Previous month:
May 2016
Next month:
July 2016

The British are calling.....the British are calling. UK magazine reaches out for interview.

Singh-Schroeck KarinFrom our guest blogger,  Karin Schroeck-Singh of the popular Careerheads online magazine in the UK........who graciously conducted this interview.

Karin Schroeck-Singh:
Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing and Paralegal Knowledge Institute. She is the author of hundreds of articles, 10 books on legal careers and has been interviewed by Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, ABA Journal and many other publications.

She worked also as a Paralegal Administrator in two major firms and was an executive in a $5 billion corporation. Chere Estrin is the President and Co-Founding member of the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP), a non-profit company that provides online legal technology training.

She is a Co-Founding Member of International Practice Management Association (IPMA), Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year finalist and Los Angeles/Century City Chamber of Commerce Woman of Achievement Award Winner. She is a New York City Paralegal Excellence award winner and a Los Angeles Paralegal Association Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient. You can follow her on Twitter @estrin, visit her website at: www.estrinlegalstaffing.com and contact her at chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.

I had the great opportunity to interview Chere Estrin and find out what her experiences in the legal recruitment industry have been so far.

Chere Estrin: Interview with a Legal Recruitment Expert  

Karin Schroeck-Singh: How did you get interested in the legal industry?

Chere Estrin: I actually fell into it. I was hired as a paralegal administrator for an entertainment law firm because I had a background in the theatre. I answered an ad for an entertainment law firm and the administrator happened to have seen one of my shows. True story.

Karin Schroeck-Singh: What are the most positive aspects of your profession?

Chere Estrin:  As CEO of a legal staffing company and President and Co-Founding member of two online legal technology training companies for attorneys and legal professionals, the reward is in knowing you had a hand in assisting someone further their career. People come back to you later with their success stories and it’s a thrill to know that you were able to provide the right guidance at the right time.

Karin Schroeck-Singh: Are there any negative aspects that you don’t enjoy in your job?

Chere Estrin: I witness a lot of age and visual discrimination these days. At first, I didn’t quite buy it. However, when I review some of the questions being asked of some candidates, I know discrimination is practiced. This is a visual age with Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat and other social media on the forefront. Times have changed and attitudes have changed with it. On the other hand, there’s a lot that people can do to beat age discrimination in their attitudes, language, skills and yes, appearance. We don’t all have to have Botox and appear younger than we are but we don’t have to present ourselves as outdated either.  I also see a lot of weight discrimination and that seems to be ok with people. It is not.

The most important thing we can do for ourselves is to beat discrimination by staying updated professionally and socially. Ride the horse in the direction it is going.

Karin Schroeck-Singh: Age, visual and weight discrimination, wow! It reminds me a bit of those studies that are stating that attractive, good-looking people get more call backs for job interviews, are hired sooner, get promotions quicker and earn higher salaries. There is a book called “Beauty Pays: Why attractive people are more successful” written by Daniel Hamermesh, Professor of Economics at the University of Texas. He also claims that attractive people earn an average of 3 or 4 % more than people with below-average looks. No wonder that there are professionals who take it a step further by undergoing some cosmetic surgery in order to survive in today’s corporate world. A survey among Chinese Graduates also revealed that 52 % of them believe that cosmetic surgery can indeed increase the chance of getting a job. Do you think that the cosmetic surgery industry will experience a boom in the future with people desperate to look better in order to have better careers?

Chere Estrin: I am not an expert in the cosmetic surgery industry. However, I understand that the industry has already experienced a boom simply because these procedures are no longer considered taboo. I’m not so sure that people are at a desperation point and hopefully, that will not be the case. I’d like to believe that people seek to improve their looks for enjoyment and health but sadly, that’s not always the case.

Karin Schroeck-Singh: You gained 20 years of experience in the legal sector in various roles. What are the five most important lessons you learnt in your career so far?

Chere Estrin:

# 1 – Claim your successes. Women, in particular, have a hard time claiming successes. Particularly those from the Baby Boomer generation. Why? Because we were taught that it’s “not nice to brag”. Men, on the other hand, were taught differently.  You’ll come off much more influential if you say, “I have been interviewed by the Los Angeles Times” rather than, “there have been articles written about me.”

# 2 – Don’t be afraid to get shot down. I’ll never forget one of my first successes. I had just passed the successful entrepreneurial mark. I went out and bought a Mercedes. (In the U.S., that’s a sign of success.) I drove it over to my mother’s. I ran upstairs and brought her down to the driveway. Giggling like two girls, we got in. We rubbed the real leather, we moved the seats back and forth. We played with the radio and didn’t understand all the switches. We loved it. I finally said to her, “Well, Mom, what do you think of your girl?” She looked at me for a moment and she said, “I think this is great, honey. Is this a Toyota?”

# 3 – Always look at the paradigm. When I was first starting out and didn’t have two dimes to rub together, I was driving a white 1961 Corvair with red interior. That’s a car with the motor in the back and the trunk in the front. I was driving down the street at 35 miles per hour when the brakes went and I rear-ended the car in front of me. Now, the trunk in the front was in the trunk in the back of the car in the front. No one was hurt. I got out and walked to the nearest 7-11 to the pay phone. (No one had cell phones in those days.) I called my father. “Dad,” I whined into the phone. “The brakes went and I just reared-ended another car. I heard a pause on the other end of the phone. “Well,” he said. “I guess she was just in your way.”

# 4 – Don’t be afraid to fail.  Why? No one bats 1000. No one. Failure or challenges, call it what you want, only propels you to get up, dust yourself off and succeed. Big time, I might add.

# 5 – Learn to use your network. Network can be an overused term. However, I have had more successes by utilizing my extensive network than any other business technique imaginable. People will remember you from years ago and be more than willing to help you out. The thing is, you need to learn how to ask.

Karin Schroeck-Singh: That’s interesting and I fully agree with regard to the power of networking and the importance of the right asking technique. What is your best advice when it comes to effective networking?

Chere Estrin: Even in this day of social networking, the best networking is face-to-face. People remember you much better and for longer periods of time. That being said, don’t turn people down when you are asked to connect on LinkedIn or a professional Facebook page. Write articles, get speaking engagements – all of this builds a very effective network. The more people who know you, the more likely you are that they will help you.  The higher your profile, the more employers want you. Everyone wants a winner.

Karin Schroeck-Singh: That’s true! So what are the qualities in your opinion that make a great Staffing Professional in the legal sector?

Chere Estrin: Reputation, negotiation skills, honesty, integrity and contacts. Oh, contacts are not a quality? How about quality of contacts?

Karin Schroeck-Singh: What are the 3 main benefits that your clients (companies as well as candidates) gain when they choose Estrin Legal Staffing?

Chere Estrin: Reputation, honesty, integrity and let’s add extensive network from years of building good friendships and relationships in the legal field.

Karin Schroeck-Singh: You mentioned “honesty” twice and you were also talking about age, visual and weight discrimination earlier on. Let’s say you know for sure that one of your clients discriminated against your brilliant candidate due to his age. Honestly, what reason do you give the candidate for not being hired?

Chere Estrin: If I believed that age discrimination had in fact been practiced, I would tell the candidate. To not say something would be in part, as bad as participating. However, in law firms, it’s pretty hard to prove as law firm personnel are very heavily trained against that sort of thing and supposedly know better.

Karin Schroeck-Singh: Let’s change topic. Your company is also a sister company to Paralegal Knowledge Institute. I find it great that a recruitment company also provides a lot of online continuing legal education options (via www.paralegalknowledge.com). I’ve heard about this eDiscovery course/certification exam. I can imagine that not everyone might instantly know what this course/exam is all about. Can you please explain a bit more in detail?

Chere Estrin: I found that training and job opportunities go hand-in-hand. The more training you get, the better your job opportunities. The one thing that employers balk at is that a candidate’s skills are out-of-date. At PKI and through the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP) www.theolp.org, we provide online training in eDiscovery which is the legal technology system for finding, cataloguing evidence and documents on the computer – a rather shorthand way of describing it. Attorneys and paralegals need to understand this method in order to go to trial in this new computer age.

Karin Schroeck: What advice would you give to someone who would also like to become a Recruitment Specialist in the legal industry. Is there any particular education path you can recommend and why?

Chere Estrin: I personally feel that you must come from the legal field in order to be able to recruit for the legal field. There is no college degree in legal recruiting! I have found some excellent recruiters who have not come from the legal field but who understand the field very well. Interestingly enough, some attorneys make the worst recruiters because they have no sales skills.

There are nuances in this field as in any other specialty. You need to have a finite understanding as to what each position does, how the organization chart reads, software, career path, who the law firms and in-house legal departments are and how each one works, salaries, players on all levels, trends, future, legal service providers, education required for each position, top schools, labor statistics, and more – and that is only the beginning.

Karin Schroeck-Singh: Yes, that makes perfect sense! Having gained some experience in a particular industry or being very knowledgeable about it, makes definitely a big difference when it comes to hiring the best candidate. No doubt! Now let’s talk about salaries. How much on average can a Legal Recruitment Consultant earn in the USA?

Chere Estrin: Salaries are all over the board. Generally, you earn on a commission basis. Some of the larger agencies will pay you a base salary of $60,000 plus a commission. On the other hand, the more well-known recruiters with excellent reputations and book of business will earn upwards of $300-400,000 per year.

Karin Schroeck-Singh: That sounds impressive! Let’s assume you need to hire an additional Recruitment Consultant. What 5 questions would you ask the job applicant during an interview in order to determine whether the person is a good fit for your company or not?

Chere Estrin:

  • What is your sales strategy?
  • From where do you derive your candidates?
  • What associations do you belong?
  • Can you please give me a sample pitch to a law firm?
  • What methods do you use to raise your profile?

Karin Schroeck-Singh: These are great questions. By the way, does your company conduct social media background checks on their candidates before referring them to clients? If so, what were your experiences so far?

Chere Estrin: Yes, we definitely do. Employers are checking LinkedIn at the same time they receive a resume. They put a great deal of importance on your LinkedIn profile. It has to be excellent and powerful. My experience is that most candidates do not have great LinkedIn profiles and many are getting turned down because of it and are not aware of that fact. Employers also check Facebook, even though technically, they are not supposed to. They do anyway. I ask permission of the candidate if I feel I need to check their Facebook page. It could be something that I see on LinkedIn that sends a red flag up.

I don’t like what I find on a lot of Facebook pages for candidates in terms of politics, pictures of people drinking, petty arguments, slamming spouses, that sort of thing. People should be allowed to express themselves on Facebook and employers should not be able to make judgments but that’s not what’s happening.

Karin Schroeck-Singh: Recently I conducted an interesting survey among other HR Professionals. The question was “Would you invite a candidate to a job interview who has no online presence? Why?” (http://careerheads.com/no-online-presence-no-job-interview-11-insiders-reveal/) What is your opinion in that regard?

Chere Estrin:  I saw that survey. Very interesting. No online presence suggests that the candidate is not up-to-date. I do contact the person because it is my job to find excellent talent and I’ll do it if the resume is strong enough. However, before I submit them anywhere, I work with them to get a professional online presence. You don’t have to have a personal online presence but you should have a professional online presence to demonstrate that you are participating in the world as it is. I understand people who want privacy. However, a professional profile on LinkedIn is critical and improves your chances of being hired. Additionally, you might not be seeking to move, however, a recruiter or potential employer will come across your profile and contact you.  It could turn out to be the turning point in your career. The best candidates are sometimes those who are not looking.

Karin Schroeck-Singh: Thank you very much Mrs Estrin for your precious time and your valuable insights. I wish you all the best for your future challenges. You are a remarkable woman! 

Singh-Schroeck KarinKarin Schroeck-Singh
Karin Schroeck-Singh is the Founder and Content Manager at Career Heads. She holds an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 20 years of international work experience in Italy, the UK and India in various industries. Her passion lies in creating career-related high-quality content, giving highly engaging public speeches and helping individuals to achieve their career goals quickly, effectively and professionally.

 


Weight! Weight! Are You Sabotaging Your Career? Those Extra Pounds May Be Holding You Back

A update to a popular piece.....

ScaleHave you ever considered that those extra pounds that sneaked up when you were just “having an extra bite” might be holding your career back? 

Some years ago when I was just starting out working for a major Los Angeles law firm, my mentor, Sinatra, the Director of Administration, asked me to lunch.  No, not the star but for a variety of reasons you sure as heck were never going to forget this memorable guy's name.

I was delighted.  He took me to the Yorkshire Grill where he insisted that I have the pastrami sandwich piled high on thick rye bread smothered in hot yellow mustard along with a generous helping of potato salad ladled with heavy home-made mayonnaise.   Who can refuse their boss? Career buster for sure.  I dug right in.

After lunch, while we were walking – well, he was walking, I was waddling, back to the office, he hit me with “You’re doing a great job here.” Wow.  I liked that.  “However,” he proceeded, “if you’re going to succeed, you’ll have to lose weight.” To this day, I could tell you exactly where we were standing, the window I was standing in front of, what I was wearing and the time he gave me the news. 

What many employees fail to recognize is that this is a new workplace.  We are, rightly or wrongly, visually judged everywhere:  Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Skype, Snapchat (now getting more hits than Twitter). You’re even interviewed face-to-face via internet. Then there are the constant pictures from iphones, iPads, emails, websites, videos and more.  We’re no longer a society floating in a world of the anonymous voice. We are judged not only by who we are but unfortunately, how we look. 

In fact, according to one source, there is a proposal in the UK that puts forth that obese claimants could see their benefits reduced or increased according to how often they attempt to lose weight. Robin Thompson, a former legal recruiting professional and now in legal marketing, knows first -hand about weight discrimination. She’s lost 200 pounds. “As a thin person,” she says, “I am greeted with much more friendliness and taken more seriously.  I have even had people comment that people who are overweight cannot control some aspect of their life and that it’s a reflection on how they would perform in a professional situation.” 

You don’t have to be 100 pounds overweight to be discriminated against. “Chunkies” might take a look at the progression of their career over “thinnies”.  Have those around you advanced while you remain at the same level?  Sure, maybe they are more qualified but truthfully, are they thinner?  Does a secret glass ceiling exist at your workplace because of weight? Is there anyone really heavy in upper management?  Of course, there’s an exception or two but it’s really that – an exception. 

While many victims of weight bias have suspected their appearance has been hurting their careers, two past studies analyzing decades' worth of research showed just how pervasive the problem is. The bulk of research has shown that the bias tends to be felt most by overweight white women, who are battling both the glass ceiling and the stigma of being heavy. 

A 2004 study by Cornell University Associate Professor John Cawley found that when the average white woman puts on an additional 64 pounds, her wages drop 9%. (Some studies have shown that overweight white women are evaluated more harshly than overweight African American women   and that African Americans tend to be more accepting of large body types.) 

In 2004, Charles Baum, of Middle Tennessee State University, reported in the journal Health Economics that obesity could lower a woman's annual earnings by as much as 6.2% and a man's by as much as 2.3%. 

“Fat, lazy and unproductive” might be some of the stereotypes that ring true to employers who reject an obese applicant despite a stellar resume. Published last month in the International Journal of Obesity, a new study examined the role anti-fat prejudice plays in workplace hiring practices. 

A group of 95 reviewers acting in the role of employers were shown a group of resumes with   an attached photo. To avoid biased results, the true reason for the study was concealed from participants, said lead researcher Kerry O'Brien of Monash University in Australia. Asked to determine the likelihood of selecting a potential candidate and her starting salary, the “employers” were shown a group of resumes with equivalent skills, experience and education. 

What the reviewers did not know was that the pictures clipped to the resumes were of the same six women before and after weight loss surgery. The study results showed that obese women received more negative responses on leadership potential, predicted success, likelihood to select, salary, total employment rating and rank order of preference relative to other candidates. 

Employers today want to keep healthcare costs down. The heavier you are, studies show, the more days off you take and the more vulnerable you are to certain illnesses.  While your work may be excellent, chances of promotion may be slim. (Pardon the pun, please.)  Have you been in the same position for 20 years while being told that you are an excellent attorney, paralegal, manager,  legal professional? Surely there must be somewhere upward on the firm ladder you could climb.  If it hasn’t happened and your work is terrific, ask yourself, why, why, why? 

Fat is one of the last bastions of discrimination with very little done to curb prejudice or  intolerance.  Being overweight does not mean a person is unmotivated or lazy.  Chances are if you made it into in a law firm environment, you are smart, good at your job and ambitious.  In fact, because of excess weight, people may even be more driven than others.  

In the job market world, few recruiters will be or can be  honest with you. They are asked but "not asked" to send candidates with "front office appearance" a very old and outdated code for "professional appearance" the new unspoken code for yes, good-looking or not obese. You'll probably never see that written or spoken anywhere. It is not accepted to put your picture on your resume. You are not supposed to be hired based upon how you look, rather only upon your skills.

However, there must be some reason why people in this new social media era are rushing to view your LinkedIn profile (that contains your picture) other than to read the very same thing on your resume. Do you honestly think it's only to read your summary? Partially, perhaps. But only partially.

On the personal side, I did very little in terms of losing weight for years.  Oh, I was up, I was down, I was going to lose those “last few pounds” but frankly, despite a very satisfying career, I never really did see the light.  I had no problem getting up in front of 300 people to deliver a speech. I was no wallflower, that's for sure. Without going into details, I came to  a come-to-the big-guy meeting and took Draconian-like steps to cure a lifetime of ridicule and bias. Sure, people want to be accepted “just the way they are and for whom they are” despite any well documented health risks and concerns - as so they should be.  But that’s not reality.  Excess weight can kill you. You just don't think it's going to happen to you. It happens to the other guy.  Despite anyone’s sincere efforts to change the world, this discrimination probably isn’t going stop soon.  It's going to get worse. Fair?  Absolutely not.  Make you want to rebel?  You betcha.  But consider this: the world has changed. It’s visual now. It's more health conscious - like knowing about smoking. You see someone doing it and you know it's wrong. In addition to discriminating, that's another reaction being overweight causes.

By the way, while I’m on my soapbox, please beware of those of us who are on weight loss programs.  These "just saw the light and you can too" folks can be righteous and annoying; they will preach, lecture and moralize – all the while (for those who succeed) advancing their careers just splendidly. Along those lines, I’m no innocent flower. I'm pleased to announce that I have lost over 115 125 pounds and kept it off for over three  four years. It’s one of the hardest battles I’ve ever fought and am hopefully, winning. But that remains another story meant for another day.

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Paralegal Knowledge Institute providing online paralegal training and CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing. She has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and been  interviewed by The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, ABA Journal and many publications. She has been a Paralegal Administrator in two major firms, an exec in a $5 billion corporation, is President & Co-Founding Member of Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP) providing online legal technology training and Co-Founding Member of International Practice Management Association (IPMA), Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year finalist and Los Angeles/CenturyCity Chamber of Commerce Woman of Achievement Award Winner. She is a Los Angeles Paralegal Association Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient and New York City Paralegal Excellence award winner. Talk to her at chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com