the gavel to Vicki Ballinger from the Lansing Chapter at the NALS of Michigan 54th Annual Meeting & Educational Conference, April 23-25, in Midland, will stay active in NALS, has committed to a second two-year term on the NALS Certifying Board and committee work in her chapter, and intends to do more volunteer work for the Grand Traverse County Probate Court Volunteers in Prevention/Probation program.

She is also planning on a long camping weekend in the “middle of nowhere” with her husband, without e-mails and telephone calls.

“I plan to spend some time making changes to my newly empty nest, and best of all, spending time with my adorable baby grandson.”