Are Paralegals Meant to Survive This Decade?


Is there a bright future for Paralegals?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is out with their 2020 Occupational Outlook for Paralegals and Legal Assistants.

Bottom line – it’s not a bad time to be in, or to be getting into, a paralegal or legal assistant position*.

Consider these findings:

o Median annual pay is $51,750, compared with $39,800 for all occupations in the US.

o 80% of paralegals and legal assistants earn between $32-82,000.

o The federal government, finance, and insurance sectors pay the most, with a median income above $84,000 per year.

o Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is expected to grow by 10% over the next 10 years, much faster than the 4% for all occupations in the US economy.

States with the most paralegals are CA, FL, NY, TX, and IL. The highest pay for paralegals and legal assistants is in DC, CO, CA, MA, and WA.

Bottom line – it’s not a bad time to be in, or to be getting into, a paralegal or legal assistant position.

If you’d like to “just get away,” consider these top-paying non-metropolitan areas for paralegals and legal assistants:

o Alaska

o Northwest Colorado

o Central New Hampshire

o North Coast of California

o Hawaii/Kauai

Or, the non-metropolitan places where there are the most jobs:

● Kansas

● North Carolina Piedmont area

● Central Kentucky

● Southwest Montana

● Southeast coastal North Carolina

The life of the paralegal is not all rosy, of course; here are a few cautions:

o Stress – The American Bar Association has recently discussed stress as a significant issue for paralegals. Unfortunately, stress among paralegal staff is not as well addressed as attorney stress. Good tools, such as a cloud-based matter management system, can significantly reduce stress among paralegals, especially those expected to bill by the hour.

o Limited ceiling – you very likely never will be the boss of a law firm if you do not have a law degree.

o Respect - routine tasks like repetitive data entry, invoice preparation, entering client and billing information, filing, and document management often fall upon paralegals. A cloud-based document management system can virtually eliminate these repetitive tasks and increase the time you have for higher profile matters.

If you are considering an exit strategy, the US Department of Labor has identified related positions that do not require a JD degree that offer greater compensation, including claims adjusting, mediating and conciliation services.

In the meantime, you can build both your expertise and job satisfaction by becoming proficient in a cutting edge technology, and/or gaining a new certification. Whichever direction you’re headed, the future looks bright for the paralegal profession.

By Aline Martin O’Brien!

Aline Martin-O’Brien has a Masters in Theory and Practice of Procedural Law from the University of Paris: Panthéon–Sorbonne. After practicing as an attorney for many years, she now lives and writes in Florida for Smokeball.

Chere Estrin is the CEO  of Estrin Legal Staffing and MediSums, medical records summarizing.

The World is Temporarily Closed: Communication, Onsite Work and Pandemic Productivity

Pandemic1The following is one attorney's view of how the pandemic has affected his work. Not everyone is having the same experience. There are some very scary stories out there, lots of successes, too many halls of shame and finally, acceptance. Here is Ted Wells, litigation attorney in Los Angeles.


Communication with Colleagues and Support Staff
I miss popping into my colleagues’ offices to chat or to hear their thoughts about how to handle this or that problem or motion. I miss impromptu coffee runs. But what I’ve lost in that sort of thing I’ve gained in group chats and Zoom happy hours. Now, instead of popping into a colleague’s office to get their take on an idea, I do so over the group chat. I miss the face to face, but this works. Much the same is true for communicating with support staff. E-mails continue to serve the same purpose as they did when everyone was in the office, and for those conversations where in pre-pandemic days I would walk over to my secretary and talk, I simply call. On that point, the pandemic made me do something I never thought I would, which is get a landline. My cell service is too bad at home to do business, so I got a landline at home that I use primarily for that purpose. It has really worked out and I recommend it.
Onsite Work
I don’t know of any firms that ask attorneys or support staff to work onsite, and given the ease of communication apparent from the last 10 months (has it really been that long?), I don’t see a good reason to do this. Opposing counsel in every one of my cases seems to have call forwarding from their office lines and some kind of work from home arrangement. Between cloud computing services, Microsoft Remote Desktop, and call forwarding, I see no reason to ask people to come into the office until we’re all vaccinated. There is real value in coming into the office, and it’s not just the impromptu coffees and chats with colleagues I mentioned earlier. However, these days, the risks of the virus pretty clearly outweigh the benefits of coming into the office.
Pandemic Productivity
I no longer have a commute. That saves me about an hour and a half a day. This has allowed me to dedicate more time to running, which is the primary way I blow off steam and deal with the stress that seems to be coming from every angle these days. As a litigator, I welcome the increased personal time, which is precious. If anything, my productivity has increased since I began working from home. I think this is the result of the increased personal time and consequent decrease in stress, but also simply not commuting has benefits of its own. It turns out that it is less stressful to not sit on the 101 twice a day, than to do so. I don’t look forward to traffic ramping back up once this is all over, but I do look forward to seeing colleagues once again. Here’s hoping that’s sometime soon.
Do you have a pandemic story you would like to share? Send it to
TWells Teded Wells is an experienced Los Angeles litigator with Romero Law, an employment law civil litigation and trial firm located in Pasadena that specializes in representing whistleblowers and employees in harassment, retaliation, and discrimination matters. Ted had five published opinions by the 5th year of practice. His firm has been the subject of recent international press coverage with respect to ongoing high-profile litigation.
Estrin.2020Chere 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:

One of my favorite stories ever.....


Young people forget that old people had a career before they retired.....

Charley, a new retiree-greeter at WalMart, just couldn't seem to get to work on  time. Every day he was 5, 10, 15 minutes late. But he was a good worker, really tidy, clean-shaven, sharp-minded and a real credit to the company and obviously demonstrating  their "Older Person Friendly" policies. 

One day the boss called him into the office for a talk. "Charley, I have to tell you, I like your work ethic, you do a bang-up job when you  finally get here; but your being late so often is quite bothersome." 

"Yes, I know boss and I am sorry and am working on it." 

"Well good, you are a team player. That's what I like to hear.”  

Seeming puzzled, the manager went on to comment, 

“I know you're retired from the Armed Forces. What did they say to you there if you showed up in the morning late so often?"

The old man looked down at the floor, then smiled. He chuckled quietly, then said  with a grin, "They usually saluted and said, Good morning, Admiral, can I get your coffee, sir?"


One of my favorite stories ever!

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing and MediSums, medical records summarizing. She can be reached at


7 Steps for Turning Uncertainty into Transformative Opportunity

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" – – 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 or call 301-875-2567.
To reach Chere Estrin:


To do list.....


   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.

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 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:
Lane County Government Assistance "Holiday Farm Fire" section.  
The Red Cross
Upper McKenzie Community Center (Standing and seeking to help residents)
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:


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.

FREE WEBINAR: Join us for our free webinar: “Back-to-the-Office Jitters”. Returning to the physical workplace? Unsure of what might happen? This dynamic webinar covers your fears, anxiety and misgivings and gives you tips and techniques to protect yourself while the pandemic rages on.”

September 30, 2020 10am Pacific/12:00 Central/1:00 EST. Register:

Here is what attendees are saying about our webinars:
“How to Avoid Getting Laid Off” was full of useful information presented in a way that made sense.”

“Thank you for the nuggets. I needed this because we are definitely not getting the wealth of powerful info from any other organization.”

“I really enjoyed your webinar today. I found it to be insightful and extremely helpful. It even helped me figure out what I should be working on next while this pandemic winds down. Thank you very much!”

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:

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
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:

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:



National Staffing Organization Opens MediSums, Medical Records Summarizing


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

For more information:

Media Contact:

Crystal Rose Bryan


                     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: