7 Steps for Turning Uncertainty into Transformative Opportunity

   Nathan-dumlao-rWJ2RthM-gc-unsplash                                                          
Welcome Mark Gorkin, "The Stress Doc"! 
Our guest blogger this month.
 
7 Steps for Turning Uncertainty into Transformative Opportunity

Doing Your Head Work, Heart Work and Homework
 
A good friend recently sent me a clever cartoon.  A Buddhist-like character, wearing a loosely hanging white garment, shoulder exposed, is driving a car, seemingly in the dark.  His car is filled with message bubbles:  “Follow your bliss,” “The obstacle is the path,” and “if you aim for it, you are turning away from it.”  The pithy caption:  “Zen GPS!”
 
Not surprisingly, my friend is facing a tough decision fraught with uncertainty.  In times of indecision and confusion, if not crisis, e.g., our ongoing COVID reality, what we need is clarity and structure along with a learning and sharing path more than certainty, perfection, and absolute truth.
 
As we have recently witnessed, facing chronic uncertainty, “can lead to acting irrationally and irresponsibly, from boycotting masks to throwing big parties in the face of all precautions — all products of frustration, fear and defiance in an effort to reassert control over the upended circumstances” (Kamila Sip, Jay Dixit, “LEADING THROUGH ADVERSITY: Brain-based leadership in a time of heightened uncertainty,” Chief Learning Officer, November 30, 2020).
 
With my friend, I texted back some pathway steps as she ponders making a life-changing decision.  Consider these fleshed out seven steps for “Turning Uncertainty into Transformative Opportunity”:
 
 Admitting Powerlessness as True Strength.  Accepting that you are powerless in a vital decision-making realm is both a sign of honesty and strength.   It is not evidence of failure, though our vulnerable ego or wounded pride may interpret a need to ask for help in this self-critical manner.  You may need a shoulder to lean on to get the journey started.
 
2.  Being Open to and Digesting New Info.   While you should always consider the source of info, now is the time to get some “outside-your-social bubble” ideas and input.  Also, key, taking time to listen to and assess your emotions:  what is being stirred by such a new perspective and/or approach?  And having done your emotional due diligence, now reflect on the new information and your reaction(defensiveness) or response (integration of heart and head) to the same.  Pay close attention to any new questions that arise in your head, heart, and gut.
 
3.  Conferring with Trusted Others.  This can be challenging, as we often don’t like to reveal our uncertainty and feelings of vulnerability.  Will others judge us to be weak or indecisive?  So, at this part of the decision-making journey, try sharing your uncertainty, new info, new questions, etc. with trusted others.  But even here, consider whether your friend or colleague might have their own bias or subjectivity regarding their feedback to you.
 
4.  Initial Decision-Making.  Formulate a new perspective or position, if not a complete strategy.  If you have the time and energy, seek another round of feedback.  Again, take time for digesting the new problem-solving gestalt through emotional reflection.  You might even want to journal about pros and cons, fears, fantasies, excitements, etc.
 
5.  Making a Decision.  Now commit to a decision, however imperfect, incomplete, or unfinished it may seem.  Perfection or absolute control is not the goal.  As the Buddhists would say, “That’s an illusion.”  And most important, act on your commitment.  Again, to sustain a challenging new problem-solving step, first, expect some anxiety.  This is natural during the early stages of a learning curve.  And second, seek feedback and resources to help you sustain your new path, at least long enough to feel you engaged in a real test drive.
 
6.  Preparing for Conflict.  Remember, not all will agree with your decision, even folks who, in general, recognized there was a problem.  Such doubters may have legitimate concerns; they also may be protecting themselves from recognizing that they too may need to break out of a self-defeating habit or comfort zone.  If you have done your past and present head work, heart work, and homework, you can trust you are on the right path… for now.
 
7.  Knowing You Can Change.  Finally, as you travel along this new path, new experiences, conversations, and information will arise.  If you feel you have given this new plan of action your best shot, and you are having doubts, wondering if you need to step back and reevaluate, then you can.  You can reevaluate – from solo reflection to shared brainstorming – following the above steps.  Most important, with this decision-making framework, a change of heart or plans is rarely an impulsive choice or rash decision.  You are not avoiding or abandoning the issue but approaching it from a hard-earned wisdom perspective.
 
The Secret of Wisdom
 
Words of wisdom.  Most of us seek them.  I immediately think of two of my favorite sayings.  Jonas Salk, the great scientific pioneer observed:  "Evolution is about getting up one more time than we fall down, being courageous one more time than we are fearful...trusting one more time than being anxious."  And along with a sense of persistence, everyday struggle and appreciation for even small triumphs is the need for serenity:  "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can...and the wisdom to know where to hide the bodies."  No...Just kidding.  ;-)  "And the wisdom to know the difference."  And the older I get, the more profound "The Serenity Prayer" seems.  Yet, a fundamental question remains:  how the heck do you get the wisdom?  
 
Okay, folks.  Here it is...The Secret of Wisdom.
 
Once there was a young woman who heard that an old wise woman had the secret of wisdom.  The young woman was determined to track the old woman down.  After traveling many months, the young woman found the old woman in a cave.  She entered and addressed the old woman:  "Old Wise Woman, I hear you have The Secret of Wisdom.  Would you share it with me?  The old woman looked at the youth and said, "Yes, you seem sincere.  The Secret of Wisdom is good judgment."  "Good judgment, of course," said the youth, thanked her mentor, and started to leave.  However, as she got to the entrance of the cave she paused, turned back and said, "Old Woman, I feel funny, but, if I may ask, how does one obtain good judgment?"  "That's a good question," said the sage.  "One obtains good judgment through experience."  "Experience, of course," said the young seeker, and proceeded to leave.  But once again she stopped in her tracks, and humbly walked back to her mentor.  "Old Woman," said the young woman, "I feel foolish, but I have to ask:  How does one obtain experience?"  The old woman paused, nodded her head, then proceeded:  "Now you have reached the right question.  How does one obtain experience?
. . . Through bad judgment!"
 
Errors of judgment rarely mean incompetence; they more likely reveal inexperience or immaturity, perhaps even boldness.  Our so-called "failures" can be channeled as guiding streams (sometimes raging rivers) of opportunity and experience that ultimately enrich - widen and deepen - the risk-taking passage...If we can just immerse ourselves in the these unpredictably rejuvenating waters.
 
And just remember...Practice Safe Stress!
 
Gorkin Mark.computerMark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote and webinar speaker and "Motivational Psychohumorist” known for his Get FIT – FUN-Interactive-Thought-provoking – programs for both government agencies and major corporations.  In conjunction with Legal Estrin Staffing, the Doc has been co-leading Stress Resilience/COVID-19 Webinars and an HR/Legal/Manager Support Group, and continues to lead Stress Resilience, Diversity/Inclusion, and Team Building programs.  
 
Having taught Crisis Intervention for ten years at Tulane Univ. Graduate School of Social Work, he has been a Stress/Critical Incident Consultant for various organizations and for the Nepali Community in the BWI area.  He has run numerous Stress Resilience & Team Building Leadership Retreats for the US Army.  Mark is definitely battle-tested as a former Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service.  He is the author of Practice Safe Stress, The Four Faces of Anger, and Preserving Human Touch in a Hi-Tech World.  See his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" – www.stressdoc.com – called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR).  
 
For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 301-875-2567.
 
To reach Chere Estrin: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com
 

 


To do list.....

Covid2.mask

   Every Legal Professional's
To Do List

 

 

  1. Wear mask.
    Ride the horse in the direction it is going.
  2. Social distance.
    There was too much huggy, kissy stuff anyway.
  3. Wash hands over and over and over.
    Use hand lotion to restore your youthful dewy look.
  4. Don't go to big parties or large or even medium gatherings of any kind.
    It's not worth dying for.
  5. Listen to the scientists.
    They know better than us. Really, they do.
    And,

VoteVote
Your vote IS important.
If you want things to change for the better, this is the best solution.

 


In the Face of Tragedy

An open letter:
Blue river.normalI am sure all of you are aware of the terrible fires raging in the West. Normally, when things of this nature occur, we glance at the TV and think, "That's terrible" but honestly, other than following the story on the news, we really do not know how it feels to have a disaster hit you. It's something that happens to someone else.

Blue River.firefightersNow, I do know. In the Oregon fires raging across the state during the past couple of weeks, my family lost all of our property (7 acres) when it burned to the ground.  The property was in the family for 48 years. We were very, very fortunate to have actually moved from the house 4 weeks to the day. We had been living there for years. Most people in the area barely had time to get out - 15 minutes at best. Getting evacuated goes in three levels: Level One - Pack a bag; Level Two - leave; Level Three - Get out now. Don't take anything. Everyone got Level Three. There was no Level One or Two.
 
Many of our friends and neighbors did not fare as well as we did. They lost homes and had nowhere to go. Entire towns around us burned down. Clinics, post offices, lodges, businesses, restaurants, churches, grocery stores, schools, even the fire station and a fire truck, you name it. All gone. No one that night received any other alarm other than Level Three. That's how fast the fire spread. Volunteers banged on doors, alarms sounded on cell phones and TV, horns honked and people of all ages, fled. 
 
Blue river fire.skiesAs they left, no one had time to grab much of anything. It's funny how you think when panicked. What should you do? One friend's 14 year old granddaughter threw her jeans and computer into a paper bag. Ironically, my friend, standing in her nightgown, looked around and thought, "What will I take?" and in her moment of panic, grabbed her dog and her hand sanitizer. I know how lucky we were. If there is a god, fire god, rain god, miracle worker, or just plain ole Lady Luck, I am a believer. I cannot tell you the devastation. 500,000 people out of homes or evacuated, in dire need of housing, clothing, food, supplies, medicine, basic necessities and of course, jobs.
 
Blue River.fire sunflowersThe next 10 days were a nightmare. We were evacuated from the new house -  Level 2. The smoke was so bad, we could not see the house across the street, let alone our own back fence. Truthfully, I was shaken up. Something very rare for me. The fire started at the 47 mile post on the highway and we lived at the 46.5 mile post. The fire spread so rapidly that there would have been no time to get out. There were no neighbors around, it was nighttime, we would have probably been asleep, so no one to warn us. The time it would have taken to call 911 would not have been enough. In all probability, we most likely would have died.
 
Blue River.Chief RainbowIt's funny how, in the face of tragedy, you still have to carry on life. While we were traipsing around like Gypsies from hotel to Air B and B, we thanked our lucky stars that we even were able to do that. Others were not as lucky.  One evacuation center, the high school, was suddenly caught in the fire and 150 evacuees had to be airlifted by helicopter off the school's track. I can only imagine the fear.
 
Blue River fire.truckIn the meantime, I was caught in the most bizarre work scene. I had to work. As an entrepreneur, no one covers your paid time off other than you. So, there I was, going from restaurant to restaurant interviewing candidates via Zoom, sitting outdoors because of the pandemic and talking to clients in our car. No one knew.I felt I had to remain as professional as possible. Finally, it got too hard to handle. Disguising something that is happening to you so you can work was probably not the best way to go. Well, frankly, I am never to old to learn something.
 
Blue river fire.firemen sleepingIf I did tell someone, the reaction was sometimes strange. What do you say to someone? How should they respond? When I wrote an email that phones, cell service and internet would be intermittent because of the fire, some of my clients refused to acknowledge what was going on and would say something like, "How about changing the meeting to 10am?" I felt confused and slighted. Didn't they get it? Couldn't I have just one little, "I'm sorry to hear that?" And, I would fall back to - it's a TV event. It doesn't affect them. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
 
A good friend of mine, desperate to get a job, contacted me to help him. Because he was a good friend, I explained what was going on and that my resources were probably very limited right now. His response was, "Sorry to hear that. Can you get me a temp job?" I honestly didn't know what to say. My husband said I should stop trying to gain empathy. And why was I, anyway? I think he had a point. Then I realized, I wasn't looking for empathy. I wasn't looking for sympathy. I wasn't even looking for understanding. I was looking for someone to fix it. Please fix this. I turned it around. I told him, "Look. If the new house goes, we're going to save a lot of money. We won't have to hire another moving van."
 
Blue River Fire.lodgeI quickly realized that unless you are in the scene, you cannot imagine a disaster. Unless you have been through it, you cannot get your mind around what it is like to have to drive through a fire that is raging on either side of the highway to get to safety. Or, evacuate your home because the smoke is so hazardous it can cause heart attacks and strokes.  That sort of scenario happens in 15 second sound bites, not to you. I began to have survivors guilt. I told myself, "What are you complaining about? Other people are so much worse off than we are." Of course, I was trying to minimize what was going on. Push it down. A couple of friends from out-of-state dropped me an email saying, "I don't suppose you are anywhere near those fires, right?" Because again, it doesn't happen to you and it doesn't happen to anyone you know.
 
Blue River fire.truck At this writing, our fire is 22% contained. It's supposed to rain tonight. However, over 500,000 people have been evacuated or lost their homes or businesses and in our fire alone, (not inclusive of the many other fires around the state), over 175,000 acres have been burned. The state has over a million acres, gone forever.  That, of course, causes landslides and mudslides. Frankly, I think I would rather have that over the fire. It's hard to say. In the meantime, I am talking to candidates, filling job searches but not acting as nothing has happened to this wonderful community.
 
"I realized I wasn't looking for empathy. I wasn't looking for sympathy. I wasn't even looking for understanding. I just wanted someone to fix it."
 
Blue River fire.flagIt's amazing how people help each other out. Amazing. There is kindness everywhere. People putting other people first. I have never experienced this level of community spirit. The will to survive and rebuild is incredible. Everyone, from younger generations to the elderly, seem to have taken a positive view.
 
However, they need help and I am hoping that you are the one that can see your way, just a little bit, to give some assistance. Volunteers, despite the pandemic, are out there assisting others. People are helping people. The spirit is strong, the determination to come through this overwhelmingly unbreakable.
 
Please donate to a worthy cause. You can donate to the Red Cross and specify the Western fires. Even $10.00 goes a long way. There are other non-profits specifically for certain fires. Here are just a few:
 
Recommended by State Senator, Ron Wyden:
Stand with Oregon families hurt by the fire:
https://bit.ly/3cAAJaI
 
Lane County Government Assistance
www.lanecounty.org "Holiday Farm Fire" section.  
 
The Red Cross
www.redcross.org
 
Upper McKenzie Community Center (Standing and seeking to help residents)
www.uppermckenziecommunitycenter.org
 
Local TV station - donations for victims of fire - KVAL TV
 
Please make this more than a TV event. Donate, volunteer, send clothing, food & supplies. Whatever you can do helps. While people remain resilient, believe me, the strongest belief anyone can have, is that there's no place like hope.
 
Thanks for listening.
Stay safe.
Blue River fire.2

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top national and international staffing organization and MediSums, medical records summarizing. She is the Co-Founding Member and Vice-President of the Organization of Legal Professionals. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Chere is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award and a Los Angeles Paralegal Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient She is a former administrator at an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.

 

9 Passive-Aggressive Email Phrases You Are Probably Using

Annoyed.woman at computerYou might have noticed some of your bosses and colleagues and friends getting somewhat, well, downright testy during this Coronavirus time. No wonder! Huge changes, disruption of business and home life, financial woes, uncertainty about the future, little or no social contact and that stay-at-home confinement we are all getting tired of.

What I noticed is the effect this crazy upside-down time is having on our emails. Yes, our emails. I noticed that more and more, emails are getting somewhat, if not totally, passive-aggressive. Based upon what I recently found out, I am willing to bet $.25 (I never go more than $.25) that all of us have been at least a little PA at some point.

Expressing anger in the office today is taboo and practically a crime. Yet, anger is a natural emotion and is bound to eventually come out somewhere.  More times than we want to have happen, we find plenty of angry emails in our inbox.  According to a 2018 survey by Adobe, there are 9 extremely annoying email phrases all of us have most likely used. Adobe surveyed 1,928 workers asking for their most annoying email phrases.  Truthfully, I was not aware that any of these phrases were considered annoying, let alone passive-aggressive.

While the Adobe survey calls theses phrases, “annoying”, Psychology Today magazine labels them passive-aggressive. To be truthful, I can’t tell you how many emails I have sent over the years containing practically all of these phrases. Who knew?

Over 75% of the respondents said that email was the preferred way to communicate around the office. Most said they spend anywhere from one to two hours to a half day reading and responding to emails.

Top 9 email phrases considered passive-aggressive:

1, Not sure if you saw my last email... Really? Come on. Are you sure you’re not sure? 99% of the time, (not based on any evidence) this is simply a lie. What this actually means is: “I know you saw my last email. I know you ignored it. So, I’m sending it again. I demand a response RIGHT NOW”.

2. Per my last email... Does anyone use the word “per” except to sound superior and official?  Would you use it in a conversation? I doubt it. “Per my last email” roughly translates to “I notice you haven’t responded to my previous email and want to point it out to everyone in this email chain with my legal-sounding speak”.

3. Per our conversation… Similar to the above but with an added twist. “Per our conversation” is used when you’ve had a chat about something contentious or you want to lock something important in and ensure it’s documented just in case, of course, it all goes wrong. It’s generally called a CYA. (If you don’t know what that means, just email me.)

4. Any updates on this?… Here we go with: “I still haven’t heard from you about this important matter, so I’m going to chase you down until you give me what I want”.

5. Sorry for the double email … Here’s the classic: “sorry but not really sorry” mentality. This phrase can mean either “I’m going to send you two similar emails to really hit hard that I need a response”, or “I was so busy writing a tome in my first email that I neglected to add additional information”.

6. Please advise…. This is the epitome of passive-aggression. “Please advise” is usually shorthand for “I’ve done my part, now you do yours”.

7. As previously stated... Wait, wait! Maybe this phrase is the core of passive-aggression. Why not write: “I’m having to repeat myself because it’s obvious you are ignoring me”.

8. As discussed... This phrase loosely translates to “I’m putting our conversation in writing so you can’t misinterpret what’s expected of you. Be sure to get this right.”

9. Re-attaching for convenience… I rarely see this. However, it is a nice way of saying: “I’m reattaching a file you say that you never received (when I know you did) because it’s easier than having to sort through my sent emails to prove that I did, indeed, send it.”

Interestingly, the phrases “Per my last email” and “Per our conversation” came in second and third in the survey with "Not sure you saw my email" as number one.

Do not send an email starting like this:

Whether you’re speaking with your supervisor or contacting a client, 37% of respondents said starting an email with “To whom it may concern”as a terrible greeting. “Hey” (28%) and the corny “Happy [insert day]!” also ranking poorly.

The most annoying email cliches are:

    1. Just looping in… 37%
    2. As per my last email…33%
    3. Just checking in…19%
    4. Confirming receipt…16%
    5. Thanks in advance…7%
    6. Hope you’re well…6%  No, you don’t! Frankly, you are probably just trying to sound polite or have no original ideas for another opener.

The style you use can also be annoying:

  1. Using capital letters for whole words or sentences – 67%
  2. Using kisses or ‘x’ – 65%
  3. CC’ing people who don’t need to be involved – 63%
  4. Using slang, eg ‘OMG’ – 53%
  5. Using too many exclamation marks – 52%
  6. Sending an email without proofreading – 50%
  7. Sending very long emails – 29%
  8. Using emojis – 29%
  9. Not having an email signature – 23%
  10. Double emailing – 22%
  11. Using smiley faces – 22%
  12. Using colored fonts – 21%

Another recent study found that keeping emails on the pithy side can go a long way. Emails with a subject line containing just one word were found to be 87% more likely to receive a response.  It was also found that emails 50 words or less boosted reply rates by more than 40%.

What does work:

More than half of the respondents said receiving no greeting (53%) was absolutely the worst for a work email. Starting an email with a greeting such as “Hi” was received the most positively by respondents with nearly half agreeing it was the perfect greeting. “Kind regards” was found to be the best way to sign-off (69%). “Good morning” and “Good afternoon” also ranked highly as nice ways to address recipients.

A much better way to communicate:

All cattiness aside, each of these phrases have something in common: a need to get information quickly. Almost everyone finds these email expressions annoying, boring or trite, yet most of us frequently use them. This suggests that something needs to change to make information sharing more pleasant and responses more plentiful.

According to Psychology Today, here are three steps to handle passive-aggressive emails:

Step 1: Know what you are dealing with.

See beyond sugarcoated phrasing and recognize hostility. When you see the patterned wording as cited in the Adobe study (e.g., “As previously stated” or “Please advise”), red flags should go up and you need to ask yourself if the sender is harboring some hidden anger.

Step 2: Refuse to engage.

Resist urges to mirror the sender’s hostility. Any time covertly hostile email is responded to with overt hostility, the passive-aggressive person succeeds. Rather than mirroring passive-aggressive behavior and increasing the overall hostility, defuse the hostility with emotionally neutral, bland responses. For example:

Passive-aggressive phrase: “Not sure if you saw my last email...” Siphon off hostility by starting with, “Thanks for the reminder”.

Passive-aggressive phrase: “Re-attaching for your convenience...” “I appreciate that you re-sent the document.”

Passive-aggressive phrase: “As previously stated...” Don’t take the bait. A simple, “Thanks for the recap” will go a long way in keeping a friendly working relationship and rises above someone else’s covert anger.

Passive-aggressive phrase: “Any updates on this?” Offer a polite response such as, “I don’t have any updates yet,” or even better, “I don’t have any updates at this time but I will email you as soon as I do.”

Passive-aggressive phrase: “Please advise.” Offer the advice they are seeking. For example, “Yes, please proceed with your idea,” or “We have decided to move in a slightly different direction. Please hold off on making any decisions.”

Step 3: Acknowledge the anger.

If you feel like a co-worker is chronically hostile and consistently using passive-aggressive communication, respectfully acknowledge their anger. For example, “It sounds like you may be feeling angry,” or, “From your email, I’m wondering if you are frustrated about something.” 

Nine times out of ten, passive-aggressive people will automatically deny that they are angry — and that’s OK. Your respectful acknowledgement marks changing dynamics. The passive-aggressive person now knows that you will not run away from resolving conflict. Ultimately, you will suffer less and get better, more productive responses.

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Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top national and international staffing organization and MediSums, medical records summarizing. She is the Co-Founding Member and Vice-President of the Organization of Legal Professionals. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Chere is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award and a Los Angeles Paralegal Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient She is a former administrator at an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.


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It's My Birthday and I'll Cry If I Want To.....Staying positive in the age of Coronaville

Faith.Believe in yourselfToday is my birthday. It’s one of those Big-O numbers. It's the kind where AARP tracks you down. I don’t mind, really. I feel more confident than ever – nothing much shakes me up too much anymore.

With things the way they are in this upside- down world, the day has caused me to review my current situation: My business, legal staffing, is the third largest industry to be hit next to hospitality and retail.

Everything was going so well in the first quarter. In fact, it was going to be one of my best years ever. Then, along with the rest of the world, I woke up one morning and poof! It was all gone. Finito. Say bye-bye. No one was hiring. Every firm had a hiring freeze. It looked as though we were absolutely dead in the water.

Let me whine just a bit. This week has been tough. My wonderful husband has been in and out of the ER 6 times plus 2 emergency trips to the doctor in 10 days. It has been a series of Mr. Toad’s Wild Rides in the dead of the night to a hospital an hour away along a pitch- black winding mountain road in the midst of thunder and lightning storms. Not really my idea of fun.  Actually, I am sitting here writing this piece right now in the hospital. He does not have the virus and fortunately, he is going to be fine.

It’s getting tough to stay positive. Let’s not overlook that COVID19 is still raging. It seems like a lot of people have accepted the new normal and have become a tad desensitized to what is going on. With 40+ million people unemployed and many cities still in lock down, you would think it would be foremost on everyone’s mind. However, I notice that people are actually adapting the “new normal” and getting just a tiny bit too comfortable. This has become a way of life. Holy, moly. We want to live life like this? Can we rethink this here?

Then we have global civil unrest. The world is protesting to the injustices that have gone on for hundreds of years.  While it’s good to protest, I wish it were at a healthier time. With thousands and thousands of people in demonstrations, rallies, along with the partying at bars without wearing masks or practicing social distancing, the virus will be going on a long time. That’s not a good thing.

It’s interesting what the virus is bringing out. People I haven’t spoken to in years are calling. Even my cyber stalker is back. She's a paralegal down in Georgia who seems to have forgotten we know who she is. (Thank goodness, this time around there are laws - criminal and civil -  to protect me. Not so, several years ago when she started.) The callers are reaching out. I think that’s because they can’t hug or see anyone and are looking for people who can bring back good memories and better times. In a way, the world is getting closer despite social distancing.

I am examining my life on this Big-O birthday. Los Angeles (where I come from), is the land of the skinny, the beautiful, those who drive the most expensive cars and those who live on the correct side of the boulevard. Since nothing there really applies to me, I thought I could at least improve my appearance. I am now, after all, a woman of a certain age.

There’s this permaderma-something-or-another product I saw on TV that you rub on your face and in 10 minutes, all your wrinkles and deep lines disappear. Oh, wow! Now, we’re talkin’. For $19.95,  I can compete with L.A’s beautiful people! It does have one teeny, tiny caveat.  It wears off after 10 hours. I can just see myself having a gourmet dinner in L.A,'s most trendy restaurant with important potential clients. The 10 hours are up and the perma stuff starts slowly wearing off me in front of god and everyone. Drip, drip, right onto my collar. There I am, aging 10 years before the very people I am inaptly trying to impress - rapidly changing from a middle-aged beauty to an old lady. Somehow,  I don’t think I would get the account.

Staying in the framework of positivity, pandemic or not, I decided I was not going to go through the horrible down time that most of us did in the Great Recession. No siree! This time, I had a Plan B. I reasoned that pretty soon, all the people who got the virus are going to get angry. Very, very angry. They will start to sue. Who will they sue? Doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, employers who made them come to the office, products liability for faulty ventilators, institutions they believe gave them the virus, toxic tort, mass tort, class actions and more.  What will law firms and insurance companies need? Medical records summarized, of course. So, I opened up MediSums, medical records summarizing. Bullseye! I now have a team of 26 doctors who can summarize up to 16,000 pages per day. There is absolutely no way I am going to go down like in 2009. Not going to happen.

Then I started branching out in legal staffing. I landed a great client in Bahrain. Yes, that Bahrain over in the Middle East. They are seeking a corporate lawyer along with a litigation lawyer from a major law firm with excellent schools and major firm background. OK, so I had to drop the fee a little bit. However, I can now say I’ve gone international. Always push and keep that career advancing! That's what I always say.

Then, I realized that there are hot areas the Corona virus has brought to the forefront. Those are: trust & estates planning (people are getting their affairs in order, just in case); divorce (after sheltering in, people are deciding they didn’t sign up for this); med/mal; workers comp; employment litigation; personal injury; mass tort; bankruptcy (yes, that area is going to be very, very busy); products liability; BigPharma; corporate restructuring and others. I segmented these specialties and went after those areas. Suddenly, I was no longer dead in the water. Right now, we are so busy, I may have to put on another recruiter.

What am I trying to say? The best thing you can do in very disturbing times is to stay positive and ride the horse in the direction it is going. Those ole adages: make lemonade out of lemons, put your mask on first before you help others and a zillion other trite adages, suddenly apply.

The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging us in ways we could never have predicted just a few months ago, from unprecedented amounts of family time to homeschooling to working remotely — or not working at all. These sudden, rapid changes in the way we live, coupled with uncertainty, can feel overwhelming. While we may know that it’s usually helpful for everyone in your inner circle to stay positive, it’s sometimes easier said than done.

Here are some things to remember:

  • It will not be this way forever. This is a difficult time, but it is just that — a time.
  • Recognize what you are doing well. It may be tough right now, but you have managed some things very well. Think about the physical, logistical, mental and emotional struggles you may have encountered in the last few months and the good — even great — way you approached and handled those challenges. Yay you!

  • Remind yourself of what is good in your life. Some circumstances right now may be hard to change or may contribute to your feeling helpless. But there are other things in your life that are good and inspire gratitude. Making a list of the good things that you appreciate — large or small — can help shift your focus in a positive direction.

  • Start your day with a positivity routine. Don’t immediately check the news as soon as you wake up. It’s too depressing. Take a few minutes to find yourself – and smile. You’d be surprised at how incredibly powerful a morning smile can be in helping you start your day on a positive note.

  • Incorporate humor and laughter into your day.
    This is one of the most important steps to take in improving your positivity and benefiting from a more optimistic disposition. Numerous studies have confirmed short-term and long-term benefits of laughter on the human body and mind. Whenever we start to get a bit frumpy, my husband and I reach for the AutoCorrect bloopers. Laugh? OMG…..
  • Walk away from distressful conversations and situations. In today’s highly stressful pandemic environment, it is easy to get pulled into negative interactions and exchanges that can leave us feeling distressed, frightened, insecure and pessimistic. Recognizing these encounters early on and removing ourselves from these situations can help us manage stress and contribute to our positivity.

  • Have faith. I’m not talking about religious faith here. I’m talking about having faith in humanity; science; technology; our health care heroes; the good in people; our resilience; perseverance; in our ability to overcome even the most outrageous of obstacles. Believe strongly in our future; in life after Coronaville and everything we will have learned after all of this is done. Life is always changing. With each birthday, you can look back and see from where you came.

In times of constant negative messaging, you need an antidote so that you can keep your positive attitude and march forward with determination and hope. Be deliberate in activities that are positive, heartwarming, stress reducing and laughter producing! Together, we’ll get through this. I guarantee it.

Join our free webinars from Estrin Legal Staffing!  Over 2,000 people have signed up over the last 4 months!

How to Survive Indefinitely Working & Leading Remotely July 13 - 11:30am Pacific/1:30 Central/2:30 EST https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/134138627371962636
 
The Halftime of Your Career - July 15 - 10:00-11:00 PST
 
How to Build a Powerful LinkedIn Profile - July 23 - 11:30-12:30 PST
 

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top national and international staffing organization and MediSums, medical records summarizing. She is the Co-Founding Member and Vice-President of the Organization of Legal Professionals. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Chere is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. She is a former administrator at an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.


JOB ALERT!! JOB ALERT!!
Are you seeking a position in Los Angeles? It may be a tough market out there but firms are still looking! Our clients may have just the job you are looking for. Take a look:

Personal Injury Litigation Paralegal - Must have at least 2 yrs. PI exp.
Legal Assistant - Personal Injury Firm - Must speak fluent Spanish
Intake Paralegal - Personal Injury Firm - Must speak fluent Spanish
Receptionist - Must speak fluent Spanish
Class Action Attorneys - work remotely - Must have Class Action exp. and CA license
Class Action Attorney - Sherman Oaks, CA - Must have Class Action exp. & CA license
Corporate Paralegal - Must have at least 3 yrs. corporate paralegal exp., BA & certificate, law firm background

If you are a legal professional seeking an exciting position in Los Angeles, send your resume! (The firms will not pay relocation expenses.) chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com


How to Convince Your Firm Working Remotely is the Way to Go

Working remotelyIt's finally happened and it took a pandemic to bring it about: Law firms are finally recognizing that allowing employees to work remotely does work.

Law firms have always been slow to change. That's a fact. Back in the days when computers were just coming about, lawyers felt they didn't want them because it would interfere with billable time. Fast forward several years later, and law firms did not want to send their documents to outside vendors because they wanted to keep the documents close to them - even if they never visited the vendor who was processing the data. Oh, yes! This actually was the way of things.

Many of you have found that working remotely is fantastic - much more so than you thought it would be. There are a number of reasons including work/lifestyle balance, working hours that are good for you, childcare issues resolved, commute time non-existent, opportunity to live somewhere completely different, and more. However, while law firms are actually seeing positive results, many are stuck in the traditional way of doing things and may insist that you return to the office. That's really not forward thinking.

What if you are in a firm that insists you need to return to the office and now, that is not going to make you happy. What if you are seeking a new position and could easily perform the duties right from home but the potential employer doesn't see it your way? Let's face it. Many law firms are going to take some convincing.

Prior to Covid19, law firms viewed working remotely as a perk, not a privilege. Before the pandemic, many firms viewed a desire to work from home coming from someone who did not want to work hard - a person who was not driven. Now, I imagine that working from home will actually be offered as an enticement to work for the firm. Imagine: the firm wants to hire you and says, "This job calls for working remotely at least two days a week. Oh, you want more? How about 4 days a week?" Yep, they are going to start using it as a negotiating tool.

One of the biggest changes is that remote work tends to shift work relationships from numbers of hours worked to specific goals being met. The reality of most remote work is that you generally put in more hours than you would in the office, but many of those hours are generally not “butts in seats” hours. Employees tend to work until the project is done, rather than have to get up from their desk and leave because it is quitting time. Put another way, once you go remote, then you escape a pervasive fiction: you are only productive when you are on premises. 

Since remote work is beginning to shift from a privilege, a novelty, or a perk for special circumstances to a basic right given to employees with jobs not requiring a physical presence, it's time to speak up and ask for what you deserve -- the autonomy to choose where you are most productive. After all, you know yourself better than anyone, so if you can choose a schedule and location that work for you and remain present and productive, why should it matter where that is? Right now, RV's are the hottest thing going. Why? Because people realize they can work from anywhere. It doesn't have to be from home.

But what if the firm doesn't see it your way? Now is the time to start educating the firm about the benefits to both the firm and the employee to allow remote work. You may be asking, "How do I do that?"

Here 's how to make the case:

1.    First, be sure that you have the temperament and strong desire to make this a permanent situation. Before talking to your boss about your aspirations to work remotely full-time, spend time thinking about the primary reasons you want to work remotely, and what remote work would look like in your role.

If you want to work remotely to achieve a better work-life balance, think about what your ideal level of work-life balance is. If you want to work remotely to reduce time spent commuting, think about what you'd rather be doing with that time. Additionally, think about the challenges you currently face in your role that could be improved or exacerbated by working away from the office, and what solutions you could proactively present when your boss inevitably asks you follow-up questions about what having you work remotely would look like.

2.    Offer to work remotely on a trial basis. Nothing works better than to present change in the framework of an "experiment". If you present your case as an experiment, no one fails, no one has mud on their face. It's the experiment that fails, not you, not your boss. Set a time frame such as 3 months and evaluate your progress on a regular basis.

3.  Frame the conversation with the benefit for the firm in mind. You want to provide quality work and need quiet space to do your best work. Most likely, the firm cannot imagine how this would work on a continuing basis. It was one thing in an emergency situation such as the Corona virus but to continue it may be unthinkable. They want things back the way they were. Change, to many people, is dreadful.

4.   Explain your remote office situation. Is it at home or at a co-shared space? Discuss how you will handle firm materials and assets in a responsible and secure way. Share a picture of what your work space would look like so they can picture you working.

5.    Establish the hours you will be working and when you can be reached via phone. Some companies actually have software that counts the keystrokes and penalizes you if there are not enough keystrokes in any given hour. (I mean, what about bathroom breaks?) This type of micro-management is for the birds. Gain trust from your employer by meeting deadlines and being available during working hours.

6.  Working from home will be a major shift for older firms. It may be helpful to discuss your proposal with HR and other managers. Were you successful during the pandemic? Was the firm pleased with your work? Point that out. Show them several difficult projects that were successfully accomplished by working remotely.

7. Put the benefits in a written plan. It will show them that you really thought this out and are prepared. Some of the benefits would be: 

    a.    The firm does not have to incur the overhead expense an on-site employee requires. That includes office space, equipment, furniture, phones, computers, break room goodies, office supplies, and more.

    b. If your firm wants hard data, show them the research on the success of working remotely. You can also share the results of a 2-year Stanford study by professor Nicholas Bloom in this 2017 TEDx talk. His research showed that remote workers were more productive and they worked longer. Their employee attrition was 50 percent less than telecommuters. In addition, the company benefited from needing less office space.

    c. It may also reduce the overall security risks that a firm faces by cutting down on physical access to facilities, which still accounts for the largest proportion of data breach operations. That it cuts down on traffic times in areas that are increasingly gridlocked due to commuter traffic is an added bonus.

    d.   Studies show that employees worked longer, were more productive and were less likely to leave. Luckily, remote working is becoming the norm and these kinds of requests should no longer require negotiating with such lengthy detail. 

    e.    The open space concept doesn't work. Research from the University of California, Irvine backs this up.  Employees were too distracted in an open office environment. The study showed it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to a task after a distraction. Think about how many distractions you face in a day.  Then consider how many people are wearing headphones in the office — there goes collaboration and communication.

    f.    Research shows that:

  • Companies that allow remote work hire new employees 33% faster than those who do not.
  • Companies can save up to $2,500 or more per year per remote employee.
  • Employees can expand working hours for support or to meet critical court deadlines when the firm recruits a remote workforce around the world.
  • Employees are more likely to stay at a company that has a flexible remote work policy.
  • Companies can expand their talent pool globally.
  • Employees who work remotely are 24% happier.

    g.    It used to be that any face-to-face meeting would be preceded by an hour spent at the copier, making copies of papers and presentations for all of the participants. Today, many office printers go days or even weeks without seeing use, while most documents are available via a link. At last! Here comes the paperless office. This same process is removing the need for printing and signing contracts. 

    h.    We’re even getting to the stage where the process of setting up meetings is more efficiently done online. It's faster, easier to attend, does not cost to fly someone in or take the commute time that would have been necessary.

How you can get set up to work remotely on a permanent basis:

  • Be sure to add video conferencing links to all of the meetings on your calendar.
  • Have a way for people to get on your calendar. A program such as Calendly or others work well.
  • Set meeting agendas for team meetings and be sure to share them with attendees in advance.
  • Make sure you really know how to look like a "star" when video conferencing. That means looking professional at all times; knowing how to look into the camera; having a background behind you that is not messy or too "homey".
  • Set your working hours on your calendar and other internal communication tools your team uses so everyone knows when you can be reached.

It's a whole new world out there. If you haven't realized it yet, the workplace will never be the same. It's time to ride the horse in the direction it is going! If working remotely is for you, go for it. Right now, if you look on the job boards, you will see an uptick in the jobs that are endorsing remote work. I am not encouraging you to leave your current position but as you all know, I am a big advocate of loving the job you have. It's the least we can do for ourselves. Really, it is.

Join our free webinars from Estrin Legal Staffing!  Over 1,500 people have signed up over the last 3 months!

How to Land a Terrific Job During the Age of Coronaville - June 19 - 10:00-11:00 PST
 
How to Avoid Getting Laid Off  - July 9 - 11:30-12:30 PST
The Halftime of Your Career - July 15 - 10:00-11:00 PST
 
How to Build a Powerful LinkedIn Profile - July 23 - 11:30-12:30 PST
 

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top national and international staffing organization and MediSums, medical records summarizing. She is the Co-Founding Member and Vice-President of the Organization of Legal Professionals. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Chere is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. She is a former administrator at an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.

 

 


National Staffing Organization Opens MediSums, Medical Records Summarizing

PRESS RELEASE

Logo.MediSums.FacebookNational Legal Staffing Organization Announces Formation of MediSums, Medical Records Summarizing, Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic

Estrin Legal Staffing Expands to Include Medicolegal Services in New Division

 

LOS ANGELES, CA – Tuesday, May 19, 2020 – Newly-formed MediSums, a division of Estrin Legal Staffing, adds chronologies and medical record summaries prepared by licensed doctors and legal nurses to its client services. The launch comes at a critical time as the COVID-19 global pandemic adds pressure with personal injury, med/mal, products liability, mass tort, healthcare, workers comp cases and insurance claims on the rise.

“The best Plan B's are different, but related to what you are doing now,” says MediSums CEO, Chere Estrin. “We saw the great need for these services and organized a highly credentialed team of top experts who are prepared and ready to provide unparalleled support to the legal and insurance industry through these trying times.”

MediSums provides swift, affordable, HIPAA compliant summaries prepared by licensed doctors and legal nurses in a chronological, single, easy-to-browse and easy-to-understand view. Clients can access an up-to-date status of a patient's current medical situation as well as relevant highlights of their records.

“Our experts collaborate with consultants in all areas of litigation, and can render medical opinions and create deposition questions on standard of care, healthcare delivery and outcomes,” says Allen S. Brody, Esq., President of MediSums. “Our highly talented team offers quality assistance from initial review to document preparation, client interviews, deposition questions, hearings and medical analysis. The difference with MediSums is that clients can get bona fide medical opinions and deposition questions." Estrin and Brody also serve as President and General Counsel respectively for the well-known online legal technology training company, the Organization of Legal Professionals.

Medical records provided by MediSums are available via secure servers and returned with clinical information and key facts on a visual timeline presented using standard or customized templates. Missing, redacted, or incomplete records are identified quickly. Narrative summaries provide clear and concise reviews of the entire sequence of events ,and are completed only by a licensed doctor or legal nurse consultant who understands complex medical data.

About MediSums

MediSums offers medical chronologies and summaries prepared by licensed doctors and legal nurses, utilizing patient's Electronic Health Records (EHR) in a chronological and concise view.  For more information visit https://medisums.com/.

For more information:

info@MediSums.com
310.254.9483

Media Contact:

Crystal Rose Bryan
crystal@mckenziemercantile.com
541.896.1023

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                     Medical records2                                                                         


Back to Work? 30 Top Tips for Your Firm to Keep You Safe

Phone.cleaningFinally. Some movement. Whether you are anxious that it is too soon to physically return to the office or you are ready, willing and able, it is inevitable. We are going back at some point.

It's been a long and difficult haul for most people! Some have adapted nicely to WFH while others are struggling with overwhelming pressure to handle family, kids in home school, parent caring, added workload, and staying inside and creating a working space in their home that should be in a 7x10 foot cubicle located in the Firm complete with plastic unbreakable walls.

I spoke with a Legal Administrator last week who asked me what firms were doing as a "checklist" to make sure that employees are workplace safe when they return. In my opinion, no one is really "workplace safe". It's an oxymoron in today's "new normal".  All we can do at this point, is to make sure we not only follow guidelines but are fiends about it.

One thing that really bothered me during the stay-at-home period, was the number of employees expected to go to the workplace despite the order. Some were asked to pickup mail, write checks, do administrative work and somehow not get the virus. We discussed this in our HR Support Group and what came out was fear of getting fired for speaking up about not wanting to expose yourself anymore than you had to to the virus. Interestingly, it seemed that the majority of people asked to go to the office were primarily women. But that's another topic for another day.

I don't think anyone should be afraid to speak up. This week, we were privileged to have Dr. Lois Frankel speak at our Community to Community webinars. She is a New York Times best-selling author of "Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office" and "Nice Girls Don't Speak Up or Stand Up." We attracted almost 700 people from all over the country - the world, actually - on this topic. What does that say? There is a critical need and concern out there.  People need to speak up if you are fearful to go back to the office. 

" Covid-19 is blind when it comes to picking victims. It doesn't care about where you are on the org chart, ethnicity, religion, gender, or if you pray to the Virus god in the hopes she is looking down on you."

The Wall St. Journal, in article a few weeks ago, cited several employment lawyers who said that unless you had a legitimate mental health condition documented by a doctor, you were required to return to work if asked. That's pretty tough. A Legal Administrator I chatted with recently said the firm had "paper cups, paper napkins and plastic silverware" ready and were staggering the number of people returning to the office, but didn't quite know what else to do to keep the Firm's employees safe. Oh, lordy, lordy, lordy. Whose idea was this virus anyway? If I weren't a politically correct woman of a certain age, I would say it sucks.

Staying safe should be a prime concern for everyone. One thing we learned the hard way was Covid-19 is blind when it comes to picking victims. It doesn't care about where you are on the org chart, ethnicity, religion, gender, or if you are praying to the Virus gods in the hopes she is looking down on you. The Firm can take steps to ensure your safety albeit not 100%. It is up to you to be reliant upon yourself for safety and if the Firm is not doing what it could, to speak up and speak up now. If you are fearful there will be some kind of retaliation or you will be viewed as not a "team player" (or practicing herd mentality, really), gather your colleagues and speak up as one voice. Many times, several voices acting as one gets more attention and is taken more seriously than one lone one.

Here is a list of 30 actions the Firm can take to help keep you safe:

1.    Design a floor plan complete with how movement should flow so that two people are far enough away from each other when walking down a hallway or aisle.

2.   Use transparent shields. Don't like how they look? I am sure designer ones will be coming out soon.

3.    Get cubicles with walls instead of sitting out in the open.

4.    Ask employees to bring cups, silverware, plates from home instead of using lunch room resources. Put your name on each piece and don't let anyone else touch those items.

5.    Encourage employees to text or email rather than work person-to-person.

6.     Put up huge signs in the restrooms reminding everyone to wash their hands.

7.   A study published in The Lancet Microbe tested how long COVID-19 can last on common surfaces. In a 71° room with 65% humidity (much higher than most workplaces), the virus disappeared from printer and tissue paper in only 3 hours. It took 2 days to vanish from wood and cloth and an unfortunate 7 days for plastic and stainless steel. Even in optimal temperature/humidity conditions, COVID-19 is a vigorous enemy. Tell employees to wipe down all surfaces before contact, even their own desks, phones, file cabinets, door handles, tape dispensers, pencil holders, trash baskets, window sills, mouse and keyboards.

8.    Promote social distancing with occupation limits in each office, conference room or public areas. Don't expect everyone to remember. It's a new routine. Put up signs everywhere.

9.    Phase in how many employees return to work - don't let them all return at the same time. Stagger work schedules so all employees are not in the office at the same time.

10.    After coffee or lunch breaks, sterilize the room.

11.    Post frequently asked questions and Stay-Safe Etiquette guides.

12.    Initiate a staggered 4 day work week.

13.    Put in hands-free faucets.

14.    Put a sneeze guard at the reception desk.

15.    Remove all unnecessary furniture.

16.    Assign seating and remove chairs from unoccupied desks and conference rooms.

17.    Get rid of the coffee machine and water dispenser. People can bring their own bottled water.

18.    Disallow use of the refrigerator or microwave.

19.    Don't share phones or keyboards. Wipe down the photocopying machine and printer after every use.

20.    Block the use of USB's from home.

21.    Forbid work on personal laptops in the office.

22.    Reset passwords as some employees may have shared theirs with family at home.

23.    Use plexiglass shields between desks.

24.    Appoint a crisis management team people feel comfortable going to.

25.    Take all depositions and hold client and firm meetings virtually - even if people are in the office. Don't put them all in the same conference room.

26.    Appoint a new position: Designated Temperature Guard. Something like a cross-walking guard. Employees and guests must have their temperature taken prior to entering the office. Give them a star or a badge to wear or something that designates their authority. It always makes things more acceptable, sort of like a uniform. Apparently, results of a temperature check are considered a medical record and must be kept confidential.

27.    Reimburse employees for masks and gloves or provide them in the office.

28.    Monitor changes in OSHA and CDC guidelines. Everything changes extremely quickly as scientists find out more and more about this dreaded virus.

29.    Consider employee testing and reimbursement.

30.    Stay calm. Stay firm to the guidelines. Stay positive.

When will this be over? While scientists say maybe never, I subscribe to the Pollyanna vision: There is a beginning, a middle and an end to everything. While we won't just wake up one morning and poof! it's gone, we do have to band together or attempts to wipe out the virus just won't work. I, for one, am in favor of wiping it out. I'd like to hug my grandkids again.

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top national and international staffing organization and MediSums,medical records summarizing. She is the Vice-President of the Organization of Legal Professionals. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Chere is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. She is a former administrator at an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.

 

 

 

 


Announcing MediSums, medical records summarizing. Here's the most economical and efficient way to get your medical records summarized.

MediSums medical records summarizing is completed only by licensed doctors and legal nurses. You get a complete and very accurate summary or chronology. Most of all, our doctors can provide medical opinions and design deposition questions. Reserve your team now! www.MediSums.com chere@MediSums.com

MediSums, a division of Estrin Legal Staffing. Experience the difference.


Do you have a Plan B that rocks? How to protect your career in the Covid19 era.

Plan BIt's so tough out there right now! One day, we are not supposed to wear masks; the next, we should have been wearing them all along. One week, we are sure about a remedy based on the trials. The next week, it didn't work.  A few weeks ago, younger people were safe. That theory was based upon data from Europe. It turns out that in the U.S., younger people are just as vulnerable as anyone to the virus. Why? Because of the obesity epidemic. In Europe, they are much more food conscious, thinner and consequently, have fewer health problems.

Lately, 22 million people are unemployed including thousands of legal professionals. Some are going to have a difficult time finding a job in a downturn job market. Yet, sometimes, in our belief that things will change quickly, we tend to beat a dead horse. We look for jobs that aren't there, we send out tons of resumes for jobs that do exist and we never hear back.

So, my wonderful readers, it's time to formulate Plan B. We don't know how long this pandemic will last. Even if we do go back to the office pretty soon, lots of things will have changed. Are you ready? What if your firm furloughed you but doesn't ask you back? What if you are working now but may be laid off? It could be scary. Unless, of course you have a Plan B.

What does Plan B look like?

Plan B is often confused with an alternate or a completely different approach. However, that is not necessarily true. Plan B is a contingency plan. It is a confidence that will eventually drive Plan A. It does not have to be a replacement or an alternative but an addition or an expansion of your career. It is the extension of current process and opinions.

There’s nothing like the confidence you get from being prepared. When you have a Plan B, you’re more likely to aggressively go after your Plan A because you know, if it goes wrong, it’s not such a big deal. You’ll just set Plan B in motion and keep moving forward! That kind of confidence can offer you the opportunity to take risks along the way because they aren’t as risky as they would be if you had no backup plan.

"The best Plan B's are different but related to what you are doing now."

There is some controversy to having a Plan B. That is, it causes you to lose motivation to pursue Plan A. Sure. In a good job market. However, in this Kafka like environment, we stand to lose more than motivation if we don't have a Plan B. Jobs may simply not be there. What are you going to do?

According to Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, the best Plan B’s are different but related to what you are doing now; this way you can apply the lessons you’ve learned to date to the new plan.

Bear in mind that you don't necessarily need to write down a specific Plan B, but you should always be aware of your parameters. You should be thinking about the “adjacent possible" such as your transferable skills or other opportunities on the horizon.

First, identify how to measure when you’re tracking towards a worst-case scenario. Are there lots of "secret" meetings at the firm? The firm tells you they are fine, yet are scouring for big loans? Second, it’s the plan that tells you what to do should that happen. Maybe if you are in mergers & acquisitions and that practice specialty has taken a nose dive, you may end up getting a job at Amazon, WalMart or your local grocery store. It may be that right now, there are few, if any, jobs in corporate transactions. On the other hand, standing in line at the food bank and desperately trying to get unemployment to pay the rent may not be the option of your choice.  You might start to think about switching specialties. Now is the time to take plenty of online continuing legal education. Let me put in a plug for The Organization of Legal Professionals offering online CLE in legal technology, eDiscovery and more.

What if you do take a job outside of the legal field? In our stress management webinar, an attendee voiced concerns that law firms may not take you back if you step out of the field. That may have been true in a good market. However, if we look back to the great recession, you will see that once hiring began again, employers were much more forgiving of the lapse of employment in the legal field. If you do take a job outside of legal, make it a transition job and try for no more than 6 months, if you can help it. A transition job is just that - taking the job for now and transitioning back to what you want when the market improves.

It is incumbent upon you to be flexible. I have had candidates whose jobs are in peril and insist on making a lateral move or improve upon their salaries. One candidate told me he would definitely not move for "less than $100,000, work remotely several days a month and match his vacation of six weeks."  Right. Clearly, the message was not filtering up to the penthouse. That was just when the pandemic was beginning. He is still looking and chances of his getting laid off are getting closer. The top of his range dropped to $90,000. I have firms that have asked staff earning more than $75,000 per year to take a 10-15% pay cut. They are bringing in new hires at 10-15% below their salary target so that new employees are not earning more than those with the salary cut. Plan B for this fellow would have been to loosen up, take a transition job and not stand in the food line.

Logo.MediSums.FacebookPersonally, I initiated a Plan B. The staffing industry is the third largest industry to be hit hard after hospitality and retail. With unemployment expected to go as high as 30%, finding clients who are hiring is extremely hard. Having been a victim of the great recession, I had a Plan B.

I took a hard look at the market. What is going to be hot during the crisis? This is the legal field. Surely, areas are going to heat up. People are just waiting to get through this. However, once things settle down (and they will settle down), people are going to get very, very angry and lawsuits will be rampant. Who are they going to sue? Healthcare, hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, employers who did not properly protect them, insurance companies, products liability for devices such as faulty ventilators, and so on and so on. I thought, what does that mean? It means there is going to be a heck of a lot of medical records that are going to need to be summarized. Tons of them.

So I opened up a division of Estrin Legal Staffing called MediSums. I located a team of licensed doctors and legal nurses who can do the summaries, chronologies and even better than most medical records summarizing companies, can render medical opinions and create deposition questions. The division aligns with my business. In effect, it is the temporary staffing industry all over again. I did get a nasty email from a paralegal who claimed I was trying to take her job away and doctors and legal nurses know nothing about summarizing. No, that's not it. Paralegals are invaluable if trained properly. This is just a great service with added value. I can understand how she feels threatened.  Perhaps she can delegate the summarizing, take on more sophisticated responsibilities, move up the ladder, thereby ensuring her job.

What I am doing is "adjacent possible". It definitely aligns with my business, offers an important service and is not a total disruption i.e., creating a brand new business and starting all over again. I am not going to beat a dead horse. Another Plan B was to beef up our attorney placement business. The areas of estate planning, healthcare, insurance defense, divorce law, employment law and bankruptcy are already seeing a surge. As attorneys slowly get hired, need for legal staff will increase. Again, using "adjacent possible". Interestingly enough,  I received a job search from a very prestigious firm in Bahrain for a corporate attorney.  If you know one, let me know.

As Benjamin Franklin said, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." In fact, the only other thing you can truly count on is that sooner or later, life is going to throw you a curve ball. And folks, here it is. Welcome to Covidville. It is for these moments that we should, even when things were calm and hopeful, consider one of life’s most vital skills: that of developing a Plan B. Besides, if you stick to “Plan A” at all costs, you may miss some amazing opportunities.

" Welcome to Covidville."

Creating the Plan - It's actually simple.

  1. Ask yourself if Plan A fails, what is the next best thing that I could be potentially excited about?
  2. Did you feel a little bit of excitement? OK, so working at Amazon is not your dream job. However, did you feel a little bit relieved? If so, write it down. If not, try again.
  3. Repeat.
  4. Create a list of actions.
  5. Refine.
  6. Don't be too proud to ask for help.

As long as you are at it, start planning for Plan C and D. We can't trust this virus on any given day and it may not end when we think it should.

Today's world can feel desperate – until we rediscover our latent Plan B muscle. In reality, Plan B's are there for a reason: to assist us when things go south. Despite all our planning, there was no one script for us written at our birth, nor does there need to be only one going forward.

It helps to acquaint ourselves with the lives of many others who had to throw away Plan A and begin anew: the person who thought they’d be married forever, then suddenly wasn't– and coped; the person who was renowned for doing what they did, then had to start over in a dramatically different field – and made it.

Amidst these stories, we’re liable to find a few people who will tell us, very sincerely, that in the end,  their Plan B ended up superior to their Plan A. They worked harder for it, they had to dig deeper to find it and it carried less vanity and fear within it.

Expecting and preparing for changes can help you be successful. It's not what happened to you, it's how you handle it. We are a very resilient species. Bouncing back may be hard, it may not turn out they way we hoped, and there may be some roadblocks along the way. Let's ride that horse in the direction it's going  Have a little faith. Believe in yourself. It's the great unknown out there now. However, we all have the wherewith all to survive. Trust me on that one.
Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top national and international staffing organization and MediSums,medical records summarizing. She is the President of the Organization of Legal Professionals. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Chere is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. She is a former administrator at an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.


How I Spent My Covid Staycation

Hazmat suit2For those of us with stay-at-home orders, which is just about the entire world, there are little challenges that are coming up while we bravely wait out the end of the Covid-19 virus. I know these may sound petty in the scheme of things but having your world turned upside down with no end in sight can be pretty intimidating. It does, however, give you a new appreciation for what we take for granted. It's not that I mind staying at home. In fact, it's kind of comforting, given the scene out there.

Nonetheless, it's amazing what we can do without. Boy, looking back on it, I realize how spoiled I was by taking a lot of things for granted. Take, for example, the fact that you can't get your hair dyed. Now, it's true I'm not exactly going anywhere where people can see me but hey, I still want to be well groomed. With my highlights growing out, my natural color coming in and no hair salons open anywhere, I actually thought I was in luck. I looked at myself in the mirror the other day and went running to my husband. I was thrilled. "Guess what?" I said. "I have great news. I can't get my hair dyed but I probably shouldn't have had to dye my hair after all! My hair is growing in blonde!" He just looked at me as though I had lost my mind. "Honey," he said. "I hate to tell you this but that isn't exactly blonde that's coming in." Oh. I immediately went to Amazon to order something, anything, to take care of this appearance changing event. No hair dye was to be found anywhere. Shelves and shelves in stores had run out. Online stores had absolutely nothing. So, here I sit, about to really look my age. This could be really scary.

And take my fingernails. Right before the lock down, I got my nails done and tried out a new powder nail polish that was supposed to last at least 3 weeks. Unfortunately, I can't get it off unless I go to a nail salon which of course, is not going to happen anytime soon. In the meantime, my nails are growing out and the polish is moving to the top of my nails. I now look like the Wicked Witch of the West. I think this is starting a new fad.

And what about exercise? It's not exactly like I was religious about it anyway. A walk through Costco about did me in. But all the advice columns say you have to get exercise. My husband and I thought we had a brilliant way to do that. We ordered bikes. Now, my husband has never ridden a bike and I doubt at this age, he is going to get his balance. We decided to let pride go by the wayside and ordered, yes, tricycles. Oh, sure. I was going to look like some old lady with the basket in the back and that little orange warning flag rising above it but I didn't care. Who was going to see me? Everyone is inside.

We had huge choices. Do we get one speed or three? What color bike should we get? Do we have to wear helmets? You can see where this is going. Obviously, without a lot to do, these decisions became all too important. After careful consideration, we chose - purple. Purple? Who orders a purple tricycle? At least we were going to stand out. That is, if there was anyone to see us.

After about a week, a very brave truck driver delivered the bikes. We wiped them down very carefully with Clorox Wipes. There wasn't an inch that wasn't wiped. I immediately got on and took off. OMG! Freedom! The wind in my hair, my little legs pumping those foot things and I was in heaven. My husband, on the other hand, had a very different experience. He was too tall for the bike. He struggled trying to make it taller. He called the manufacturer. They gave him instructions. He was out there in the garage taking the dang thing apart. He gained a couple more inches but not enough. We took the bikes out for a ride anyway. He pumped, he humped, he gave it his all. After about half an hour, we came in and 'lo and behold, his right knee was swollen up from hitting the handle bars. As I write this, he's on the couch icing up. He's also saying a lot of stuff under his breath. I don't think I want to know what.

Then there was the fight with the cruise line. Oh, yes. Right before the Covid-19 pandemic, we had booked a cruise to the Caribbean. Three days before we were supposed to board, we decided it was crazy to go. All shore excursions had been canceled. The cruise ships were not allowed to dock at any of the islands. One had to dock in Mexico. Great. I can see us floating aimlessly out to sea, sicker than dogs, trying to have pillow fights on the Lido deck. We canceled. We did have insurance but somehow it didn't include something that said we can have our money back. I can't believe I'm in the legal field and overlooked that. I am still getting emails from cruise lines offering great discounts to take a cruise now. Yeah, I'm really going to do that. Instead, I'm watching House Hunters International and salivating over the houses in St. Thomas with spectacular ocean views all the while imagining I'm there lying on the beach.  It's really the best I can do.

My house is cleaner than ever. We scrub, we rub, we bleach. I don't think I ever had a home with a hospital clean environment. As I look around, I wince. It probably should have been that way all along. I tell myself I've been very busy.

Then there's the food. I think we have enough food for three weeks in a snow storm. My refrigerator is so full, we can't get to all of the food. Lean Cuisines are stacked so tightly in the freezer, I couldn't get them out. However, I noticed when I virtually visit my friends, every one seems to be getting a little chunky. I don't want to say anything, of course, but this is definitely a situation where the old adage, "eat yourself out of house and home" is applying. At grocery stores, you can't get comfort food. Gone are are the "p" foods: pizza, pretzels, potato chips, pancakes, popcorn. Yikes! This could be a real problem.

Then there is the situation of spending a lot of money online. Why is it that suddenly we are in need of a ton of stuff? Besides getting the most important necessities. I mean, did I really need to buy new dance shoes (like I'm going dancing), a heavy sweater direct from Ireland (it is Spring now) and that lava lamp? Really, Chere, a lava lamp???  I am sure I needed these important items. I am, however, still waiting for my hand sanitizer, Clorox Wipes, nail clippers, hair cutting scissors and ok, hair dye. Did I mention that I am going to try cutting my own hair? I'll keep you posted on that one. I keep getting emails from Walgreens saying any minute now I'll get my delivery. By the time any minute comes around, I will be an old woman wearing orthopedic shoes and gumming my gums because I can't get to a dentist. Whew!

Fortunately, we signed up for a toilet tissue club. Yep. One actually exists! Amazon sure was thinking ahead. I don't know if they still have the club but since that seems to be the most sought after item in the country, check it out. A huge box arrives once a month. It's like Christmas. We now feel relieved (pardon the pun), safe and secure. God forbid we run out of toilet tissue. I mean, really though, how much time can you spend in the bathroom? Don't ask.

The most sought after item for women? If you are a woman of a "certain age" you may have a, well, excess hair issue. No, not on top of your head. Right around that ole chin and upper lip, You know, the hair that comes in that only men are supposed to get? Since there are no salons, there is a run on facial wax strips. Can't get 'em. Now, that's where I draw the line. I simply cannot go around like the bearded lady in the circus. I do have my dignity. So, I ordered more tweezers. And since you can't get your eyebrows done either, I ordered one of those battery operated eyebrow shavers. It came. I tried it. I now have no eyebrows.

"We signed up for a toilet tissue club. God forbid, we run out of toilet tissue."

So, my friends, that's life in the Estrin household. I would be remiss if I didn't thank all our essential workers deep from within my heart who make these little challenges a little less challenging: first responders, healthcare workers, hospital staff, EMT, firemen and women, police, sanitation workers, cleaning staff, pharmacists and drug store workers, grocery store employees, post office employees, shelf stockers, transportation drivers, gas station attendants, delivery people, forest rangers, take-out food people, cooks, food bank volunteers, dentists, factory workers, tow truck drivers, cable TV workers, phone company employees, utility workers, anyone in transportation, the military and National Guard, reporters, TV and radio anchors and crew, and many, many more. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Given what's going on, the little challenges are just that - little insignificant challenges. We all can cope and make do. It's the American way.

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top national and international staffing organization. She is the President of the Organization of Legal Professionals. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Chere is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. She is a former administrator in an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.


Are You Willing to Die for Your Firm?

Is your firm asking you to periodically go to the office?

CemetaryAmong the many and varied serious situations brought about by the Covid-19 world crisis, are the growing number of employees asked by their firm’s partners to periodically and physically go to the office. I have heard from numerous legal professionals that they are expected to show up at the firm on a regular basis in order to gather the mail, deposit checks and more.
Is dying for the job part of your duties?

 

To say that this is not only outrageous and dangerous, it is a serious indication of:

  • Numb to the situation: The partners either don’t care about you or believe nothing will happen
  • Denial: The partners believe you and they are omnipotent – what’s going on worldwide doesn’t apply here. This is simply an inconvenience
  • Fear: People are afraid that if they say no, they will lose their jobs
  • Cowards: The partners are too afraid to personally go, so they send their employees to slaughter for absolutely nothing that can’t be accomplished remotely
  • Hero: You are an employee with a hero complex
  • Stupid: No one is thinking this through
  • Mentally unfit: Oh yes, and frankly, wouldn’t you think the partners are self-centered. acting like sociopaths, thinking of no one else but themselves?

I am not exaggerating here. In our support group sessions and webinars on Stress in the Time of Covid-19, several people spoke up. One HR Manager said she is asked to go to the firm weekly to gather mail and checks. She said that she is extremely frightened and has two children. When asked why she continues, she says she is afraid she will lose her job. I pointed out this is not necessary. The firm can forward the mail to someone’s home. The checks can be deposited online. Wouldn’t you rather lose your job than lose your life or your children’s?

Her response was that it was too complex to send the mail home. So, let me get this straight. It's too complex to figure out a system, so you need to risk your life? I honestly don't get it.

I stated that if the firm is too big, it could send different departments to different employees i.e, real estate department is sent to John; Litigation is sent to Sally, etc. Her response was that she put gloves on, a mask and takes sanitizer with her.  She reiterated she might lose her job. How about: Lose your job or lose your life or that of your kids?? The process of dividing up the mail was simply too hard. In essence, this employee would rather risk her life for the firm, rather than say no. And sadly, the firm would rather that she did risk her life than take an extra hour or two to figure this out in the name of safety.

Another employee stated that she was asked to hire a temp and go into the firm and supervise the temp. Working remotely was not an option. The partner wanted her to stand over the temp. Rather than risk her life, this employee quit and went on unemployment.

The stories go on and on. Here’s the deal, folks:

Unless you are a partner, you are not an owner of the firm. This is not your business, you are an employee. Nowhere in your job description does it say that you need to risk dying to keep your job.

If you go to the firm, you don’t know if you are going to run into someone who is carrying the virus and doesn’t know it.  One employee said that there were very few people in the building when she went. Excuse me? There doesn’t have to be a lot of people around to catch the virus. Only one. The employee was not counting the security guard who may have it, the parking attendants, people passing her in the hallway, the virus still on cardboard, metal, computer keyboards, what the cleaning staff left, the mail and more, Wearing gloves and a mask still does not fully protect you. Just remember the bus driver wearing protective gear when the only person on the bus coughed on him. He died four days later.

Part of the problem with the way that wearing masks and staying at home is presented, is that it is portrayed that you are going to be a willing participant in bringing this virus to a halt, a team player and help to not get others infected. We all want to do that. However, hardly anyone is anyone saying that staying home, wearing protective clothing when going out, can prevent you from dying or bringing the virus to your home, kids, parents and others. The way it is mostly portrayed is that by staying home you will stop the virus from spreading.  It's doesn't personalize your risks. The most effective ad I have seen, however, is the one that says: Are you willing to kill someone today?

Get this: Many, many people don’t care about others and furthermore, they firmly believe they don’t have it and won’t get it. Just recall all the kids on the Florida beaches who are now sick. The bottom line is, yes, you can die and cause your family to die – for the sake of the firm.

I would do anything, anything at all for my husband and kids. I would go on unemployment; I would stand in line at the Food Bank. I would do whatever it took.  Listen up: A job is not a marriage. At some point, you leave.

Let’s look at it this way: If the stay-at-home order lasts another 12 weeks, and given you go to the firm once a week, that is 12 times more you will be asked to risk your life for the sake of the firm.  Twelve times of uncertainty and chance. For what???? Because partners would rather you get the virus than they? Let the partner go in. It’s his business. Let him risk his life if he thinks going is so important. Why should you? Really - think about it - why should you?

For those of you fearful of getting fired, I doubt you would get fired now. It would be clear retaliation. You may get let go in the future by some vindictive partner, that’s true. But is that a firm you want to stay in? I am not an attorney but I will betcha $.25 (I never go more than $.25) that if you do get fired and sue, there isn’t a judge in the world who would rule in favor of a firm who asked a staff member to risk their life. (Perhaps you should suggest the firm have a virtual meeting with a labor lawyer before this comes to a head.)

Say no. Yes, say no. You can do it in a non-confrontational manner:

Dear Partner;

This firm has always been known for its teamwork. It’s one of the reasons why I enjoy working here. However, these are dangerous and unprecedented times. Sometimes we just don’t know how to handle it or what to do.

While I appreciate the faith you have put in me by asking me to go to the firm once a week, at this point, I am going to have to decline. I have given the situation a great deal of thought and while I never want to let the firm down, given that the risks to disobey the stay-at-home order will likely substantially increase my chances of getting the virus, I will no longer be able to make those trips.

I would like to have a virtual meeting next Wednesday to brainstorm how we can accomplish exactly what you need to get the job done. I have a couple of ideas I am sure will you will like. Would 10am work or would 2pm be better?

Best regards,

A mom who loves her family so much

If it were me, I would not want to see this written on my tombstone:
Here lies Chere Estrin who died in a foolish attempt to fetch mail for the firm.

Please think before you undertake a dangerous and unnecessary act. Stay safe for your sake and the sake of your family. Nothing is forever and I don’t think I am wrong in saying that in a not too distant future, we will be looking at the light at the end of the tunnel and it will not be a train coming at us. Guaranteed.

PS: We are holding one hour sessions for Managers and Administrators on Coping with Stress During These Times on Wednesdays, 10am Pacific/1pm Eastern with Mark Gorkin, The Stress Doc. There ae four more free sessions. Send me an email to register: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top staffing organization in California. She is also the President of the Organization of Legal Professionals. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Chere is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. She is a former administrator in an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.


Are You in the Next Round of Lay-offs? Coping in the Time of Covid-19

FearBy Chere B. Estrin

It's happening all over the U.S., the world and yes, even in the legal field. Lay-offs. That ugly, depressing, stress-ridden word.

I am usually a very upbeat, positive person. Yet, along with the rest of us, witnessing this world crisis is something that is impossibly hard to get your arms around. It's like living in a Kafka scene. I am not facing fear, rather, dread. I wake up each morning listening to the news and horrible events that have happened in the short space of 24 hours. It's unimaginable. It's a plague. And I keep asking myself, "Why, why, why wasn't the world more prepared?" But that's an article for another day.

Law firms, like everyone else, are laying off. It's quite possible that a number of readers have already been laid-off. I am hearing stories and getting calls from legal professionals who walked into the office or turned on their computer from home only to find out they were let go on the spot. No severance, no warning. It's a sign of the times. Firms are immediately reserving cash, tightening up and battening down. It's worse than the great recession.

Some people have been furloughed - meaning, they are laid off and expected to return when the economy comes back. Really? That's a terrible risk for you and unless the firm is paying people on a regular basis in order to hold them in check, there is no reason to expect there will be a job for you in the future - because we have no idea what that future looks like. We are barely able to predict it.

 "Why, why, why wasn't the world more prepared?"

Some people tell me that they are "safe" in their job. Trust me. No one, absolutely, no one is immune to these big bumps in the job market. No one. Unless you have a crystal ball and can predict what is going to happen, you have to act as if the worst will occur. If it doesn't, consider that a windfall.

There are areas that are now "hot" in the legal field because of covid-19. Interestingly, no matter what crisis the world sees, it is inevitable that critical areas of need pop up. Here is what is hot or getting hotter:

  1. Estate Planning - People are suddenly getting ready - just in case - for the worst by writing wills and preparing their estate plans.
  2. Healthcare - It stands to reason that there are going to be thousands of lawsuits against hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, and anything else related to healthcare including medical malpractice.
  3. Employment law - Lawsuits against employers for wrongful termination, age discrimination and more are going to pop up as millions of people are terminated or laid off.
  4. Insurance defense - Given the amount of lawsuits bound to happen, the insurance defense world will see an increase in case volume. Always go for the deep pockets, the mantra for a lawsuit.
  5. Divorce and family law - Reports from psychologists and elsewhere point to the divorce rate going up as people are house bound and the "real issues" start to come out. They have tine to think about their future and if their present situation is they way they want to continue. There is usually an uptick in divorces after holidays. This is hardly a holiday.
  6. Bankruptcy - Just as in the recession, bankruptcy for millions of businesses and individuals is not only around the corner, it is on our doorstep. Out of work employees, closed businesses, loss of revenue and income point to one thing - bankruptcy lawyers and staff will be in demand.

If you are in any one of these specialties, you may just stand a chance for survival. If you are not, for heaven's sake, get cross-trained now before it is too late! Take a class, learn from other departments in your firm, do what you need to do. In other words, always ride the horse in the direction it is going.

What if you do get laid off? I hope not. However, in the event it happens or has happened, don't run scared. This is a flight or fight situation. Choose fight. Running from the situation will not get you back where you want to be. By fighting, you at least stand a chance. Here are some action items you can do:

  • Get your resume together, even though you are certain nothing is going to happen to you and you are safe on your job.  I have received more bad resumes than good ones. People throw one together and expect it to sell them. Remember, you are now going to have tons of competition for the same job. During the recession, there were hundreds of applications for the same job. It was without a doubt, an employers market.

    The resume has to look professional and "pretty". It has to package you to stand out above the rest. Tailor your resume to the job description. I had a candidate just this week. who applied for a corporate paralegal position. By the looks of his resume, he clearly was not qualified. However, when we had the interview, it turns out that he was very qualified. He refused to change his resume. He had one line in the resume that matched the job description and two pages that did not.

    Somehow, he expected the firm to assume that he had accomplished the tasks in the job description because he mentioned "corporate paralegal".  Believe me, they make no assumptions, they have no imagination and if the responsibilities in your resume do not match the job description, they will definitely pass. Finally, I got him to change the resume to fit the job because he had, in fact, done everything the job description called for. At this point, he has made it past the HR Manager and onto the Hiring Manager. Fingers crossed.

  • Your future job is probably not on Indeed. Yes, there are plenty of jobs on Indeed. However, if you take a good look at what is going on right now, you will see that the majority of the jobs were posted before the stay-at-home orders were handed down. Check and see how old the job is. If it is 30+ days old, you might have two situations: the job has expired or is on hold; the firm did not pull the posting or they are having a hard time finding someone.

    You are going to have to take a number of steps:

  •  Tap into your network. The best person who knows where the jobs are, are employees at the firm. Colleagues confide in each other about their desire to seek another position. They don't go running down to HR and say, "You know, I am thinking of leaving. What do you think?" Colleagues know where the next vacancy is.
  • Go to Martindale-Hubbell, a well-known law firm directory with thousands of law firms listed. Start looking up firms with the hot specialties and firms within your practice area. Check out their websites. They may be hiring. Even if they are not, send an inquiry to the Hiring Manager and throw your hat into the ring for upcoming positions. You just don't know what can happen.
  • If you are not on LinkedIn, by all means, put yourself on it. If your fear is that your current employer will see your profile, be aware that LinkedIn does not mean that you are looking for a job. It is a sign that you are a professional in today's workplace. Be sure and list the types of responsibilities that you have had under each firm.  Just putting, "Litigation Attorney" means nothing to recruiters and employers seeking candidates. They need it spelled out.

    Recruiters buy a package from LinkedIn that allows them to key word search candidates for specifically the right candidate. If your profile doesn't look right, if you don't have a professional picture and if you skimp on the details, you will get passed over. Be sure to write a compelling summary. Just saying, "Highly motivated legal professional with corporate transactional skills, team player, works well independently" ain't gonna do it! Get away from the routine description and make yourself stand out. Listing job responsibilities that thousands of other people have, is not good enough. 

    Check out samples on LinkedIn to make your summary compelling and show some personality.  Put your full name and the firm you are with. None of this "confidential" stuff or name like, "Anne D.". You will get passed over. Guaranteed.

    Don't overlook that LinkedIn also has a job board. However, you are going to have to have that profile on because when you respond to a posting, employers click on the link that goes right to you.
  • Get registered with staffing agencies. They may not have something for you now but when they do, they reach into their database and contact you. Don't get discouraged if you are not hearing from them right now. Staffing agencies are hurting as most of their clients have put their jobs on hold for 60 days or more until the future clears up. But please, don't hound them to death as they are in this just as you are and times are tough for everyone.
  • Check out what's going on with your alumni. People tend to stick together. Reach out and don't be shy. They may know something.
  • Consider working temp or contract. Usually, when a recession hits, the jobs for direct-hire go down but the temporary staffing goes up. That's because firms do not have the budget for full-time employees or they have a project-by-project need. You may not get the same rate you got on your job but hey, the rent will be paid and the kids will eat. Don't get caught in temping too long, if you can help it, because that backfires when you go to find a full-time position. Firms don't like long-term temps as a rule. They think you won't stay.

  • Consider taking a job outside of the legal field just for now. You can even temp. We all have typing skills, know Word, have good communication skills, are pretty intelligent and have excellent work histories (well, most of us, anyway). Sign up with a general clerical agency. Take a clerical job if things are not panning out. It's not forever and will get you through having to otherwise go on unemployment or go hungry.

    I honestly do not know if temping will heat up in this unusual market. No one seems to be predicting much of anything. But it just doesn't hurt to have backup plans.
  • Check your email constantly. I cannot tell you how many candidates tell me how desperate they are but fail to constantly check email for responses to their application or from staffing agencies.Even worse, their voicemail is constantly full. In this market, it is going to be survival of the fittest. Be proactive. Check several times a day.  You have to have a sense of urgency because someone else will beat you to the job.
  • Not a member of your local association? Now is the time to join. You will get the newsletter, network with others both working and not and many times, they have a job board. Plus, if you can get out of the house and don't have a stay-at-home order, you can meet them and network. Some associations are holding meetings virtually now. Be sure and attend. You probably have plenty of time on your hands.
  • If you haven't been laid-off, now is the time to be sure your firm sees you as indispensable. No more just suiting up and showing up. You have to become an expert so much so that the firm would really suffer a loss if they let you go. That could be a deciding factor when the firm is faced with who to cut.

    That may mean initiating a political campaign, gaining new and different responsibilities, getting someone in the firm who is the conduit to the power to speak for you, and rising above everyone else in all areas. Just plain old hard work that is excellent will not do it in this unprecedented market. Everyone is expected to work hard and provide excellent work.  This is not criteria strong enough to keep you at the firm.

Protecting yourself in your career today is just as important as washing your hands, practicing social distancing and staying at home. You don't want to get the virus and you don't want to be unemployed or helpless when you are.

Here's the deal. Nothing lasts forever. While going through this is one of the worst possible situations that can happen to our magnificent country, we are tough enough to fight it through. I believe in my heart of hearts that we will see the light at the end of the tunnel and realize, it's not a train coming at us.

Have faith. Keep washing your hands, stay calm, stay positive and most of all, stay strong,

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top staffing organization in California. She is also the President of the Organization of Legal Professionals. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Chere is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. She is a former administrator in an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


How bad is it to....

Man.nervousWe all make mistakes. However, there are degrees of mistakes, some very bad, some, well, not so bad. Here are 5 scenarios that might sound familiar to you:

How bad is it to......

1.    Agree to a phone interview with a staffing organization recruiter and ghost or stand them up.

Recruiters are professionals. They take the time to answer your application. They set aside time in their very busy schedule that could have gone to someone else. Recruiters can be your best friend because not only do they know where the jobs are, they have intimate details of the firm that you would never know by answering an ad on a job board. They may even have other jobs available that you don't know about.

Once you stand them up, they put you down in their file as a "no show" and move on to the next candidate. It is really rude and frankly, unprofessional, not to even shoot the recruiter a one-line email and in the re line say you can't make it. That way, you remain friends and the recruiter can book their very valuable time with someone who does want the interview. You wouldn't stand up an employer, would you? Of course not! Why would you stand up the gatekeeper to the employer? What happens? Usually, after some time goes by, the candidate forgets that they stood that recruiter up and applies for their dream job with the same agency. The result? They are very definitely rejected.

How bad is it: Really, really bad.

2.    Your resume does not look that great. Yet, you refuse to change it, acknowledge it isn't the greatest or have someone else review it.

You use Times Roman font (outdated). You use the wrong grammar i.e., in past jobs. You say, "Drafts pleadings" instead of the past tense, "Drafted pleadings". (Employers bounce resumes for that reason. You don't know how to write.) You are not specific to the job description posted. You keep sending out the resume with little or no results and claim "age discrimination" or some such thing. You go back 30 years when you only need to go back 10 years.

How bad is it: Really bad.

3. You leave off your email or your phone number on your resume.

Seriously??? You say that you are getting too many spam calls. You forgot to put it on. Or, you leave off your email and say you don't want to reveal it to strangers or that you get too many emails. I am curious. How do you expect potential employers to reach you? Sometimes, they book an interview with you and only afterwards, realize there is no phone number on the resume.  It's annoying and makes you look unprepared. You are viewed as not detail oriented or, well, making a dumb mistake. (Honestly) They simply pass.

How bad is it: Really bad.

3. In an effort to adhere to the "one page" resume rule, you squeeze everything in or leave out important information.

Look. You need to sell yourself. You need to get past the gatekeeper. It's absolutely true that potential employers can spend less than 15 seconds perusing your resume seeking salient points. Two pages is perfectly ok. Three or four is not. It's better to have a good looking resume than one that is crowded or leaves off important information.

How bad is it: Kinda bad.

4. You just had a phone or face-to-face interview and you fail to send a thank-you email.

I cannot emphasize how important the thank you email is. First, it shows professionalism. Second, it reminds the potential employer of you and it is one more reason to get in front of them. Third,  employers review the thank you email and make assessments as to your writing ability along with your desire for the position.

The first paragraph thanks the employer for taking the time to meet with you. The second paragraph and most important, ties in something that was said in the interview that ties in with your skills. It shows that you were listening and reminds the employer of why you are qualified for the position. The third paragraph talks about looking forward to moving to the next step. Try not to use standard thank you's that everyone writes. Be original. It shows that you are well above the average candidate.

How bad is it? Sorta bad.

5. You have no questions to ask the interviewer after the interview.

The interviewer ends your talk and asks you if you have any questions. Now is the time to show off that you are highly interested. Don't say, "No, you've pretty much covered everything." Have two questions to ask about the job. Be sure not to ask what are the benefits, bonus and salary. Not the right time. Answering, “No, I have no questions” could signal to an interviewer that you lack enthusiasm, thoughtfulness, and an understanding of everything discussed in the interview.

The first rule is never ask anything already covered. Listen carefully the entire way through your interview because if you ask something already expressed, it’ll seem like you weren’t listening. If you need something explained further, ask: “I’d like to revisit this point … can you elaborate on this for me?”

You might say:

  • ""I am very interested in this position and am confident I am qualified. Can you tell me if I am the type of candidate you are seeking?" The idea here is to find out what objections the interviewer might have. Finding out on the spot gives you a chance to explain further or more solidly clear up any doubts the interviewer might have instead of having them stew over it and send a rejection letter.
  • "How has this position changed over the years?"
  • "Is there anything that I haven't explained adequately that you would like to address?"

Here is a great article to help prepare you:
14 Impressive Questions to Answer at the End of the Interview

How bad is it? Pretty bad.

There are always things we could do better. However, these common mistakes can be avoided and you can spend a lot less time agonizing over why you didn't get an offer. Always take the path to success. Don't be resistant to trying new techniques. With the coming down economy, you may find yourself on the job market. (Hopefully, not.) Beat the competition and land the job you want. You'll be glad you did.

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top staffing organization in California. She is also the President of the Organization of Legal Professionals and the Paralegal Knowledge Institute. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Chere is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. She is a former administrator in an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.

 

 

 

 

 


Can the Coronavirus hurt your job?

Coronavirus mask and suitSometimes, things happen in life that were totally unforeseen. Your job seems to be going well and it looks like there is lots of security. Then, before you know it, you’re thrown off course and your world is turned upside down. Suddenly, everything is in jeopardy - how you go about daily life has changed dramatically. 

We have been experiencing a candidate tight market in the past couple of years. Anytime the unemployment rate falls below 4%, there are more jobs than candidates. Future employees have not only had their pick of jobs, once in, it felt like you could stay forever. You probably felt secure in your job (unless you’re at a certain age and salary level, as there’s always worry and angst about age discrimination). Then, out of the blue, things changed - and not for the good.

Worldwide fear

Enter the Coronavirus. Fear has spread worldwide, and rightly so. The outbreak started growing worse, but still we felt immune—literally and figuratively. It wouldn't dare come to the U.S. China is just a vague concept to those of us in the states. It's far away and foreign to our culture. Rapidly, cases started to hit the U.S. and reality set in.  It was time to take cover.

Where is business headed?

The Coronavirus has undoubtedly affected a myriad of businesses:

  • Travel: airlines have taken a huge hit and cut the number of planes available; Internet booking such as Kayak, Hotwire and other companies' businesses appear down;
  • Hospitality industry: hotels, theme parks, restaurants, cruise lines, lodging and more, are all losing business
  • Hollywood: movies and entertainment- empty theaters abound. Even the new James Bond movie was pushed from a release in April to November;
  • Events and sports: stadiums are empty; concerts go unattended or are cancelled;
  • Event planning and all related businesses: not going to happen today;
  • Toy industry: many toys are manufactured in China;
  • Stock market has plunged to the lowest since the recession in 2009;
  • Automobile industry: cars manufactured in China; unable to get parts;
  • All businesses relying on China including manufacturers;
  • Tech industry: Smartphone and personal-computer makers: manufacturing could slow; weaker demand and supply-chain disruptions could weigh on sales;
  • Quarantines, travel bans and widespread business closures—could weigh on consumer and business spending;
  • Banks doing business in Europe and Asia;
  • Retail: shortage of goods;
  • Shipping: few goods shipped;
  • Tourism and related businesses - destination places severely hit;
  • Energy: weakened global demand for oil and gas;
  • Global trade;
  • Schools closing;
  • Manufacturing: disrupted supply chains;
  • And much, much more.

And, who do each and every one of these industries need? Lawyers. Just like the deep recession of 2008, law firms are bound to be affected. For now, things may still seem like they always were. However, the Coronavirus can change everything. The effect on law firms at this writing is unclear.

"The firm may be asking, "Do we want to hire?" "

Possible effects

One report says that the virus is expected to peak in March. A vaccine will not become available for Coronavirus3another year or year-and-a-half, so we really don't know what this will bring or how widespread it will become. Corporations and law firms might start cutting back. They will halt any new business initiatives, as they’d rather wait for better future clarity. Hiring will cease. Management won’t want to bring on new people—unless it's an incredibly important need—as they become fearful of the future.  They will ask, "Do we really want to bring on a number of new employees given this unknown rocky road ahead? There is no need to add new employees when business conditions are deteriorating", they’ll say.

Many corporate executives and firms will contemplate large layoffs. They’ll figure that it's cost effective to lighten the load and save costs by off-loading people. The firm may be asking: "Do we want to hire?" Sure, it's cold-hearted but managing partners need to protect the interests of the firm and their shareholders. 

Impact to your job

How severely can this affect the legal field? Truthfully, we don't know as yet. However, as the virus spreads throughout the country, changes are surely to take place. Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Google and other companies have already asked their employees to work remotely for at least a month. What this does to productivity remains to be seen.

What should you be doing? I sure hate to hear that you are doing nothing but in a way, we may all be victims of this horrible epidemic. First and foremost, follow the health safety procedures for prevention of the virus. Re-think where you are going, if at all, for vacation. Recently, my husband and I had booked a cruise (the first real vacation in years) to the Caribbean. When we heard that one of the ships was not allowed to dock at any of the islands and in fact, the only port that would take them in was Cozumel, Mexico, we worried. What if that were us? What if we were quarantined? What if we appeared sick or had a pre-existing condition and got accused of being sick? Holy, moly.

If you haven't already, start socking away as many dollars as you can in your 401k or savings. Get your resume ready. (You should always have it ready, anyway.) Start scouting out in-house legal departments or firms that possibly may not be affected. Get those billable hours up so that you are not on the short-list to be laid off, should the time arise. Make sure you are the go-to person in the firm and make yourself indispensable - although we all know, everyone is dispensable. However, a go-to person is less likely to be targeted.

Constantly communicate with your supervisors as they should be in the know about the firm's outlook. Be ready and alert. Follow the numbers to see if there is a decline in billable hours, loss of clients or fewer cases coming in over the transom. Are there secret meetings taking place? Always a sign that something is going on that the firm does not want you to know about. (If you have ever been through a merger, you know what I am talking about.)

Hopefully, we will be o.k. However, it's the great unknown out there. I would rather see people prepared (like preparing for an earthquake) and not need to implement their preparations, than get caught by surprise like many of us did in the wake of the recession.

Fasten your seat belts! This may be a bumpy ride. The situation may be very scary for awhile and longer than we want to think about. However, we have demonstrated time after time in this industry that we can overcome adversity and prevail. This situation may last a few weeks, several months or longer, it's really an overwhelming mystery.

History has shown that Americans are smart, industrious and inventive when our backs are against the wall. We’ve always managed to find a way to combat deadly diseases, outbreaks and epidemics. It may not happen overnight but we will find the right vaccines and prevention methods and life and work will turn around and we will get back to normal. Hopefully, no further lives will be lost in the process. In the meantime, keep washing your hands, stay calm, stay strong and most of all, stay positive.

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top staffing organization in California. She is also the President of the Organization of Legal Professionals and the Paralegal Knowledge Institute. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek and others. Chere is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and an Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. She is a former administrator in an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.

 

 


It Must Be Time to Quit My Job When.....

I QuitQuitting a job is tough. Sometimes, it's harder to quit a job than it is to seek a new one. You hesitate to make the move because you are asking yourself: How will the firm get along with out me? Will I have enough time to train my replacement? They just gave me a raise. Someone is going to get mad at me.  I know what I have and don't know what I'll get into." And other career blocking rationalizations.

On the other hand, there may be something tickling your gut. Something that says, "Maybe it's time to leave." Or, "Frankly, I can't stand this place anymore." Something subtle like that. Sometimes, you just don't know it's time to leave and wake up one morning either in a career crisis or in a firm that just sunk. Leaving your job takes careful consideration but if you are on the fence or not truly facing reality, it may be time to explore reasons that just might open your eyes to "Finding Career Paradise" and loving every minute of your job. What a concept.

It must be time to quit your job when.....

1.    You cry in the shower every morning. In short, you dread going to work. Listen to what your feelings are telling you. Ask yourself: Why am I making myself so miserable when there is an easy answer to solve my problem? Martyrs are not heroes. You deserve better. 

2,    There are secretive meetings held in the firm; lots of partner emergency meetings; lots of closed doors.  Be on guard. The firm may be experiencing financial difficulties, about to merge, lose a practice area or major client and more. While the rumor mill may be running amok, look for signs that things are about to change - and maybe not for the better.

3. Your relationship with your boss is not what it should be: The number one reason people leave their jobs is not money. It's poor management. If you are at odds with your boss, chances are things may get worse. If you firmly believe it is beyond recovery, ask yourself why you allow yourself such misery.

4. You are doing routine and repetitious work. There is no challenge nor defined career path: Intelligent people burn out when doing routine and repetitious work. Nothing stimulates the brain. Routine and repetitious work leads to boredom and that leads to disinterest in your job. When there is no challenge, there is no enthusiasm. No way up? It's time to find a more challenging and rewarding role.

5. You have behaved in ways that are considered improper at work:  If your efforts to resolve your mistakes are not taking hold, it's probably time to move on with the resolve it will never happen again. It is hard to regain confidence from the Firm once you have burned your bridges. Remember the old adage: Don't burn any bridges on the way up. You may need them on the way down.

6. The passion is gone: Remember the excitement you felt when you first started your job? You were full of enthusiasm, hope, motivation and pride. Is the same feeling still there? Of course, things do mellow out as you go along in your job. However, if your sense of glee is gone, it's probably time for you to go.

7. The Firm has downsized, cut budgets, departments, laid off key employees. It has upped your billable hourly requirement and even has a hold on purchasing office supplies, software, computers and put a quash on important previous perks such as professional development and training. These are signs the Firm may be struggling. Leave now before the ship sinks.

8. Your stress level is so high, you are suffering physically or mentally. Sure, there's some stress involved with every job. However, if your health is starting to go, it's time for you to go. No job is worth it. Repeat: No job is worth it. 

9. You just don't like the people you work with: You can't find common ground with your co-workers, supervisors or subordinates. Really, now. Would you plunge headlong into a hornet's nest just to find the honey? Gee, I hope not.

10. You keep dreaming of what it would be like if only...... For heaven's sake. go out and get the "if only" part of the dream. We all go around just once. Think it through. How do you want to go out? Is it like this? Or is it in your ideal job. Hmmm.....

11, Your work performance is suffering: Unhappy people do not produce excellent work product. They just don't. Performance lacking? Leave now before it catches up to you and you are asked to leave.

12. Your life situation has changed: Sometimes life comes along and just gets in the way of your job. Maybe you got married, had a baby, are taking care of a loved one, got your degree, or other life changing event. Now, you do not have enough salary or benefits to cover the lifestyle change. After checking with your Firm to rectify the situation and finding there is no resolution, find a role that meets your needs. 

13. You are at odds with the Firm's culture: It happens. Perhaps your Firm is egalitarian and you believe in assigned parking spots for salaried employees. Your Firm conducts employee satisfaction surveys and you think these are a waste of time. The Firm does not invite you to Firm events and you believe everyone should be able to go. No matter where the clash is, a lack of congruence with the corporate culture will destroy your attitude at work. Leave quickly once you identify the culture clash. The situation will not improve and sticking around may make you hate work.

14. You no longer have satisfactory work-life balance. You go on vacation and check your email every hour. You are called by the Firm late at night. You dread coming back from vacation to find chaos. You work so much overtime that you could buy the mansion-in-the-sky but don't have the time to go house hunting. Your children barely know who you are.  They are asking Daddy: "What did you say Mommy looks like again?" Work-life balance is not a fad nor a trend. It's real and it's healthy. Maybe you have the flip side occurring and you are spending more time with your family than at work. In any event, it's time to move on.

15. Your skills are not tapped nor do you have a chance to update them. Perhaps the Firm is behind in technology. That hurts your chances of getting a new position as the next Firm is going to want a candidate whose skills are up-to-date. Perhaps management is not acknowledging that you have more to offer. Maybe you are no longer getting plum assignments or asked to important meetings. You'll get into a chicken-and-the egg vicious circle. Leave now before you are not marketable. 

16. Your responsibilities have increased but not your compensation: Sometimes there is a good reason for this. However, is the Firm taking advantage of you? If you can't get more money, get a better title. You can take that with you when you go.

17. You are experiencing bullying, harassment, discrimination or any other egregious behavior. Report it and leave now. 

Take a good, long look at your situation and be realistic. Do you like your job but things cannot be fixed? This is a candidate's market. That means there are more jobs than there are candidates and that puts the odds in your favor of getting a new position that actually fits. A new employer means new opportunities, new challenges, maybe more money, better lifestyle and a fresh new start.

Staying in a bad situation can break your spirit and kill your soul if you stay in it for too long. Have a plan. Don't walk off the job until you have another one unless your situation is unbearable. And, who needs that? Consider your options and decide what is best for you in designing your ideal job. Consider where you will compromise. Before you jump ship, carefully weigh the pros and the cons.

And finally, don't let emotions get in the way of your critical decision. Look at it from a business and career building perspective. The most important thing to consider: Is there a compelling financial, career path or emotional return on investment for such a move? If so, don't let inertia hurt your chances of career fulfillment. Do the right thing. It's an investment in yourself.

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top staffing organization in California. She is also the President of the Organization of Legal Professionals and the Paralegal Knowledge Institute. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek and others. Chere is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and an Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. She is a former administrator in an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.

 

 


How one paralegal made the Bestseller list and got on national TV

Collines Jamie and JessicaMeet Jamie Collins, award winning best selling author, national TV guest and yes, Senior Paralegal.

Unbelievable. Sometimes there are success stories that simply make  you fall out of your chair. I have known Jamie Collins for about 10 years. She first contacted me really out of the blue to ask me if I would mentor her as a writer.  I sure did get lucky. I watched this Super Star go from a novice writer to a high profile blogger and now, author of a best selling book with appearances on national TV. And yes, she still maintains her Litigation Paralegal position in a prestigious law firm.

Jessica.coverSince she has had this astounding success, I caught her on the Dr. Oz show. Can you imagine? I know that she spent 3 years writing I Am Jessica and let me tell you, it was well worth it. It underscores the adage that if you really want something, you have to take charge and make it happen.

How did you land in the paralegal field?

I walked into my first law firm at age 20, wide-eyed and wonder-struck, wearing a power suit and high heels, with a beautiful resume, and absolutely no legal experience whatsoever. As fate would have it, I landed a gig answering phones at that firm and learned how to do paralegal work in the years that followed. I’ve now worked in the paralegal field for the past 22 years. I never met a litigation file I didn’t love. (Okay, that may be a wee bit of a stretch, but I truly do love my job.) I’ve worked on class actions stemming from the terrorist attacks on 9/11, handled asbestos and tobacco cases, and handled more personal injury and wrongful death claims than I could count. I love doing trial work and have actively assisted with numerous jury trials. I love the thrill of being in the court room, and enjoy working as a liaison to clients.

I began writing for Chere Estrin as a legal columnist for Know: The Magazine for Paralegals and her well-known blog, The Estrin Report a decade ago.

About 8 years ago, I was motivated to get into the blogging realm. I run a popular paralegal blog, The Paralegal Society and my personal blog, Just Being Jamie.

Tell me about the book. How did it originate?

The book is a true crime memoir, written to tell the story of my cousin, Jessica Pelley (n/k/a Jessi Toronjo). When Jessica was 9-years-old, she went away to a sleep over at a friend’s house for the weekend. When she returned home on Sunday, her house was surrounded by crime scene tape and there were cop cars everywhere. Her entire family had been murdered—her mom, stepdad, and two little sisters, ages 6 and 8.

While Jessi and I weren’t close as kids, due to a lack of time spent together, and distance, we would one day reunite on Facebook, as grown women. We would start messaging, calling one another, and get to truly know one another. We became not only “cousins” in the truest sense of the word, but also became friends. One day we were on the phone, and I had just finished reading a book written about the tragedy, where the author killed our family off in the early pages of the book, without ever sharing anything about who they were as people. I felt offended by it. I knew that she, as the surviving daughter and sister, had to feel offended by it. I said, “You know, Jess, if you would ever want to tell your story, you’d have one heck of a story to tell.” She replied, “I know, but I couldn’t talk to a stranger about my life.” I said, “Well, could you talk to me?” She said, “Probably. I think I could.” And, so it began . . .

What is the book about?

Aside from what I just shared, the book is a survivor’s anthem. It’s about Jessi’s struggle during the time she spent crawling through three decades of trauma and tragedy that claimed her life, and her journey trying to find her way to reclaim what was lost or stolen. We told it in an raw and authentic way. And we didn’t sugarcoat a thing. Our souls are on those pages.

What is your relationship?

My mom was the eldest of eight siblings. Jessi’s dad, Ed, was my mom’s younger (and only) brother. Jessi and I are three years apart in age, but we never saw one another often as children. I lived seven years of my childhood in Stuttgart, Germany, because my dad was a helicopter pilot in the Army, so distance was definitely a factor.  

How long did you spend writing it?

It took me a year and a half to get the story written. I then had to figure out how to piece it all together. I spent another 6 months in the phases of developmental editing and copy editing. (Next came the design phase. As a perfectionist in all things design, I gave my designer a run for the crown of roses for sure.)

How did you do the research?

I read everything I could get my hands on about this tragedy. This was a story that made national news back in 1989, so there was quite a bit of information available online. I also spent months interviewing my cousin, by phone, to learn her personal story. For me, this was a lot more than just a rehashing of facts or retelling of a true crime plot. It was a sacred honor to tell her story—our family’s story. I followed my intuition the whole way there. It was important to me that we remain 100% authentic, and that I tell it like I believe it deserved to be told—with a bold voice and fearless authenticity.

Where are we now with the book?

The book was published on April 29, 2019, which marked the 30-year-anniversary of the murders. We officially kicked off our publicity tour in New York City, where we appeared on a national talk show. (It was exciting and surreal, all at the same time. And cool that we got to share those special moments three decades after darkness.) The book was a #1 New Release in its category on Amazon and became a #1 Bestseller in its category on Amazon. The book was an award-winning finalist in the “True-Crime: Non-fiction” category of the 2019 International Book Awards. We are proud of the recognition the book has received so far and hope to help a lot of people with her important story of healing and hope.    

Can you tell us about the upcoming national TV show? Are you going to be on it?

I cannot tell you what show it is right now, but I can tell you it is going to be on prime time television! I will appear on the show, alongside several others, to help fill in the pieces of my cousin’s life story. The production team has been absolutely amazing to work with. My cousin and I pretty much find ourselves immersed in a walking dream. This show was, so far, the coolest thing we’ve had the opportunity to do. We are excited to share this story with the world in the hopes of helping other people who may find themselves struggling with similar issues of loss, grief, trauma, PTSD, OCD, helplessness, tragedy, dysfunction, or loneliness.

Tell us about the PR you have received.

When it came to publicists, we hired the best in the business and found ourselves in the throes of a publication whirlwind. The book was featured by the New York Post and on numerous local television stations, and newspapers. We were featured on the cover of the Carmel Current, my hometown newspaper, and gave interviews on several radio stations and numerous podcasts. We taped a national talk show prior to publication, that aired in July of 2019. We were invited to host book signings at Barnes & Noble and Indy Reads Books on launch weekend. (This doesn’t normally happen for indie published books, so we feel incredibly lucky and blessed to have had the opportunities to meet our fans and sign books for them.) We have several other projects underway currently behind the scenes and look forward to continuing to hold a space for others to find healing and hope.

Where can I run right out and buy it?

I Am Jessica: A Survivor’s Powerful Story of Healing and Hope is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Target, Walmart, and Books-A-Million online, in addition to other online retailers. Hardback is also available at most retailers. (Please leave us an honest review of the book, if you read it. It really helps us!)

I know our audience wants to get some advice from you. What can you tell us?

When trying to accomplish an audacious goal, we tend to think it’s all about what we are working so hard to accomplish—that dream we want to make our way toward—to reaching the end game. Hear me clearly when I say this. It’s not. It’s about the person you become while wiping the sweat from your brow, yet again, picking yourself up one more time, and crawling a few more feet across that field of thorny dreams (with a broken high heel and a few blisters), limping along with a big smile on your face, becoming better than you were before. You won’t be the same person who walked into the land of dreams. You won’t be the same person you used to be, once you manage to conquer that big, scary, amazing, “impossible” thing. And that’s epic. Because, in that moment, you’ll realize you can have anything you are willing to truly go after in life. Anything you are bold enough, crazy enough, and daring enough to chase. You’ll wipe the sweat from your brow, once more, pull those high heels up a little tighter, and begin.

It’ll be so worth it in the end. (And you’ll learn that the “end” is really just the beginning!) Just start anywhere. And don’t you stop. You’ll totally figure it all out, and make your way there, if you just do those two things. Start. And don’t ever stop.

And that, my friends, is an awesome story about an outrageously successful paralegal. I can't wait for the movie.


Has Ghosting Hit Your Career?

Empty deskGhosting: The act of not showing up. It happens all the time in the dating world but a new phenomenon has hit the job market.

The new Beige Book from the Federal Reserve Bank now contains this millennial slang to describe a rising trend in the workplace. 

The mention in the Fed publication, formally known as the Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions, gives us  a descriptive definition: "A number of contacts said that they had been ‘ghosted,’ a situation in which a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact."

Until recently, the term "ghosting" was used to refer to one person disappearing from a romantic relationship, whether in an online app or after a few face-to-face dates. The concept is that by disappearing, both parties are spared an unpleasant conversation about at least one person's lack of interest in the relationship. It’s often seen as not a big deal, and not necessarily impolite unless the couple has spent a significant amount of time together.

Now, this trend has reared it's uncomfortable face in the workplace. Job candidates are simply not showing up for interviews. Employees leave the job at noon "for lunch" and never come back. Candidates accept positions and never show up for the actual job. Furthermore, these "professionals" cannot be reached by email, phone or letter - ever. Simply disappeared. Welcome to the new job world. Ghosting has arrived.

In a wacko way, it’s a positive sign of a strong labor market. The unemployment rate has been hovering below 4% for the past year. It’s been nearly 50 years since the last time it was this low. As the Fed Beige Book entry from Chicago notes: “As they have for some time, contacts indicated that the labor market was tight and that they had difficulty filling positions at all skill levels.” Anytime the market is below 4%, candidates have the upper hand, so to speak.

The legal field is no exception to ghosting. It's happening at all levels from attorneys to secretaries, paralegals to file clerks, litigation support to accounting, and more.  An executive from Robert Half, a global staffing firm, told the Washington Post that its recruiters have seen a 10% to 20% increase in ghosting in 2018. 

Simply put, workers are starting to play dirty.  According to USA Today, while no one formally tracks such antics, many businesses report that 20 to 50 percent of job applicants and workers are pulling no-shows in some form, forcing many firms to modify their hiring practices.

“You’re seeing job candidates with more options,” says Dawn Fay, district president of Robert Half for the New York City area. “It’s definitely influencing their behavior.”

Ghosting is happening across industries and occupations, Fay says. It was always somewhat of an issue for lower-paying jobs in construction, manufacturing and truck driving, says Alex Riley, president of Merit Hall, a Detroit staffing agency. Now, he says, up to 20 percent of white-collar workers in those industries are taking part in the disappearing acts.

To some extent, employees are giving employers a taste of payback. During and after the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, when unemployment reached 10 percent, many firms ignored job applicants and never followed up after interviews.

“Candidates were very frustrated because they felt employers were ghosting on them,” Fay says.

Recently, I placed a legal secretary at a very prestigious entertainment firm. After a long search by the law firm, they found the ideal candidate.  She tested well, seemed to be a great fit and had all the right skills. The offer was made at a salary that the candidate had only dreamed of. She sent thank-you e-mails to everyone. She signed the Offer Letter quickly. Conversations went back and forth as to what the right date was for her to come in for training. The training date and appointed hour came. About an hour later, I received an email from the firm. "Have you heard from (Jane)?" asked the HR Manager. "Huh?" No, as far as I knew Jane was supposed to have arrived.

Ok. Maybe she was in a car accident. Maybe something went wrong. It's certainly happened before. I got on the phone. Voice-mail. I sent an e-mail and marked "high importance". I waited. Nothing. As the day went on, there was no response. I ended up calling her current firm. The receptionist said she was not at her desk. Again, no response. I started to worry. What could have happened? The next day, I called her cell phone, sent an email, called the firm. Nothing. In fact, neither I nor my client ever heard from her again. We sent a letter rescinding the offer (as if that were necessary.) To this day, she is persona non-grata. 

I have witnessed an increase of perhaps about 50% in the number of no-shows for interviews. I have never had this happen previously in the paralegal field. Never. However, apparently, I am not the only one to experience this trend. Many of my colleagues are reporting the same situation. 

To be fair, candidates have valid complaints about employers and recruiters never getting back to them after an interview. There have always been complaints that resumes were not acknowledged but the number of employers never getting back to candidates, particularly after a face-to-face interview has also increased. I can't tell you the number of firms that refuse to answer phone calls or emails to let us know how the interview went so we can inform the candidate. It's a particular problem when, if in the end, they want to hire that candidate. The candidate has either accepted another position or gotten so discouraged, they wouldn't want to work for that firm anyway. Ghosting in reverse. 

To minimize the disruptions, many firms are changing how they interview and hire. Some do not reject candidates until the person they hired shows up on the first day. Others are working harder to sell the candidate on the firm: its benefits, level of assignment, possible promotions, atmosphere, work/life style balance, prestige and just plain fun. Some have shortened the length of the time to the start date, anywhere from 3 days to a maximum of two weeks.

About a third of employers have increased their benefit offerings between 2017 and 2018, the Society for Human Resource Management found. In addition to more serious offerings, perks on the rise include pets at work, free snacks, company swag, firm sponsored sports events and casual dress.

Employees may want job satisfaction, a good cohesive culture and fantastic benefits, but that hasn’t really replaced their desire for more money. And in today’s hot job market, pay packages are finally getting bigger. We have been placing paralegals and secretaries at anywhere from $80,000 to $105,000. Managers are getting anywhere from $125,000 t0 $150,000. Clients tell us their salary range but for a good candidate, many will up the ante. 

Dan Roth, CEO of LinkedIn told CBS Morning News, "It's everyone. You would think it would just be millennials, people who are used to dating sites … the truth is, it's everyone. It's easier just to stop showing up than to say, 'no,' or, 'Thank you for reaching out to me about this job I don't actually want it anymore," he said.

Another reason it might be happening? According to Roth, job seekers see it as retribution for all the times potential employers ghosted them. Still, Roth warns against it.

"Recruiters and hirers are saying they will never forget the people who have ghosted them," Roth warned. "And they will take that from job to job." The legal market is a small market. There are only so many firms and so many recruiters. People talk to each other. They move from firm to firm and even though the ghoster may not apply to the same firm again, someone from that firm may have moved on to a like firm and takes their memory with them. Or, they take a look at your updated profile on LinkedIn and find out where the ghoster went. Not a pretty picture. 

How to prevent ghosting

Adam Godson, CEO of Global Technology Solutions writes:

"Keep candidates warm: Track coaches are fond of telling you to run through the finish line, not just to it. Take the same approach with candidates: Don’t stop selling your firm, your employer brand, and your team, just because a candidate accepted an offer. Keep those lines of communication open, and make sure you’re doing everything you can to get this new employee excited to join you and ready to be productive on day one.

Stay in touch: Check in with an email, text or even a phone call often. Have members of the team, including their direct manager, tell the new person how excited they are to work with them, and maybe share some things they love about the company. Make plans for a welcome lunch, let them know good places to grab a bite to eat. Keep it fun, light and supportive. It will be a nice break from all the instructional, sometimes impersonal communication they’ll be receiving during the onboarding process. Speaking of which …

Make onboarding easy: I’ve seen a lot of onboarding processes – really good ones and really bad ones. They’re notorious for being disjointed and frustrating for the candidate: Go here for your drug test, fill this out for your background check, respond to this person for that, and that person to this. It’s a lot to digest while also leaving a job, possibly moving and otherwise rearranging your life. So do your new hire a big favor and streamline your onboarding process so that it is as smooth and easy as possible."

While ghosting in the dating world may have previously been called "being stood up", it has been around a long time. It's just never been so prevalent in the job market. If you are a candidate or employee, just don't do it. It will most likely boomerang and come back to haunt you at some point in your career. Put on your big person's pants and just let the employer or recruiter know the job is not right for you. Believe me, you are most likely, in this small market, to cross paths with them again.

If you are an employer, treat your candidates and employees with understanding, consideration and politeness. No matter how large or prestigious your firm, you are not the all mighty employer who can have their way however you want it. You may reach a tight spot and believe me on this one too - candidates have long memories. So what are we saying to everyone here? New trends are not necessarily good trends. Let's get rid of job ghosting. In truth, it really ain't workin' for us, is it?

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a nationwide staffing organization. She is President of The Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP), a non-profit providing online eDiscovery training and CEO of The Paralegal Knowledge Institute, an online training organization for paralegals. Chere is a former paralegal administrator at two major firms, an senior executive in a $5 billion worldwide staffing organization. She has written 10 books on legal careers and hundreds of articles.  Chere is also an Inc. magazine Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, a Los Angeles Paralegal Association Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient, a Los Angeles/Century City Woman of Achievement Recipient, Recipient of the NYC Paralegal Association Excellence Award and lots of other good things. She has been written up in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, Daily Journal and other prestigious publications. She has Sundays free from 3-6 a.m. Reach out to her at chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.

 

 

 


5 Tips for Making Recruiters Your Best Friend and Career Miracle Worker

IStock-544735132Recruiters can be your best ally in developing your career.

It’s that time again. We struggle as to whether it’s time to change jobs, hang in there or be thankful we’re in the best firm in the world. Well, maybe the best. OK, the best so far.

Working with a good recruiter can help make your career. Here’s the inside scoop: Recruiters, and I am talking about the staffing agency kind, hold the keys to literally hundreds of contacts they have built up over the years. They have the ears of the hiring authorities of the very firms you want to get into. Those who don’t understand the power and value of a good recruiter or who dismiss them, mistreat them or otherwise abuse them are in for a huge surprise. Are you one?

Here are the reasons recruiters are extremely valuable to your career whether or not you are seeking a new position. Recruiters can have backgrounds as former administrators, paralegal managers, senior paralegals, attorneys, legal secretaries or litigation support managers. They know this field inside and out.

Top recruiters are connected to hundreds of top hiring authorities. They have long-term, personal relationships they have carefully cultivated. They have the ears of hiring authorities and confide in them which candidate is a good hire and which ones are not. They hold the keys to opening doors for you.

They can get you into a firm utilizing their contacts when simply sending a resume through a job board won’t work. They personalize the message to the hiring authority and give their opinion. They have interviewed and screened you first. They stake their reputation on whether you are good.

You don’t know when you are going to seek a position. Having a recruiter in your back pocket is the best career tool you can have.They can tell you which firms might be best suited for you. They can help gear your resume towards the position rather you trying to shoot in the dark. They give you the facts on the firm rather than having you guess. They know why the position is open, turnover rates, percentage of raises, whether bonuses are actually given, how much, level of sophistication of assignments and in short, a reality burst.

You can call them at raise time and find out the going market rate. They know what the firms are giving. You don’t even have to be looking. You have a contact that will be honest with you.

Here are 5 of the biggest mistakes you can make in alienating recruiters, how to get them on your side and how to upgrade your career – all through making a new best friend:

Mistake Number One: You’re contacted by a recruiter –You ignore an email inquiry or phone call.

Don’t be arrogant! So you’re not looking for a job right now. Are you so secure that you know what’s going on in the Executive Committee? You know without a doubt that you’re not going to be downsized, merged or otherwise purged? First of all, recruiters may have advance warning about your firm. They know if the firm is merging before you do. They know if a number of people are bailing. You don’t.

Secondly, how do you know that they don’t have a better opportunity for you? Have you thought about your future? I can’t tell you how many people don’t make the connection and in a short period of time are unexpectedly searching for a position. Just try calling that recruiter back after the royal snub. Trust me. They keep meticulous records. They know when they’ve been brushed off, treated rudely and they keep loooong records. You come off as a) self-important b) uncooperative and c) insulting. Hardly makes for a cohesive relationship. Bear in mind, top recruiters are very selective in who they deal with. Frankly, if they selected you, you might be flattered........

Mistake Number Two: You think the recruiter works for you.

Recruiters work for employers, not job hunters.  They are not paid by candidates. The fee is paid by employers. They are usually paid from 10 – 25% of the annual base salary from the employer. They also offer a guarantee, so they are only seeking excellent candidates who will do well on the job and stay for a good amount of time.

Their job is to find the best talent with precisely the right requirements for the job. They aren't paid to help people transition to new fields. To be sure, they help individuals whom they are able to place, but their primary responsibility is not to be a career counselor or coach job seekers. On occasion, a stellar candidate can be “skill marketed”, i.e., shopped to a firm who is not necessarily seeking a candidate but may be interested in your skills. This, however, is only done for exceptional candidates with extraordinary skills. This is why you may not be hearing from recruiters and instead hear, “Nothing has come in”. I know how frustrating that is and I know how you want them to want you.

Mistake Number Three: You stand the recruiter up. BIG mistake.

Why some candidates just stand up a recruiter is beyond me. It is the same as if you stand up an employer. These candidates simply think that it’s “just the recruiter” and is not that important. Believe me. It’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

Recruiters set aside at least a half an hour of valuable time for you. This is their sales time. It also shows what kind of candidate you are along with what kind of professionalism you have. I don’t care what the excuse is. A simple one line email to cancel the appointment can help save your future career. Recruiters are not likely to reschedule you. Why? You’ll do the same to their clients, you’ve wasted their time, and you’re not as “hot” as you think you are. Believe me. You think there are other recruiters and it doesn’t matter? This recruiter may have already talked to a firm about you or have an exclusive job search for the very firm with the exact job you want. Unfortunately, now you’re probably dead at that firm. You don’t know.

Remember, you’ll meet them elsewhere and you're starting to get a not-so-good reputation as a, yes....flake. They’ll remember how you treated them. Don’t alienate a recruiter. They have the ears of hundreds of hiring authorities. Simply moving on to another recruiter is not that easy if you’ve alienated one or more and truthfully, while there are lots of recruiters out there, there are few top recruiters. You really want a well-known recruiter. This is your career you're playing with.

Here's a great example: I have a colleague who was a recruiter at a top New York recruiting firm. He was there for years. Great guy. He went on to be an HR administrator at a top ten law firm and part of his job is recruiting litigation support and technical professionals nationwide. Every time he receives a resume from someone who was rude to him, stood him up, was a problem to work with at the recruiting firm, guess what? Do you think they get in at his firm now? Bingo!!! 10 points for you! Right answer. Uh, no. If you answered, yes they do, please go back to square one.

I have had candidates email me with outrageous excuses why they stood me up. Two great excuses were, “My nanny didn’t show up, so I had my kids all day." "I thought today was Thursday, not Friday, so I missed my interview.” Great. Someone I can really rely on to tell what day it is. Another said, “I had to study for a test.” So, you couldn't send an email to cancel? And of course, there's the "I forgot about it."  OK. Don’t schedule the interview. You’ve just wasted my time. I am not sympathetic. I don’t reschedule. I have to move on to more professional candidates who treat me with respect and most importantly, whose behavior I can count on.

Mistake Number Four: You don’t give the recruiter the true story.

Candidates who are not straight-forward with recruiters are asking for trouble. If you don’t give the right story as to why you are seeking a position, the correct salary or salary target information, the real reasons you left your positions and more, you are killing your chances because you will be found out. The recruiter has to guarantee the placement for a certain length of time or refund the money if you don't work out. They also check your background. That means they have to know the truth. It's better they found out from you first.

The recruiter will help you in your answers to the firm.  In some states, the firm can legally check salary history, (in other states, they cannot), reasons for leaving and whether you are eligible for rehire. When a candidate tells me not to contact former employers, I am highly suspicious. When they leave dates off the resume, I can't take them on. This is a candidate hiding something. Not exactly someone an employer really wants at the helm. "Hello, Mr./Ms. Employer? I am presenting this great candidate. He doesn't want you to contact former employers or know when he worked but gosh, he does summarize a great deposition." Hmmm......That sure makes me look good.

Mistake Number Five: You try to go around the recruiter and negotiate your salary.

Top recruiters are good negotiators. They know what the firm’s bottom-line is and what your bottom-line is. They generally know what the firm’s top paralegal is earning and how to negotiate with the firm. Let them negotiate for you. Don’t try to do it on your own. The firm expects to negotiate with the recruiter, not you. It is always best to have a third-party negotiate as there are no hard feelings when you walk through the door on the first day. Also, you’re most likely to get more money and the more you get, the more the recruiter is paid. Be sure your recruiter is experienced and an expert in negotiations.

I recall a candidate who was the testiest candidate I ever worked with. He flew to an out-of-state location for a high-paying position and unbeknownst to me, walked into the interview with a demand for approximately $20,000 in relocation fees during the first interview! The firm was so taken back, they immediately disqualified him. Well, let me be honest, his personality turned out not so great, either……. He was angry with me because I sent him to Las Vegas for an interview in the summer. He said it was too hot. Sorry, the firm is not going to wait until the weather suits you. Word to the wise - let your recruiter handle salary negotiations.

Bonus Mistake: You are an employer who keeps dismissing recruiter calls and mistreating recruiters by never getting back to them; ignoring them once they have submitted resumes and recruited heavily for you; not responding to their emails; not keeping them informed or you are just plain rude. They are on your team and trying very hard, spending big bucks with and lots of valuable time recruiting specifically for you with no guarantee of return. 

Here’s the deal, folks. You just don’t know when you are going to need a new job plus if it's that difficult to work with you, recruiters prioritize other firms. Enough said.

Recruiters are crucial to your career success. Make friends with them. Keep them in your back pocket. While they are not there to give you career coaching, they are valuable resources. Be sure to send them great referrals and introduce them to the hiring authorities in your firm. They are in it for the long-term relationship. I have candidates and employers whom I have had the most fantastic give and take relationships with for twenty years (or more). I am grateful for them and help them at a moment’s notice. It’s the gift that keeps on coming.

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing; President and Co-Founding member of the Organization of Legal Professionals, a non-profit online training company for eDiscovery and CEO of the Paralegal Knowledge Institute, an online training organization. She has written 10 books on legal careers and has been interviewed by Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, Daily Journal, Above the Law and others. She is a Los Angeles Paralegal Association Lifetime Achievement Award winner, a New York City Paralegal Association Excellence Award Winner, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce/Century City Women of Achievement Award Recipient and finalist of the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Her blog, The Estrin Report has been around since 2005. She is a former Paralegal Administrator at two major law firms and executive in a $5 billion corporation. She has free time on Sundays between 3:00am and 6:00am. Reach out at chere@estrinlegalstaffing.co


5 Networking Tips for Folks Who Hate to Network

NetworkingChange your attitude!
Don't give up! It's worth the extra effort. Really.

It's who you know.
Networking. No matter how you tweet ‘em up, link ‘em out or face ‘em down, if you are not professionally networking on a regular basis, you are clearly committing career suicide. And, let’s not leave out the importance of the old-fashioned, rarely done, one-on-one, face-to-face, in-person meeting, the one where you busted your budget by purchasing the latest designer jeans with built-in dirt and precise structured torn knees for the discounted price of $469.00 so that you can send the message that yes, you can and do fit in with the oh—so-influential-wanna-be-Melrose crowd.

There's no such thing as accidental networking. Networking is a mission. When you're headed to a function to meet and greet people who can further your career, you have a strong sense of Purpose. Even a chance meeting can provide a networking opportunity.

Once you discover that new acquaintances have professional power, you instantaneously decide to make the meeting worthwhile. There's no real secret to it. Most people, myself included, hate to admit we network because then we reveal we're actually using the world's greatest career-building trick. Maybe we think it smacks of cheating. You know you do it; I know you do it; others know you do it; and you read that you're supposed to do it, but somehow you deny you're doing it. I mean, only the etiquette-challenged would introduce themselves by saying, "Hi, I'm Jane. I'm here to network." Yikes.


How you network can make all the difference in your career success. If you want to get ahead, your networking skills have to be sharp, savvy and yes, leveraged in such a way to propel you forward. Smart networking allows you to gain promotions, be considered as a great candidate for a new job or considered spots in the public eye such as speaking and writing engagements or holding association positions.
When given a choice, people will always do business with people they know or with a person highly recommended by a valued and trusted member of their network.

The benefits to networking are endless but you have to be good at it. Really, really good. Great networking improves your ROI on:
• Friendship benefits: You’ll make new professional friends that can last for a lifetime.
• Receiving and giving advice: You can get viewed as an expert.
• Opportunities: Whether you garner upward career mobility or are making a move, employers want people who are highly recommended from others in like or supervisory positions. Your network can give you that.
• Assistance on the job: You have somewhere to go for assistance, suggestions, referrals and even have someone covering your back or giving you a heads-up when you goof.
• Positive influence: You become who you associate with.

Here are five strong tips for successful networking:

1. Create a great profile on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is your biggest advantage for entry into good, solid networking. It has become the winning social media tool for career networking. Whether you are trying to grow your reach, find content or explore opportunities, this virtual meeting vehicle is the first and last stop for many professionals. The latest trend is for employers to seek out your LinkedIn profile at the same time they are reviewing your resume. Potential contacts who can give you career help will also check you out first on LinkedIn.

One of the biggest mistakes is to assume that LinkedIn is only worthwhile if you are pursuing a new job. Not so. It gives legitimacy to your current position. You may network with someone who will look up your LinkedIn profile to find out more about the professional you. However, you will generate no interest without a stimulating summary. LinkedIn is not a playback of your resume.

To attract contacts, you’ll need to demonstrate your personality, take on the legal business world and show your worldliness. If you want to be taken seriously, you cannot go without a full and professionally written LinkedIn profile. An attention-grabbing profile will help you attract networking contacts. These are contacts that can help leverage your career. It’s not the volume of contacts, either. It’s the quality.

Here’s an example: Personally, I have almost 20,000 contacts. I don't know if this is a lot or not. It's what I have. I reach into my network frequently for all kinds of reasons. Here are people who help refer me to others for questions, articles, resources, candidates, employers, referrals. I receive requests for speaking engagements, make friends, do business, and more. Shoot. Someone called me in Los Angeles at 7:00 pm from Washington DC in a panic the other day. They needed a temporary litigation support paralegal in Denver. Could I help? Sure! I was able to reach into my network and find someone within 15 minutes of receiving the call. I hope I made a business acquaintance. It wasn’t about making money.

2. Go to association meetings, seminars and get-togethers.

I’ve met the greatest people and made life-long friends. It’s one thing to join your association. It’s another to understand the networking advantages it brings. Face-to-face encounters render far longer benefits than an occasional email to someone you have never met. People tend to remember you. What will you learn from association networking? What’s happening in your community, new techniques, where the jobs are, the latest software, what firm is doing what (maybe even yours), information you can take back to management, salaries, and important trends. It’s a great way to stay current, uncover “hot buttons” in your practice specialty and who knows? You might even have a little fun.

3. Don’t alienate every recruiter who calls or sends an email looking to recruit you away from your present job.
Networking needs to include recruiters. Connect with them. They are invaluable. They hold the key to hundreds of contacts: HR, managing partners, CEO’s, COOs, VP’s, supervisors, in-house legal counsel, legal service providers, colleagues, managers and more. They know salaries, firms, trends, and in particular, where the field is headed. In fact, they often know if your firm is in trouble before you do. Why? They know who is bailing and most importantly, why.

Don’t be so smug if a recruiter contacts you about a new position. I can’t tell you how many times people ignore the call or treat the recruiter abysmally only to wake up a few weeks later to find their firm is merging or otherwise purging. Then what? Do you know where to go? You think back. “Oh! I’ll call that recruiter who called me about that job.” Right. Try calling them back after you have snubbed them. Most likely, they won’t even take the call.

4. Network with colleagues in your firm.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is to neglect to network within their own firm.
If you're able to build rapport with hiring authorities at your firm, you can be the first to find out about forthcoming internal promotions and strategically position yourself for growth. You can be first in line for a promotion, new position, head-up a department by hearing about it first. You can capture someone’s ear. For example, what if you like to write? Suddenly you’re the person in charge of the firm’s newsletter because you were networked with the appropriate personnel.

Similarly, you may discover the firm is opening a new satellite office in your dream destination, and if you're connected with the right person, you could get a head start on applying for the transfer.
Who do you know? Some of the most important people to connect with are the conduits to the power in your firm. That is, someone who can speak for your job category. Be sure to always network with colleagues, partners, associates, managers. You’ll get noticed. Hanging out alone in your office or cubicle will not move you up the ladder. One of the most difficult positions to find its way to a promotion is the paralegal. You have to create your own opportunity. Networking is the most vital tool you can have.

5. Don’t ignore the benefits of networking.
You can benefit as your contacts develop. Continuing to build new relationships and nurture existing contacts can be hugely beneficial to you as members of your network grow into the next phases of their career. As they grow, they will continue to help you out – and vice versa. The higher they grow, the more beneficial they are to you. Sound callas? Not really. Everyone helps everyone out. You'll help others, they'll help you.

The key is to keep your networking process going without needing to ask for anything in return. Show genuine interest in other people and their hopes, wants, dreams and desires. Ask questions they'd be excited to answer. Listen carefully and you'll have surrounded yourself with a circle of people who would not only be willing but excited to help take your career to the next level. That’s what networking is all about.

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing; President & Co-Founding member of the Organization of Legal Professionals and CEO of the Paralegal Knowledge Institute. Reach out to her at chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com. ©Chere B. Estrin2018


Virtual Legal Assistant - Is This Your Magical Career?

Woman.at deskWhen you work as a Virtual Legal Assistant, you can choose to work as an employee or you can set up your own business. There are pros and cons to each arrangement. When you work as an employee, you don't have to invest any money up front or find your own clients, but your pay rate, work hours, and how you work will be more restricted. When you work as an entrepreneur, you face other challenges.


Over in Decatur, Georgia, Katrina Johnson sits back in her chair and smiles broadly. Her eyes are bright as she recounts her success story as a Virtual Legal Assistant and starting her business: ABC Virtual Assistant Services. “I am a 40-year old single mom with a profound passion to help others fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams. My purpose is to help those who have the desire and idea but lack the knowledge to get their business off the ground. I have worked in the legal field for approximately 15 years and have acquired a lot of knowledge that I don't mind sharing with others to get them on the road to becoming their own boss.”


Wow! Someone with the talent, knowledge and expertise to help newcomers reach new heights along a new career journey. Talking to Katrina, you have to wonder how she started her successful Virtual Legal Assistant business. Here is a motivated, talented woman succeeding in a hot new cottage industry.


“The idea for my business was birthed back in 2016 but was halted when my father fell ill and my mother needed my support and assistance in caring for him. While my father's health was failing, he was and still is my biggest cheerleader. I shared my idea with him before his health got critical. He was excited at the idea of me working for myself, which made me want to move things along faster. I lost my Dad in February 2017 and decided that once I was financially able, I would pull the trigger on starting my business. That day came to pass in January 2018 and I have not looked back since the start of my business."

Going into business was a longtime desire. Her childhood was not an easy path. “I grew up in East Lake Meadows, one of the harshest and crime ridden government housing developments, formerly in Atlanta, Georgia; the housing project has since been revamped”, she says. “I decided one day that I wanted to be a go-to person for small businesses. I figured since I had been so successful working with other small business over the years, it seemed like a no brainer to go into business for myself, aiding smaller business or start up. I felt like I had a plethora of knowledge, patience, and attention to detail, all things I feel are imperative in running and operating a small business. I decided that I wanted more control of my time. I did not want to go back to school, so after much research and critical thinking, the field of virtual assistance found me.”


What does it take to become a Virtual Legal Assistant? “I have worked as a Personal Injury Paralegal, a Real Estate Closer/Pre-Closer, Administrative Assistant and Data Entry Clerk,” she says, “and also for a very small time, a cashier at AutoZone. I researched this specialty thoroughly on Google before entering.”


As with many paralegals, no one really says, “When I grow up, I want to be a paralegal.” That is like saying, “When I grow up, I want to be an actuary.” So, what did Kristina think she would be when she first started out? “I always felt like I was destined for a grander purpose and I felt by deciding to venture out onto the entrepreneurial playing field, the worst-case scenario was, I failed. In my many years, I have culminated the ideal that failure is a part of the path to success and that if I don't try, nothing happens.”


There are ups and downs in any career. What is the most interesting aspect of her job? “The most interesting thing about my job is that I get to meet phenomenal people with their eyes set on their passion. I get to be in on the ground floor of someone's lifelong dream coming to fruition and that is a feeling for which I do not have words.”

While the Virtual Legal Assistant handles many different and diversified assignments, helping clients to succeed is one of the primary high points of the career. “I am presently in negotiations with a client who desires to start a staffing service. I have helped her, on a preliminary basis, by engaging in a bit of research on her target market, her competition, and her Secretary of State licensing information,” she says. “I feel that a lot of people lose their desire to start their own business because of the "hindrance" called administrative tasks. While I understand that, that should not be a deterrent. I like to put myself in a situation where my clients handle the meat and I take care of the sides, giving them an opportunity to focus of the product or service they are selling.”

What does she dislike the most? Ah, the consummate politically correct answer: “The only thing that I dislike is that there are only 24 hours in a day. My clients are awesome!!”

A critical strategy for Virtual Legal Assistants is to continuously analyze the growth pattern of the business. “I am satisfied with where things are. Along with the clients I have now, I am looking forward to obtaining more. With the use of craigslist.org and word-of-mouth, I anticipate that I will be getting more clients very soon. At present, I am serving three clients, two attorneys and a small business on the horizon from the ground up. Because I only started my business in January 2018, I have already excelled past my original goal of getting at least one client within the first 6 months.”

Planning the future is an important strategy. “In the future, I would like to move into doing some business consultations where I am brought in to advise a business on how they can operate more efficiently, less costly, and how to generate more revenue.”

The career is not without its challenges. Katrina’s biggest challenge is juggling being a full time Mom. “It can be a bit challenging,” she says, “but Mom is my most important role and I make it work. I make it work well.”

Katrina is sensible about starting a Virtual Legal Assistant business. “Starting my business has not been costly at all. In fact, the most expensive thing I have paid for since I started my business is my credentials to start my business. I used Legal Zoom and I've already seen what I paid Legal Zoom ten-fold.”

What advice does she have for someone getting into this arena? “Be patient, understanding, and steadfast. I love what I do and I can't wait to start the next chapter of Business Consultations.”

16 Websites to Help You Find a Virtual Assistant Position
Where do you find virtual assistant jobs? Whenever you are working as a virtual assistant, you are going to have to find virtual assistant jobs for yourself. Thankfully, this is something that you can do online if you know where to look.

There are a number of free job listing websites that will list virtual assistant jobs. This may not be the best way to find a Virtual Legal Assistant job as few seem to be listed. However, a good, diligent search will uncover several. Many of the jobs that you will find on these websites are small, short jobs that need to be done quickly. While this can be a great way to build up your skills and get your name out there, these jobs are not going to pay you a lot of money. Be careful that a number of these websites charge a small fee. This fee will either need to be paid whenever you get the job or once the job has been completed.

While there are many websites for finding virtual assistant jobs, there are none strictly for Virtua Legal Assistants. These websites are seeking Virtual Assistants already set up in their own businesses to join with them.

Here are just a few you can explore and register your new business or apply as a Virtual Legal Assistant:

24/7 Virtual Assistant 
Assistant Match 
Belay 
VaVa Vitual Assistants 
People Per Hour 
Fancy Hands 
Freelancer 
FlexJobs 
Guru
Red Butler 
Time Etc. 
Uassist.Me
Upwork
Virtual Assistant USA 
Virtual Staff Finder 
Zirtual 


Create a Website
In order to find a Virtual Legal Assistant job, you are going to first need to create a website. The website can simply list your qualifications, contact information and payment terms and a list of what you can do including specialties. It doesn't have to be anything fancy or flashy but a simple, professional-looking website to help you obtain clients.


Don't Underestimate Referrals
Make sure that you communicate with your clients. Remember, it is different whenever you work from home because your "boss" cannot see you hard at work. It is important to make sure that you respond to your client's emails and phone calls promptly. By doing so, you will create trust, put your client at ease and show that you really are a competent online Virtual Legal Assistant. Make sure that you provide high quality work and meet all critical deadlines. Whenever you know that you have done these things and that your client is a happy camper, ask them to give you a referral. This way, you will be able to help your business continue to expand.


Make Networking a Regular Part of Business Development
It is important to join at least three networking groups, either online or in person, because no one will know that your business exists unless you get the word out. You can find these groups on Google. Network with paralegal associations, Bar Associations, and other related organizations such as the ALA - Association of Legal Administrators.
Get on Facebook and LinkedIn. Find related groups who can use your services. Think in terms of hanging out where attorneys and hiring authorities are most likely to be found.


Spend Time Marketing Yourself
Make sure to consistently market your virtual legal assistant business. Find websites that will allow your resume to be viewed by numerous businesses. While these websites may charge you a small fee, this can be a great option because it will allow serious long-term employers to find you. Utilize social media. If you don’t know how, find someone who can show you.


Check Out Other Virtual Assistant Websites
Take time to look at other similar websites. Many will tell you if they are looking for a virtual assistant.
You are going to need to be patient whenever you are looking for online Virtual Legal Assistant jobs. In most instances, it may take between four to six months to land your first client.


Starting down the path to a new career can be fun, risky and rewarding all at the same time. With the trend towards working from home growing by leaps and bounds every year, this new career can ultimately offer you a missing element from your present situation. Investigate and discover for yourself whether this journey is right for you. And who knows? Here may be the magic career path you have ultimately been seeking!

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing; CEO of the Paralegal Knowledge Institute and President of The Organization of Legal Professionals. She can be reached at chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com. 


Are You Playing A Good Game? How to Improve Your Career and Move to the Major Leagues


BicyclesBy Chere B. Estrin


Have you ever participated professionally in a competitive sport? Are you familiar with the approaches in which professionals train for one? If you look deeply, you will see a strong resemblance in principal to sports and the legal professional field. The reality is, if we focus on the actual mechanics of what we do over a period of time, we can see that we receive results through our reflexes.

Throughout our working day, we continually encounter a multitude of seemingly minor circumstances, objections or stop-gaps that require us to respond, perhaps by additional probing questions, perhaps with rebuttals. If these situations are handled properly, we gain additional information or we overcome the objection or stop-gap and proceed to our next step. Does this always happen? No. But to the degree we do respond with maximum effectiveness, we improve our production considerably...with no extra time in the office, on the phone or hammering out lengthy emails to attorneys who don’t want to hear about it anyway.

Consider it. An attorney says she has an assignment for you that has impossible deadlines but you can’t help her. The IT department cannot assist you immediately. Clients say they can’t reach your attorneys but you have no answer for them. You are having trouble meeting billable hours and it’s because the firm doesn’t have enough work. Several times a day we encounter situations where we might respond a bit better. But do we? Maybe. But if, as it has been said, baseball is a game of inches, getting our best results is a game of improving the odds by enhancing your skills in terms of how you respond to the situation.

DEVELOPING NEW REFLEXES

Sharpening your reflexes is a two-step process that can be repeated indefinitely as you see additional areas to improve your performance.

The first, of course, is identifying the areas where sharper reflexes will result in incremental upward career mobility. This could mean increased billable hours, improved and more sophisticated assignments, even a promotion. This does not have to only include obvious areas such as getting the assignment correct from the beginning. Are you glancing at the assignment and not delving in-depth as to what it is about? Are you doing routine and repetitious work and wondering why you are getting bored with your job? Do you ask questions to elicit more specific information rather than making statements? These also are considered reflexes.

WHERE TO FOCUS

Your first step is obviously to narrow your focus. Don't think you can just say "I need to do better" and leave it at that. You must train like a professional athlete. What does that mean?

There is a major difference between how amateurs and professionals train. An amateur just does more of his sport. For example, Kate plays more soccer or tennis or Brian runs more often. By doing so, they may improve slowly, but will never progress past their amateur level. We call this “victims of empty-loading.” It is the same as saying, “I am going to upgrade my career.” So instead of summarizing six depositions a week, you summarize twelve. More of the same with no improvement or upward movement.

A professional determines which specific area he needs to improve, and then spends time focusing on precisely that arena.

To do so, you must find your weak spots which is not always an easy task.

SELF-REFLECTION

Initially, ask yourself where you could improve. Over the years, chances are you've noticed or been told about certain improvement areas, and have said to yourself "I need to work on that." Have you? Probably. But has the problem been fully corrected? Maybe not.

TAP INTO YOUR MANAGER- A MAJOR RESOURCE

If you have a manager, it's a mistake to think that she can't help you. If you haven't indicated a willingness to improve, she may just be concentrating on new people or those who ask for help. Tell her you're ready to learn more and ask for assistance. Have a plan ready as to how to get the help you need.

If you are the manager, ask your most effective legal professional, HR manager or attorney for some suggestions. He won't think you're "showing weakness" by asking for help; he'll respect you for wanting to improve...and he should.

ANALYZE YOUR CALLS

Professional athletes record and evaluate their performances all the time to improve. You should, too. Consider recording your voice and what goes on in a phone call. Fifteen minutes a day, three days a week, listening to your own calls after hours will get any experienced legal professional realizing where you can improve.

Be aware there are laws in California and other states against recording two-way calls without consent. If you live in one of the states, you may be able to record only your voice.

Alternatively, you can take notes during your conversations. Jot down notes while the conversation is taking place. Not only the answers to your questions. That’s not what you are after. Instead: What specifically did you ask? How did you ask the question?

Notes and Numbers

Have a brightly-colored sheet of paper on your desk (so it doesn't get lost in the stacks). Whenever something happens that you feel you didn't handle particularly well, write it down. Keep doing it. Over the course of a few weeks, a pattern is most likely to emerge. Did your time get written-off again? Do you know why? This technique can track your performance via self-evaluation.

Don't concentrate only on the words that you say. The manner of your response or your reaction is not to be overlooked. It can be changed to equally enhance your production.

HOW TO IMPROVE

Notes on Your Phone

Take a look at your computer. Is there a note on it relating to improved performance? If not, you're missing an easy way to improve. Reflexes are habits. Habits, to change, require ongoing reminders. Put a new Post-it on your computer every week. Don't just leave it there until you have forgotten about it. Change notes regularly or, if it is the same note, change paper colors. Pick a date to change the note: Say, every Monday, the note gets changed.

While brief pieces of "script" are certainly possible, it is more likely that these will reflect your manner of presentation and broad principles. Some examples might be "slow your pace", "ask more probing questions", "listen more carefully" or "reinforce what you heard."

Role-Playing
No matter how good an athlete is, she practices. No matter how good a musician is, he practices -- every day. Do you?

Role-playing is our equivalent of practicing, and it will benefit you, the experienced legal professional, just as much as an entry-level. It is also likely to help you identify specific areas in which you need to improve.

Let's take an example. Your role-playing partner, playing the "part" of the attorney or supervisor, is giving you an assignment. In answer to your question, she replies that she just wants the assignment on Thursday and gives you very little information as to how to accomplish the task. Do you reinforce and ask for specifics? "Kim, I understand what you are saying. However, specifically what are you looking for? What resources do you recommend?” Or did you just say "OK" and go on to the next question on your list?

Don't make excuses and don't let your role-playing partner do so. You are creating a habit. And if you make a mistake in role-playing, there's a good chance that you are making it constantly when receiving assignments.

Consider Teaching or Speaking Engagements

Take it from the originators: Aristotle once said that "the truest knowledge of an art is achieved only by teaching it." You don't need to teach this field; you just need to do it. But teaching a subject or giving a talk on it will force you to organize your thoughts, consider the problem and the solution in depth, and formalize your knowledge. It also looks great on your resume.

Maximizing Your Commute

Serious professional-level athletes do not always "eat, sleep and breathe" their sport. But they do come close. So should you.
If you commute to work, you already know that it is not the most exciting or pleasant part of the day. Particularly, if you live in a major metropolitan city and encounter heavy traffic that has gotten incredibly worse over the years. Yet, there are excellent benefits you can achieve during this everyday time that is not going to disappear.

A 30-minute morning commute amounts to a solid ten hours a month of time spent driving to work. A 15-minute commute equals 5 hours a month. The time before you sit down at your desk sets up your attitude for the business day. Sign up for webinars and if you don’t attend the live session, listen in the car.

Is skill improvement the responsibility of managers to deliver to legal professionals? Probably. However, waiting for this event to happen can stall your career. Skill improvement is an individual responsibility and investing in yourself can pay huge dividends.

We always have to quote someone in the know: Andrew Carnegie wrote that a career is made or marred in hours after formal work is done. That’s true for you as well as you commit to improving your legal professional career. And, concentration on your career after hours is a great way to go.

THE LAST WORD

No matter how talented or experienced you are, meaningful career improvement is possible. Accomplishing it will not only give you a sense of upward movement - the hallmark of a successful person - it will make you a better legal professional, promote your journey and get you out of stagnating, career inhibiting situations. It just takes a little effort, change in attitude and a fresh outlook! 

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing; CEO of the Paralegal Knowledge Institute and President of the Organization of Legal Professionals, a non-profit eDiscovery training organization. She is the author of 10 books on the legal career and hundreds of articles; a national seminar speaker; Recipient of the Los Angeles Paralegal Lifetime Achievement Award; an Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist; former legal professional administrator and senior executive in a $5 billion corporation. She has been written up in Newsweek, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Daily Journal and other publications. Her blog, The Estrin Report, has been around since 2005. Reach out to her at chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com


5 Biggest Networking Mistakes Guaranteed to Stall Your Career

Networking demands skill, talent and a knack for risk taking.

Woman.reddish brown hair.glassesNetworking. How many times have we heard it? It’s like saying, “bless you” when you sneeze. It has, in a sense, lost its real meaning.

No matter how you tweet, link, face, or gram, you have to succumb these days if you want to avoid career suicide. With all this online socializing, however, your knack for meeting strangers one-on-one (probably the best networking tool of all) gets rusty and pushed into the background of your skills.

There's no such thing as accidental networking. Networking is a mission. When you're headed to a function to meet and greet people who can further your career, you have a strong sense of Purpose. Even a chance meeting can provide a networking opportunity.

Once you discover that new acquaintances have professional power, you instantaneously decide to make the meeting worthwhile. There's no real secret to it. Most people, myself included, hate to admit we network because then we reveal we're actually using the world's greatest career-building trick. Maybe we think it smacks of cheating. You know you do it; I know you do it; others know you do it; and you read that you're supposed to do it, but somehow you deny you're doing it. I mean, only the etiquettely-challenged would introduce themselves by saying, "Hi, I'm Jane. I'm here to network." Yikes.

How you network can make all the difference in your career success. If you want to get ahead, your networking skills have to be sharp, savvy and yes, leveraged in such a way to propel you forward. Otherwise, you pretty much run the risk of getting overlooked for promotions, considered as a great candidate for a new job or spotlights that assist your career such as speaking and writing engagements.


When given a choice, people will always do business with people they know or with a person that has come highly recommended by a valued and trusted member of their network. The benefits to networking are endless but you have to be good at it. Really, really, good. Great networking improves your ROI on:

• Friendship benefits: You’ll make new friends that last for a lifetime.
• Receiving and giving advice: You’ll get viewed as an expert.
• Opportunities: Whether you garner upward career mobility or are making a move, employers want people who are highly recommended from others in like or supervisory positions. Your network can give you that.
• Assistance on the job: You have somewhere to go for assistance, suggestions, referrals and you even have someone covering your back or giving you a heads-up when you goof.
• Positive influence: You become who you associate with.

Here are five of the biggest networking mistakes you can make:

Mistake #1. Avoid a great profile on LinkedIn:
LinkedIn is your biggest advantage for entry into good, solid social networking. It has become the winning social media tool for career networking. Whether you are trying to grow your reach, find content or explore opportunities, this virtual meeting vehicle is the first and last stop for many professionals. The latest trend is for employers to view your LinkedIn profile at the same time they review your resume. Potential contacts who can give you career help will also check you out first on LinkedIn.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to assume that LinkedIn is only good if you are seeking a new job. Not so. It gives legitimacy to your current position. You may network with someone who will seek out your LinkedIn profile to find out more about the professional you. However, you will generate no interest without an interesting and dynamic summary. LinkedIn is not a playback of your resume. To attract contacts, you’ll need to demonstrate your personality, take on the business world and show your worldliness. If you want to be taken seriously, you cannot go without a full and professionally written LinkedIn profile. You will receive requests to connect and you should learn to reach out to others to grow your network.

Here’s an example: Personally, I have almost 19,000 followers. I reach into my network frequently. The list is rich with people who can help refer me to others for questions, articles, resources, candidates, employers, referrals, and questions I am asked but don’t have answers. Not so long ago, someone from Washington DC called me in Los Angeles. They needed a temporary litigation support paralegal in Denver. I was able to reach into my network and find someone within 15 minutes of the call at 7:00 pm.


Facebook is good. However, it is generally thought of for social, not professional use. You can get a little crazy on Facebook and distill your professional image. Although employers are “not supposed” to view Facebook, my bet is they are on it. It’s a fantastic networking tool but make sure you distinguish family and real friends from your professional network. Think about setting up a professional page designated for the sole purpose of career networking.


Mistake #2. Don’t go to association meetings, seminars and get-togethers.
It’s one thing to join your association. It’s another to work the networking advantages it brings. Face-to-face encounters render far longer benefits than an occasional email to someone you have never met. People tend to remember you. What will you learn from association networking? What’s happening in your community, new techniques, where the jobs are, the latest software, trends, what firm is doing what (so you can take that information back to your firm and be valuable to management), salaries, and important events. It’s a great way to stay current, uncover “hot buttons” in your field and who knows? You might even have a little fun and make good friends.

Mistake #3. Be sure to alienate every recruiter who calls you. In fact, stand them up when you book an interview. 
Networking needs to include recruiters. Connect with them. They are invaluable. They hold the key to hundreds of contacts: HR, managing partners, CEO’s, COOs, VP’s, supervisors, in-house legal counsel, legal service providers, colleagues, educators, speakers, other paralegals, and more. They know salaries, firms, trends, statistics, economics, and in particular, where the field is headed. In fact, they often know if your firm is in trouble before you do. Why? Managers are calling them, replacing people, perhaps talking about outplacing services. It might be they are witnessing a number of attorneys from your firm who want to leave – only the recruiter knows about it, not you.

Don’t be so smug if a recruiter calls or emails you about a new position. I can’t tell you how many times people ignore the call or treat the recruiter abysmally only to wake up a short time later to the news their firm is laying off, merging or otherwise purging. Then what? Do you know where to go? You think back. “Oh! I’ll call that recruiter who called me about that job.” Right. Try calling them back after you have snubbed or stood them up. Most likely, they won’t take the call or if they do, it is mostly likely will be with misgivings as to how you will behave professionally with their clients.  That’s not exactly an auspicious way to start a relationship with a key holder to a new position.

Mistake #4. Don’t network with colleagues in your firm.
One of the biggest mistakes professionals make is that they are networked in social media; go to association meetings; build a network; and reach out into the community but neglect to network within their own firm!  If you're able to build rapport with hiring authorities at your firm, you can be the first to find out about forthcoming internal promotions and great assignments and strategically position yourself for growth.

Similarly, you may discover the firm is opening a new satellite office in your dream destination, and if you're connected with the right person, you could get a head start on applying for the transfer. You can also be first in line for the juicier cases and matters, and because of your relationship, be thought of first in terms of utilization.

Who do you know? Some of the most important people to connect with are the conduits to the power in your firm. That is, someone who can speak for your job category. Network with colleagues, partners, associates, managers, administrators, staff – be sure to include everyone. In one firm I worked with, I got my best information from the receptionist who answered all the phones. People can tell you what’s going on in your own firm. You’ll get noticed. Everyone wants to be with a winner that people respect. Hanging out alone in your office or cubicle will not get you advanced up the ladder.

Mistake #5. Ignore the benefits of networking.
You can benefit as your contacts develop. Continuing to build new relationships and nurture existing contacts can be hugely beneficial to you as members of your network grow into the next phases of their career.

Success stories such as Ralph Lauren, Mark Cuban, and Jeff Bezos all rose from modest starts. You can be sure those who showed them support with no agenda during their growing pains enjoyed the ride once these icons’ careers exploded.

The key is to keep your networking process going without needing to ask for anything in return. Show genuine interest in other people and their hopes, wants, dreams and desires. Ask questions they would be excited to answer. Listen carefully to what they say and you'll have surrounded yourself with a circle of people who would not only be willing but excited to help take your career to the next level.

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing; President & Co-Founding member of the Organization of Legal Professionals, CEO of the Paralegal Knowledge Institute and a national seminar speaker. She is a former Paralegal Administrator for two major law firms. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in national publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib and Newsweek. She is a Los Angeles Paralegal Association Lifetime Achievement Recipient; a Los Angeles/Century City Chamber of Commerce Woman of Achievement Recipient; co-founding member of the International Practice Management Association and a former exec in law firms and a $5 billion corporation. Her blog, The Estrin Report, has been around since 2005. Talk to her at chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.