From our guest blogger, Karin Schroeck-Singh of the popular Careerheads online magazine in the UK........who graciously conducted this interview.
Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing and Paralegal Knowledge Institute. She is the author of hundreds of articles, 10 books on legal careers and has been interviewed by Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, ABA Journal and many other publications.
She worked also as a Paralegal Administrator in two major firms and was an executive in a $5 billion corporation. Chere Estrin is the President and Co-Founding member of the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP), a non-profit company that provides online legal technology training.
She is a Co-Founding Member of International Practice Management Association (IPMA), Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year finalist and Los Angeles/Century City Chamber of Commerce Woman of Achievement Award Winner. She is a New York City Paralegal Excellence award winner and a Los Angeles Paralegal Association Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient. You can follow her on Twitter @estrin, visit her website at: www.estrinlegalstaffing.com and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I had the great opportunity to interview Chere Estrin and find out what her experiences in the legal recruitment industry have been so far.
Chere Estrin: Interview with a Legal Recruitment Expert
Karin Schroeck-Singh: How did you get interested in the legal industry?
Chere Estrin: I actually fell into it. I was hired as a paralegal administrator for an entertainment law firm because I had a background in the theatre. I answered an ad for an entertainment law firm and the administrator happened to have seen one of my shows. True story.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What are the most positive aspects of your profession?
Chere Estrin: As CEO of a legal staffing company and President and Co-Founding member of two online legal technology training companies for attorneys and legal professionals, the reward is in knowing you had a hand in assisting someone further their career. People come back to you later with their success stories and it’s a thrill to know that you were able to provide the right guidance at the right time.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Are there any negative aspects that you don’t enjoy in your job?
Chere Estrin: I witness a lot of age and visual discrimination these days. At first, I didn’t quite buy it. However, when I review some of the questions being asked of some candidates, I know discrimination is practiced. This is a visual age with Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat and other social media on the forefront. Times have changed and attitudes have changed with it. On the other hand, there’s a lot that people can do to beat age discrimination in their attitudes, language, skills and yes, appearance. We don’t all have to have Botox and appear younger than we are but we don’t have to present ourselves as outdated either. I also see a lot of weight discrimination and that seems to be ok with people. It is not.
The most important thing we can do for ourselves is to beat discrimination by staying updated professionally and socially. Ride the horse in the direction it is going.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Age, visual and weight discrimination, wow! It reminds me a bit of those studies that are stating that attractive, good-looking people get more call backs for job interviews, are hired sooner, get promotions quicker and earn higher salaries. There is a book called “Beauty Pays: Why attractive people are more successful” written by Daniel Hamermesh, Professor of Economics at the University of Texas. He also claims that attractive people earn an average of 3 or 4 % more than people with below-average looks. No wonder that there are professionals who take it a step further by undergoing some cosmetic surgery in order to survive in today’s corporate world. A survey among Chinese Graduates also revealed that 52 % of them believe that cosmetic surgery can indeed increase the chance of getting a job. Do you think that the cosmetic surgery industry will experience a boom in the future with people desperate to look better in order to have better careers?
Chere Estrin: I am not an expert in the cosmetic surgery industry. However, I understand that the industry has already experienced a boom simply because these procedures are no longer considered taboo. I’m not so sure that people are at a desperation point and hopefully, that will not be the case. I’d like to believe that people seek to improve their looks for enjoyment and health but sadly, that’s not always the case.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: You gained 20 years of experience in the legal sector in various roles. What are the five most important lessons you learnt in your career so far?
# 1 – Claim your successes. Women, in particular, have a hard time claiming successes. Particularly those from the Baby Boomer generation. Why? Because we were taught that it’s “not nice to brag”. Men, on the other hand, were taught differently. You’ll come off much more influential if you say, “I have been interviewed by the Los Angeles Times” rather than, “there have been articles written about me.”
# 2 – Don’t be afraid to get shot down. I’ll never forget one of my first successes. I had just passed the successful entrepreneurial mark. I went out and bought a Mercedes. (In the U.S., that’s a sign of success.) I drove it over to my mother’s. I ran upstairs and brought her down to the driveway. Giggling like two girls, we got in. We rubbed the real leather, we moved the seats back and forth. We played with the radio and didn’t understand all the switches. We loved it. I finally said to her, “Well, Mom, what do you think of your girl?” She looked at me for a moment and she said, “I think this is great, honey. Is this a Toyota?”
# 3 – Always look at the paradigm. When I was first starting out and didn’t have two dimes to rub together, I was driving a white 1961 Corvair with red interior. That’s a car with the motor in the back and the trunk in the front. I was driving down the street at 35 miles per hour when the brakes went and I rear-ended the car in front of me. Now, the trunk in the front was in the trunk in the back of the car in the front. No one was hurt. I got out and walked to the nearest 7-11 to the pay phone. (No one had cell phones in those days.) I called my father. “Dad,” I whined into the phone. “The brakes went and I just reared-ended another car. I heard a pause on the other end of the phone. “Well,” he said. “I guess she was just in your way.”
# 4 – Don’t be afraid to fail. Why? No one bats 1000. No one. Failure or challenges, call it what you want, only propels you to get up, dust yourself off and succeed. Big time, I might add.
# 5 – Learn to use your network. Network can be an overused term. However, I have had more successes by utilizing my extensive network than any other business technique imaginable. People will remember you from years ago and be more than willing to help you out. The thing is, you need to learn how to ask.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: That’s interesting and I fully agree with regard to the power of networking and the importance of the right asking technique. What is your best advice when it comes to effective networking?
Chere Estrin: Even in this day of social networking, the best networking is face-to-face. People remember you much better and for longer periods of time. That being said, don’t turn people down when you are asked to connect on LinkedIn or a professional Facebook page. Write articles, get speaking engagements – all of this builds a very effective network. The more people who know you, the more likely you are that they will help you. The higher your profile, the more employers want you. Everyone wants a winner.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: That’s true! So what are the qualities in your opinion that make a great Staffing Professional in the legal sector?
Chere Estrin: Reputation, negotiation skills, honesty, integrity and contacts. Oh, contacts are not a quality? How about quality of contacts?
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What are the 3 main benefits that your clients (companies as well as candidates) gain when they choose Estrin Legal Staffing?
Chere Estrin: Reputation, honesty, integrity and let’s add extensive network from years of building good friendships and relationships in the legal field.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: You mentioned “honesty” twice and you were also talking about age, visual and weight discrimination earlier on. Let’s say you know for sure that one of your clients discriminated against your brilliant candidate due to his age. Honestly, what reason do you give the candidate for not being hired?
Chere Estrin: If I believed that age discrimination had in fact been practiced, I would tell the candidate. To not say something would be in part, as bad as participating. However, in law firms, it’s pretty hard to prove as law firm personnel are very heavily trained against that sort of thing and supposedly know better.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Let’s change topic. Your company is also a sister company to Paralegal Knowledge Institute. I find it great that a recruitment company also provides a lot of online continuing legal education options (via www.paralegalknowledge.com). I’ve heard about this eDiscovery course/certification exam. I can imagine that not everyone might instantly know what this course/exam is all about. Can you please explain a bit more in detail?
Chere Estrin: I found that training and job opportunities go hand-in-hand. The more training you get, the better your job opportunities. The one thing that employers balk at is that a candidate’s skills are out-of-date. At PKI and through the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP) www.theolp.org, we provide online training in eDiscovery which is the legal technology system for finding, cataloguing evidence and documents on the computer – a rather shorthand way of describing it. Attorneys and paralegals need to understand this method in order to go to trial in this new computer age.
Karin Schroeck: What advice would you give to someone who would also like to become a Recruitment Specialist in the legal industry. Is there any particular education path you can recommend and why?
Chere Estrin: I personally feel that you must come from the legal field in order to be able to recruit for the legal field. There is no college degree in legal recruiting! I have found some excellent recruiters who have not come from the legal field but who understand the field very well. Interestingly enough, some attorneys make the worst recruiters because they have no sales skills.
There are nuances in this field as in any other specialty. You need to have a finite understanding as to what each position does, how the organization chart reads, software, career path, who the law firms and in-house legal departments are and how each one works, salaries, players on all levels, trends, future, legal service providers, education required for each position, top schools, labor statistics, and more – and that is only the beginning.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Yes, that makes perfect sense! Having gained some experience in a particular industry or being very knowledgeable about it, makes definitely a big difference when it comes to hiring the best candidate. No doubt! Now let’s talk about salaries. How much on average can a Legal Recruitment Consultant earn in the USA?
Chere Estrin: Salaries are all over the board. Generally, you earn on a commission basis. Some of the larger agencies will pay you a base salary of $60,000 plus a commission. On the other hand, the more well-known recruiters with excellent reputations and book of business will earn upwards of $300-400,000 per year.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: That sounds impressive! Let’s assume you need to hire an additional Recruitment Consultant. What 5 questions would you ask the job applicant during an interview in order to determine whether the person is a good fit for your company or not?
- What is your sales strategy?
- From where do you derive your candidates?
- What associations do you belong?
- Can you please give me a sample pitch to a law firm?
- What methods do you use to raise your profile?
Karin Schroeck-Singh: These are great questions. By the way, does your company conduct social media background checks on their candidates before referring them to clients? If so, what were your experiences so far?
Chere Estrin: Yes, we definitely do. Employers are checking LinkedIn at the same time they receive a resume. They put a great deal of importance on your LinkedIn profile. It has to be excellent and powerful. My experience is that most candidates do not have great LinkedIn profiles and many are getting turned down because of it and are not aware of that fact. Employers also check Facebook, even though technically, they are not supposed to. They do anyway. I ask permission of the candidate if I feel I need to check their Facebook page. It could be something that I see on LinkedIn that sends a red flag up.
I don’t like what I find on a lot of Facebook pages for candidates in terms of politics, pictures of people drinking, petty arguments, slamming spouses, that sort of thing. People should be allowed to express themselves on Facebook and employers should not be able to make judgments but that’s not what’s happening.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Recently I conducted an interesting survey among other HR Professionals. The question was “Would you invite a candidate to a job interview who has no online presence? Why?” (http://careerheads.com/no-online-presence-no-job-interview-11-insiders-reveal/) What is your opinion in that regard?
Chere Estrin: I saw that survey. Very interesting. No online presence suggests that the candidate is not up-to-date. I do contact the person because it is my job to find excellent talent and I’ll do it if the resume is strong enough. However, before I submit them anywhere, I work with them to get a professional online presence. You don’t have to have a personal online presence but you should have a professional online presence to demonstrate that you are participating in the world as it is. I understand people who want privacy. However, a professional profile on LinkedIn is critical and improves your chances of being hired. Additionally, you might not be seeking to move, however, a recruiter or potential employer will come across your profile and contact you. It could turn out to be the turning point in your career. The best candidates are sometimes those who are not looking.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Thank you very much Mrs Estrin for your precious time and your valuable insights. I wish you all the best for your future challenges. You are a remarkable woman!