Paralegal Division Honors Yolanda Smith

Yolanda Smith

Yolanda Smith is the 2015 recipient of the Distinguished Paralegal Award. She received the award Thursday night, May 7, at the Grandover Resort & Conference Center in Greensboro in conjunction with the annual meeting of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Paralegal Division, which presents the award annually.

The award recognizes Smith for 18 years of exemplary service as a paralegal and for her leadership within the profession. She chaired the Paralegal Division in 2011-12 and has been an active member since 2000.

Smith currently works at N.C. State University, where over the past four and one-half years she has handled numerous duties, including employment, compliance and professional sports counseling.

She will transition into a new position with the N.C. Department of Justice on June 1, where she will utilize her litigation experience in the Education Section.

“I was very surprised and happy to receive this award,” Smith said. “It is nice to be recognized by your peers. This makes everything I have done for the last 18 years worthwhile.”

Smith says she entered the paralegal profession purely by accident.

“I answered an ad for an administrative assistant,” Smith said. “Nothing in the ad hinted it was for a lawyer. I went for the interview at the law firm, and Jane Atkins hired me. I loved everything I did. She sent me to Carolina’s paralegal program and encouraged me to join the Paralegal Division as well as another association.”

Atkins was a family law practitioner and NCBA member who died a few years ago.

“I did take time to mention her when I accepted the award,” Smith said, “because if not for her encouragement I don’t think I would have done as much as I have done over the last 18 years.”

Others have influenced Smith, including Phyllis Hines, Stephanie Crosby, Sherry Wall and Grace Ward.

“When Stephanie retires from bar service we need to name a room for her at the Bar Center,” Smith said. “She is the epitome of juggling it all and doing it all. And Grace Ward was the first person to ‘voluntold’ me for a committee. I have watched their dedication to the profession and said that I want to emulate that.”

Smith received her paralegal certificate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1998. In 2005, she received the North Carolina Certified Paralegal designation and NALA’s Advanced Certified Paralegal designation in civil litigation.

“In addition to juggling her many professional roles,” one nominator stated, “Yolanda finds the time to encourage and mentor other paralegals. She has been involved in a wide range of professional activities, including developing content for the NCCP exam, serving as a proctor for the NCCP exam, volunteering with the NCAJ High School Mock Trial Competition and serving as speaker for CLEs and CPEs for the Paralegal Division, NCPA, NCAJ and others.

“Although Yolanda’s contributions to the paralegal profession are numerous and merit recognition and accolades, I believe her greatest accomplishment is her unrelenting, passionate support of the development of the paralegal profession. It does not seem to matter what role she has, Yolanda leads with passion and professionalism. She is the person other leaders turn to for counsel.

“She has served and continues to serve the paralegal profession with a humble, unwavering dedication. She is an inspiration for paralegals everywhere.”

Smith currently serves as the liaison for the Minorities in the Profession and the Strategic Planning and Emerging Trends Committees for the NCBA Paralegal Division and as the N.C. State Bar Board of Paralegal Certification Liaison for the North Carolina Paralegal Association. She has also held several leadership roles with the North Carolina Paralegal Association.

Previous Recipients of the Distinguished Paralegal Award:
2014 – Sarah Hall Kaufman, CP, NCCP
2013 – Kaye H. Summers
2012 – Stephanie C. Crosby, NCCP
2011 – Phyllis M. Hines, CP, NCCP
2010 – Virginia M. Burrows, CLAS, NCCP
2009 – Teresa L. Bowling, ACP, NCCP