How to be a successful virtual paralegal - just like Brenda Studebaker

StudebakerBrendaWhen you think about being a paralegal, the general picture that's conjured up is a bunch of attorneys, a paralegal an arm's length from those attorneys, a file clerk frantically looking for the document the attorney swears he never had, phones ringing, computers crashing (well, they do....), chaos, activity, energy, excitement and calm. Calm? Well, I thought I'd throw that in there.

Somehow, you don't conjure up a paralegal perhaps 600 miles away, doing your work, turning it in before the deadline, moving on to the next client, booking business, doing back office work, marketing, filling up her calendar months in advance and calm. Calm? Well, I thought I'd have to put that in there, too.

Meet Brenda Studebaker, virtual paralegal. Brenda is a member of the exploding cottage industry of virtual paralegals. That is, paralegals who no longer have to be 3 arm's lengths from the attorney to make him feel comfy, safe and satisfied that his/her work is going to be done. It's all on the Internet now. Zip, download, push button, send, Skype, run up to the Cloud or whatever you need to do to get the work done and into the attorney's ever filling computer. And let's not even go to where her job satisfaction has soared, her independence has strengthened and her income, well, we said we weren't going there but it's not a bad place to be.

Why does someone choose to work on their own? We're not talking about paralegals servicing the public. Let's not get mixed up those who prepare documents directly for the consumer. We're talking about real paralegals working directly for the law firm only they work from their own offices or even their home office. It's becoming a big business, particularly for the mid-size, small firm or solo. Who needs to pay for office space anymore when you don't need a paralegal on a full-time basis? The large firms seem to be laying off a tad lately and the business seems to be going to the smaller firms who cannot afford to hire full-time all the time. Here's a perfect fit if the paralegal has a business sense and knows how to market a business. Brenda Studebaker seems to have caught on to this here-to-stay-business model. I spoke with her recently. Here are a few highlights of that conversation from a Texas-born, now Arizona paralegal with 3 great kids making it on her own in a successful business:

  CBE: how did you get into this business?
I have over 20 years experience in civil/commercial litigation as well as various other areas of law (i.e. family law, bankruptcy, white collar crime, employment, and others).

I actually got into the legal field when I was in school for architecture and a friend of mine who owned and operated an employment agency asked me to help her out as a litigation paralegal for a week.  I was not at all interested as I knew nothing about being a litigation paralegal.  I gave in and fell in love with the law and have been a litigation paralegal ever since.
What makes you like it?
What makes me really enjoy what I do is the challenge especially with complex cases which are my ultimate favorite or any case that is interesting for that matter, the law and the many ways it has changed over the years and how it will continue to change, reading about various cases and situations, interacting with attorneys, clients, experts, witnesses and more, reviewing documents and learning everything about a case, as well as everything that comes with being a senior litigation paralegal, especially traveling attending trial.

Why did you go out on your own?
Over the years I have done a lot of contract/project work for attorneys/law firms and going independent was something I have always wanted to do.  Expanding my services throughout various states has increased my knowledge and understanding of not just the law but various cultures as well.  Being independent also gives me the flexibility for many things in life, including family and the ability to travel more for work.

What's your work history?
I have worked at various notable law firms such as Beus Gilbert and Mariscal Weeks as well as various other great law firms and attorneys.
What is your ability to work on your own?
I have an exceptional ability to work well individually as well as being a great team player.  I am the type of worker who will review a file and see what needs to be done and perform such work all the while keeping the attorney in the loop at all times and if an attorney prefers to provide direction I am well suited for this type as well.  Having a fully functional office allows me the ability to fax, scan, copy, communicate not only by telephone but email and SKYPE as well allowing me to not only work well, but have excellent communication locally and nationally. 
What is the difference between working in a firm and on you own?
Working on my own has been a great success not only for me but my clients as well, allowing me to work outside standard business hours.
Tell us a little about your background.
I was born in Texas and moved to Arizona when I was 12 years old but returning to Texas often.  

For as long as I can remember as a small child I wanted to work for various companies around the United States.  Having my own paralegal business wherein I specialize in offering my services to attorneys and law firms locally and nationally, has given me this ability.  Having a strong ambition to achieve a new title of a "national senior litigation paralegal (yes, a new title for us paralegals who desire what I do)" is what I am working towards achieving and will soon.
What type of work do you do as a virtual paralegal? 
I specialize in complex civil litigation as this is where my true passion lies, however, I offer services in various other areas of civil/commercial litigation.
Of course, everyone wants you to give your best advice to those getting into the field.
If your desire or dream is to be a paralegal and/or have your own paralegal business, do not give up.  You may get knocked down, and often, but successful paralegals always get up and keep going, working towards their dream.

5 Ways to Talk to the Bully at the WorkPlace

Our guest blogger today is Mark Gorkin, The Stress Doc.

Bully.buttonHow to Talk to the Bully:  Five Strategic Tools, Techniques, and Tips 

Now that we have a definition of bullying and some key psychosocial conditions that encourage this often demeaning, ego- or power-driven, and manipulative process, let's continue with the final segment...How to engage and set limits on the bully and bullying interaction by employing absurdity and metaphor:

  •  Be Affirming with Realistic Expectations
  • Be Courageously Absurd and Use the Power of Metaphor
  • Announce an Intention to Bring in a Third Party
  • Facilitated Confrontation or Conflict Mediation
  • Purposefully Walk Away to Fight Another Day

 2.  Be Courageously Absurd and Use the Power of Metaphor.  A quick review of synonyms for.  "absurd" include ridiculous, silly, strange, illogical, meaningless, bizarre, and incongruous.  If "reasonable" is its antonym, then absurd, while "unreasonable," may also border on the paradoxical and the imaginative if not the "out-rage-ous."  And creatively transforming fear and paralysis is one way to surprise an antagonist while nurturing hope, heart, and courage!

 Years back, I was engaged in some family therapy with a single mother and her ten-year old son.  Curtis,  a quiet, shy, overweight artistic youngster hardly saw his father.  Not surprisingly, he was emotionally tied to his mother.  A caring mom and a talented seamstress, Joanne radiated both loneliness and anxiety. The presenting problem was that kids in his class frequently teased Curtis, calling him a "Big Butterball Turkey" (then a popular TV commercial product).  With eyes downcast, he nodded when asked if this bothered him.

Early on in the interview Joanne mentioned that the school psychiatrist thought she really had the problem; Joanne made a point of saying she was not going back to see him.  It was clear:  mom was putting me on notice!  I recall acknowledging my needing her as a consultant to help me work with Curtis.

 Just so happened, it was approaching the end of October and a wild notion hit me.  Prefacing my idea as a bit strange, I asked:  "How about for Halloween going to school dressed as a Butterball Turkey?  Predictably, mom quickly dismissed the idea, saying the kids would just tease him.  When I countered, this was going on anyway...I asked Curtis what he thought.  For the first time, giving me hope, his eyes animated the heretofore mostly dour countenance.  And when I said, "I bet you and your mom could come make a great costume"...even Joanne was coming around.  Clearly, mom preferred being part of the solution to being labeled a major problem.  I also affirmed that while taking courage, working as a team, he could do it.

 And sure enough...Curtis was the star of the class costume party.  His classmates, being so surprised, instead of laughing at him, were now laughing with him.  Suddenly, in the face of conflict, Curtis saw that by poking fun at himself, he preempted the aggressors.  He made himself less vulnerable, less of a target for teasing or bullying.  The empowering covert message:  "I can tease myself a lot better than you all ever can tease me!"  Magically, being a "Big Butterball Turkey" became a metaphor for being imaginative and daring.  Now, others' words lose much of their capacity to hurt; they no longer are "sticks and stones."  (As a final aside, I recall eventually turning this therapeutic experience into a circa 19th c., Eastern European, "Wise Old Rabbi" tale, with me in the role of the venerable sage and Benjamin as the young Jewish outcast.   My closing punch line:  You might even say that Benjamin, by being a "Big Butterball Turkey"... was no longer a "Little Kosher Chicken!")

 Making Fun of the Frenzied

 Here's another unexpected benefit of humor -- the power of distraction.  The setting:  seated in a movie theatre about to watch Terminator II: Judgment Day.  Actually, the lights had just turned dark in the theatre and Terminator I highlights were on.  Suddenly, a technical difficulty occurred.  The sound went off and the picture kept rolling.  Well, as you would expect from a Terminator II crowd, the audience was a model of patience and civility.  Yeah, right!!  The place started erupting.  People are whistling, shouting, stomping their feet and, very quickly, throwing everything you can imagine.  It's getting a little scary, especially as there's no sign the projectionist or theatre management have a clue.  An impulsive idea hits.  I take a deep breath, screw up my courage, stand up (with objects whistling about me) and shout:  Terminator III: The Movie Audience!

Well, I must have had an impact, as the bedlam slows and laughter breaks out.  I had momentarily distracted the mayhem...just long enough, luckily, for the technical glitch to be repaired.  I consider this one of my most dramatic group and clinical interventions:  getting a Schwartzenagger horde to return to its pre-pandemonium, latent state of aggressive hypermania without resorting to involuntary medication.  Today's moral:  When the unexpected occurs, keep your finger on the absurdity trigger.  You just never know when you'll have to distract a mad creature or quickly disarm a maddening crowd.  Once again, seek the "higher power" of Stress Doc humor: May the Farce Be with You!

 Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a national keynote and webinar speaker and "Motivational Humorist & Team Communication Catalyst" known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN programs for both government agencies and major corporations.  A former psychotherapist, “The Doc” is a training and Stress Resilience Consultant for the national TrainingPros and The Hays Companies, an international corporate insurance and wellness brokerage group.  He has also led “Resilience, Team Building and Humor” programs for various branches of the Armed Services.  Mark, a former Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service and is a recognized Critical Incident/Trauma Debriefing expert.  The Stress Doc is the author of Resiliency RapPractice Safe Stress, and of The Four Faces of Anger.  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.

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Legal Careers RX, and President & CEO of C.B.Estrin & Associates, the Legal Technology & Paralegal Staffing Organization that launches next week! President and Co-Founding member of the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP), Estrin has led the drive for the eDiscovery Certification Exam and the International Practice Management Association. An author of 10 legal career books, she has been interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, ABA Journal, Newsweek and other prestigious publications. She can be reached at

Don't miss the complimentary webinar on July 24, 2015, This is How to Negotiate Salary. Register at Other training tools available. Only 100 seats available. Register today.




The Uberization of Legal Services & Why Ignoring It Wipes You Out of the Field

Richard Granat, a legal icon in this field, has written a blog piece that whether you are paying Uberization of Legal Servicesattention or not, need to know if you want to continue in today's legal market: I exaggerate not.

The Uberization of Legal Services

By Richard Granat on June 19, 2015    Posted in Law Startups, Limited Scope Legal Services, Unbundled Legal Services

Richard has been my "secret/silent/unbeknownst to him mentor/idol/well, you get the picture/now for 20++ years. Everything he does is in advance of the trends. Everything he does is right. Every move he makes is spot on. Here's the latest. I strongly urge you to pay attention whether you are an attorney, non-attorney or wannabee. It's one more time you'll be glad you did:

The legal profession will not be immune from the rise of the uberized economy. Consumers want to purchase only the legal services they need. This means that the trend towards offering “unbundled” or “limited legal services” will continue to accelerate as the most economical way for consumers to purchase legal service is by the “task”, rather than the hour.

Think of “task rabbit for legal services” – legal services at the click of a button on your smartphone.

The new virtual marketplaces connecting lawyers with clients for the purchase of specific legal tasks will also accelerate this trend. These legal marketplaces are a response to the inefficiency of bar-sponsored legal referral programs (the subject of another blog post to come), and the desire of consumers to have a more transparent way of selecting attorneys to solve their legal problems. The last few years has seen the ascendency of these legal marketplace platforms.

To name just a few of these new legal marketplaces, look at:

  • Avvo  – “Get legal advice from a top-reviewed lawyer on the phone – $39.00 for 15 minutes.”
  • Bridge.US – “Top attorneys and easy-to-use software that make immigration delightfully simple”
  • DirectLawConnect – “FInd a fixed fee online lawyer in your state now.”
  • Hire an Esquire – “Legal staffing redefined online.”
  • LawDingo – “You won’t believe how simple and affordable it is to get a lawyer;s help.” “$50 for a telephone consultation. Other projects for a fixed fee.”
  • LawGives – “Get free quotes and consultations from trusted lawyers in 100+ cities”
  • LegalHero – “Law Done Better. Experienced attorneys for your business at clear, upfront prices. ”  “No hourly rates. No retainers.”
  • LawKick – “Find the right lawyer at the right price”
  • LawNearMe – “Law Near Me offers an attorney referral service to help you find the legal representation you need in a variety of areas.” “ZocDoc for lawyers”
  • LawZam -“Free legal consultations by video-conference.”
  • LegalZoom – “Find an attorney you can trust for your family for $9.99 a month”
  • PrioriLaw – “lawyers hand-picked for your business.”
  • RocketLawyer – “Legal Made Simple”
  • SmartUpLegal – “Quality Legal For Startups and Business.”
  • UpCounsel – “Hire a great attorney for your business. Fixed fee projects”

Some seek to link consumers with lawyers who charge their regular hourly rates, but the marketplaces that will scale are those that offer limited legal services for a fixed fee, ideally powered by technology to keep legal fees low. These new vertical marketplaces will serve what Richard Susskind has called, “the latent market for legal services.”, but in the fullness of time, the “limited legal services” approach will move up the value curve serving small business and eventually larger business entities and more affluent clients.

Not all will survive as many cannot generate the traffic to justify the fees charged to lawyers or consumers to participate in a particular platform. Survivors will be those platforms that can generate consumer traffic and which can scale their offerings. A likely winner could be AVVO as it leverages its huge consumer traffic and large lawyer data base into delivering legal services for a fixed fee.

Some larger law firms will adopt this independent contractor labor model using contracted labor to perform tasks for their clients. This is already happening in the United Kingdom. See: Lawyers on DemandRiverviewLaw; and Peerpoint from Allen & Overy

The services that will scale the most will be smart legal software applications that can do a task for the fraction of the fee that a lawyer can charge for the same work.

As the idea of offering limited legal services goes mainstream, powered by these new marketplaces, consumers will benefit through more affordable, accessible, fast, and transparent legal services.

The legal profession, particularly solos and small law firm practitioners, will not benefit as much as the consumers they serve. Here are some of the negative consequences:

  • A downward pressure on legal fees;
  • More competition for solos and small law firm practitioners;
  • Lawyers will have less or no social structure to support collaboration and cross-communication with peers;
  • Newly admitted lawyers will lack the training and professional development structure for them to really learn how to practice law. (as law schools don’t really train lawyers to practice law).
  • Less organizationally sponsored fringe benefits for lawyers.
  • Loss of control of a client base, as clients are attracted and owned by the new legal marketplaces;
  • Reduction in the size of the legal profession as it becomes harder to make a living as a lawyer, with a consequent reduction in the number of law schools – particularly those that turn out lawyers for solo and small practice but continue to teach the a purely doctrinal approach to law and law practice.

Recent litigation in California where California judges have rule that the issue of whether drivers for Uber and Lyft are independent contractors or employees will have to be decided by a jury suggest that the new  rules the apply to the new ‘sharing economy” are not so clear. It will be interesting to see at some point in the future whether a group of lawyers -so-called independent contractors- might sue their platform provider or an AxiomLaw, on the theory that that the platform that they are using exercises so much control that they are really employees and entitled to the benefits of being an employee. See generally:  1099 vs. W-2 Employee Classification Infographic from Hire An Esquire.

Surely, the legal services industry is continuing to evolve driven by Internet-based innovations.

TAGS: Competition, law, Legal Fees, Legal Referral, LegalZoom, Marketing On-Line Legal Services, sharing economy,uber, uberization, Unbundled Legal Services

My Toughest Assignment - Ever

No one goes through childhood saying, “What I want to be when I grow up is a mentor.” That’s like saying, “When I grow up, I want to be an actuary.” It just doesn’t happen that way. When given a Successchance, believe it or not, not everyone wants the awesome responsibility of carrying someone’s future career in their hands. That is, of course, if you take being a mentor seriously.

I first learned of Jamie Collins when she literally picked up the phone, called me and told me that I was going to be her mentor. I’m sure she has a different version of the story but to me, that’s how it happened. I hadn’t a clue why had been selected. It felt like I was Glenda, the good witch. I didn’t even know her.

In my mind, she was some kid somewhere in Indianapolis, a state I still can’t spell properly and she had absolutely no credits I could get my hands around other than a strong desire to “make good”. She didn’t know me, and she didn’t know my background. I think she knew I was Editor-in-Chief of KNOW Magazine for Paralegals but I don’t think she knew I founded, designed it, and had 15 years of writing behind me nor that I had written 10 books let alone any other credible actions behind me. I think she just read a column and said, “Yeah, I choose her.” 

Yet, there was something about her that wasn’t going to let me say no. Here is someone who you don’t know targets you, tells you that you’re going to spend a great deal of your very little precious and  practically zero free time helping them launch a wildly successful career, who may ultimately end up to be your competitor and for the life of you, something about her appeals to you.

To this day, you haven’t a clue why and have never in all the time spent with her, worrying about her, praising her, getting angry with her, pulling your hair out over her, wondering when she’s going to “get it”, dissuading her to stop sounding like you, begging her to adopt her own style, not yours not once having ever regretted the decision. The only people that even come close to experiencing that kind of feeling are your kids and ok, marrying the right guy which I just got lucky enough to do. And that’s saying a lot.

The first thing that I learned about being a real mentor, one where someone didn’t just call you a mentor so you and she looked good, was that it took a lot of real work. You also had to be right on point, each and every time. The second thing I learned was: are you a mentor or are you a coach? It turns out, in Jamie’s case, in the beginning, I was more of a coach than a mentor. What’s the difference? Tremendous. But, as I’ve explained to Jamie over and over (and over) again….well, let me digress (and use a cliché, my first no-no-no).

A mentor is someone you can go to for guidance. They’ll impart a little information here, a little information there……they are role models, They expect you to follow their lead. They give advice. A coach, on the other hand, rolls up their Neiman Marcus sleeves well above the elbow, sticks their hands in your mess, pulls out the good, the bad and the downright oh-my-god-you- -didn’t-really-say-that- did-you??? attitude and teaches you how to do it. 

With Jamie, I was definitely a coach. I don’t care what she tells you. Maybe she eventually wanted to write a column or 10 books or get interviewed in all the national publications I’ve been honored to be in but I’m telling you, unless she learned how to construct a sentence every cliche in the Ladies’ Guide to Cliches and Other Ordinary Writing Phrases, I swear, she didn’t stand a chance. Ok, so I was a tad hard on her but no one under my tutelage was going to say she was my mentee and embarrass me. That was my first rule I made to myself if I were to take this project on and swore to abide by.

Her first piece she turned in (expecting to get published) in KNOW was a disaster. I think, like most beginners, she sat down, dashed it off, and thought ,”Wow, this is some good writing.” It had a lot of possibilities but it was a weak attempt to sound like every other piece that was out there. .A desperate attempt to fit in - kind of like gliding into the world of sounds-like-every-one-else-no-original-thinking-no-strong-opinions-I’ll-be-just-the-same-as-everyone-else-is-at-the-fifth-grade-level. <sigh> I get dozens of those submitted on a regular basis. If I was going to do this mentoring thing, we’d better get to work immediately right from the opening.

I wasted no time. She even came close to using “pink polka dots” but if memory serves me, that actually came from someone else. But it had a spark. A tiny little spark that said, “C’mon, Estrin, read into me just a bit further. See what I can turn into.” OK, it didn’t really say that. But something about it kept me going. It had me hooked.

I remember being hard on her. She kept telling me things like, “I can take it. Pile it on.” That wasn’t my normal approach.

This was one time I chose to believe someone was telling me the truth and not egging me on hoping I would be soft on her and compliment her because I was giving in. Not here! I had her rework each and every sentence. This was beginning to be a lot of excessive work I hadn’t planned on. I asked her, “What is the purpose of each line? Why does is segue into the next paragraph? What is the beginning, the middle and why does it end the way it does? What is the purpose? If you’re going to say what you’re going to say, why are you going around the meaning?” I was relentless. She took it. She was a boxer who refused to go down. Her writing improved and improved. “And for the last time,"  I insisted, “Get rid of those damn clichés.” Everything she wrote was a cliché.

What she didn’t know was that I was trained by a fellow who taught me the same way. Writing a piece with him was torture. I had either the fortune or the misfortune to have face-to-face sessions with him. There was no Skyping in those days. He was a former AP reporter who went on to be a journalist for major newspapers and then wrote books with well-known attorneys such as Gerry Spence.

By the time I got out of a session with him, I was shaken up and in tears. They were those big tears that dripped makeup down onto my white blouses and wouldn’t come out no matter how many times you washed the dang thing. Was that the way it was supposed to be? Heck, no. But I learned more from him in one session than I would ever learn from one nicey-nice middle-aged Barbara Cartland wanna-be adjunct professor in some Podunk college with 45 students in a 10 week semester.

I felt, for some reason, to pass that learning on to this yes, very talented paralegal who insisted on writing just like everyone else with nothing to distinguish herself from all the hogwash I was reading in paralegal newsletters. The type of welcome articles that kept telling me how much fun the last meeting was, how the membership was growing and how great the last meeting was. I always am on the lookout for originality and after reading so many, they all begin to sound alike. 

I began to look forward to receiving her work. This paralegal was going to be a star if I was going to give up my only free time after 12 -14 hour days of my own work and dedicate another couple of hours to someone else’s career. Heck, it was the least I could do. Frankly, for myself, let alone her. Who was I kidding? I wanted her to be as successful as she wanted to be successful. I was as determined as she was.

So when she asked me to write this article, I had to sit down and really come to grips with what made a good mentor/coach? Ego? Drive? Determination to pay it forward? Maybe all of that. I had never really thought about it. However, I realized that maybe what I was doing was not mentoring. Maybe I was coaching. I looked up the difference. Here’s what I discovered:

Differentiator #1:

Mentoring is relationship oriented. 
It seeks to provide a safe environment where the mentee (or mentoree) shares whatever issues affect his or her professional and personal success. Although specific learning goals or competencies may be used as a basis for creating the relationship, its focus goes beyond these areas to include things, such as work/life balance, self-confidence, self-perception, and how the personal influences the professional.

Differentiator #2:

Coaching is short term. A coach can successfully be involved with a coachee (apparently, there is such a word) for a short period of time, maybe even just a few sessions. The coaching lasts for as long as is needed, depending on the purpose of the coaching relationship.

Mentoring is always long term. Mentoring, to be successful, requires time in which both partners can learn about one another and build a climate of trust that creates an environment in which the mentee can feel secure in sharing the real issues that impact his or her success. Successful mentoring relationships last nine months to a year.

Differentiator #3:

Coaching is performance driven. The purpose of coaching is to improve the individual's performance on the job. This involves either enhancing current skills or acquiring new skills. Once the coachee successfully acquires the skills, the coach is no longer needed.

Mentoring is development driven. Its purpose is to develop the individual not only for the current job, but also for the future. This distinction differentiates the role of the immediate manager and that of the mentor. It also reduces the possibility of creating conflict between the employee's manager and the mentor.

Differentiator #4:

Coaching is task oriented. The focus is on concrete issues, such as managing more effectively, speaking more articulately, and learning how to think strategically. This requires a content expert (coach) who is capable of teaching the coachee how to develop these skills.

I had a theatre background. That meant we rehearsed a lot. You know those movies where you see, “Again. From the top.” And the actors or singers take it again and again from the top – over and over – and they don’t think anything of it? That’s how Jamie and I drilled. We tweaked. We changed. We crossed out paragraphs. We debated words. We changed meanings. And finally, finally, real product started to come forward. Let me correct that. Not just real product. Good, solid writing. Thank, God! Frankly, I was beginning to run out of ways to teach. I found that I was learning. I was stretching. But I knew she had it in her. I just knew.

Here’s what I learned. When I say I learned, I actually mean, I learned from this experience the hard way (as usual): 

1.      Find out why this person wants a mentor.

Do they really need a course or even a degree? Are they expecting you to teach them the topic from the very beginning? Or, are their needs a little more pedantic? They need to enhance their learning; support areas they may already know but are afraid to take steps. Perhaps they are unfamiliar with the territory and don’t know which avenue to take. If it seems that they want to use you as a college course instead of actually taking the course, by all means,don’t take them on. You should be acting more of a guidance counselor.Are you willing to share your expertise, experience and knowledge?     

Some people are not. You’re too afraid this person may end up leaving you behind. Maybe they’ll end up, god forbid, better than you. You have to be secure in your skills, reputation, abilities and most of all, your ability to still learn new things and unafraid to pass those new things on. Mentors are in a position to illustrate how the field is growing and changing and there are always still new things to learn. If you fell stagnant in your current position, you will not make a good mentor. You have to still be enjoying the time and energy you are putting into your career.

 2.      Are you respected in the field?

If not, it would be a good thing if you found out now. There’s nothing worse than for your mentee’s to tell their colleagues you are their mentor and to have them be stared blankly into their face with no more than an “oh”. I’m telling you, this is no way to build an ego – yours or theirs.

 3.      Are you interested in mentoring or is it a chore?

The mentee is going pick up that their phone to call or email to you and realize immediately they are a nuisance if you let this relationship deteriorate. You need to be willing to tackle the responsibility from the moment you say yes. It’s a long-term relationship. It ends when it ends and not before. (Oh, dear. Did I honestly just use another one of those nasty clichés?)

 4.      Do you know the difference between mentoring and coaching?

 In a blog from the Association for Project Management, I found this explanation:





Ongoing relationship that can last for a long time. To be really successful, the mentor and mentee need to develop ‘rapport’.  They often become friends.


Relationship generally has a short duration. ‘Rapport’ is not so important, although the client needs to be comfortable with being ‘open and honest’.

Can be more informal and meetings can take place as and when the mentee needs some guidance and or support

Generally more structured in nature and meetings will be scheduled on a regular basis.

Agenda is set by the mentee with the mentor providing support and guidance to prepare them for future roles or specific skills development.

Agenda is set by the client and is focused on achieving specific, immediate goals.

Revolves more around developing the mentee professionally, particularly regarding their skills and their application to the specific work context.


Revolves more around specific personal development areas/issues, perhaps related to behavior, attitudes or self-awareness.

More long term and takes a broader view of the person. Often known as the 'mentee' but the term client or mentored person can be used.


Short-term (sometimes time bounded) and focused on specific current development areas/issues.

 Mentoring and coaching Jamie was a joy. I know she pulled her hair out. I heard the frustration. I also heard the victory when she knew she got it right and she saw the difference from the first piece to the final.

As I watched her develop, she emerged as a professional writer. Her blog (The Paralegal Society) thrived. I saw genuine experiences expressed in creative and original themes. She got rid of the clichés (well, most of them – we can’t get rid of all of them); she gave independent thought to her writing. She used her background; she wrote from the heart; she developed a genuine sense of humor; she wrote from what she saw around her but most of all, she wrote well. Sadly, I saw that she really no longer needed a coach. I felt a sense of real loss. It felt empty without her.

She allowed me, yes, allowed me, to remain a mentor. While not on a regular basis anymore – she no longer turns in her articles for approval or bounces every single idea off of me – she reaches out to me frequently. I give her my honest opinion. She fires back with educated, well-thought out ideas and now, instead of only developing her professionally, we can hold intelligent debates. It’s thrilling, exciting and I look forward to it as much as I did when I was not Glenda, the good witch but the wicked old witch, redlining every word, questioning every segue, wondering how the heck could she turn a piece into an ending that had nothing to do with her voice to right on point each and every time. A piece that left me smiling or crying because she touched me. Hard to do, believe me. How I got so lucky to have been chosen by Jamie Collins, I still don’t know. My guess is, The Writing Gods must have been looking down on me that day I received that phone call.

 Chere B. Estrin is CEO of the Paralegal Knowledge Institute providing continuing legal education for experienced paralegals. She is CEO of Legal Careers RX, a well-known legal careers job hunting coach and strategist. She’s written 10 career books in the legal field, has been an executive in a $5 billion corporation is President and Co-Founding member of the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP). There’s a lot of other stuff but you can always Google her as well. That’s the beauty of the Internet today.

©Estrin Education, Inc. 2015 All Rights Reserved. Reprint by permission only.

Thinking of leaving the field? Try this instead.

5403003530_bc9d3d5914Recently, I was a speaker at the Los Angeles Paralegal Association's 19th Annual Spring Conference. The theme was the Paralegal Career - What's happening today; alternative careers and the ever-talked about licensing, registration and regulation. What can I say? It was informative, lively and eye-opening.

I was invited to be on the alternative careers panel. Oh, boy. Having taken one of the most unorthodox career paths in paralegal history, this is a topic I knew. There were going to be 3 people on the panel. A litigation paralegal doing something else interesting, a legal administrator who was never a paralegal and me. That meant 20 minutes each for the hour.

OK! I can do this! I did my research. I got in touch with my network. I interviewed a number of former paralegals all over the world and now had different titles and responsibilities. I poured a lot of hours into condensing a wide topic into 20 minutes. I got those new fangled PowerPoints so I looked on top of things. I went out and bought a brand new outfit at Neiman Marcus. (Spring-like, Tahari, make-you-look-thinner-type of thing.) Ok, it was Neiman Marcus, the outlet and I got it on sale. I even found out salaries (hard to get info). I load up my flash drive and I'm ready to go.

I arrived to find there were 5 people on the panel - 2 extra who were invited by mistake which meant if it ran precisely on time, not one second over and no questions, there would be exactly 12 minutes each. Oh, dear. I had a lot to say. Which 8 minutes would I cut? Obviously, some of the folks on the panel weren't too happy to see me either. When we sat down, someone next to me told me that I wasn't supposed to have PowerPoints. This was after all, she said, a panel discussion. She was practically hissing. I didn't know who she was but she certainly seemed annoyed with me. Great. I squirmed in my chair. If I squirmed any harder, my new Neiman Marcus Tahari all linen beige pants might split right down the middle. Then, of course, I wouldn't be able to get up. It's always something. All I could say was, "Oh."

I frantically searched my memory. It was totally blank. Totally. I had no notes and wasn't sure if I could do the presentation minus 8 random minutes without the prompting of the PowerPoints. I mean, I'm an experienced national seminar speaker and all but hey, I'm up there in front of 200 people being told the show has suddenly changed in the last minute and a half and some one who thinks I've taken her spot is chastising me under her breath. I think I'm in trouble. My palms started to sweat. Not a pretty picture.

Just then, as I am sitting there wiping mud off my face, Bobby Rimus, the most wonderful association president in the world, comes over to me and tells me I'm scheduled to go last and we would put on my PowerPoints and we'll go over the hour. Don't worry about a thing. Somehow, I am no longer warm, wonderful and charming. At least for just a second. I set a Cheshire grin on my face and turn to my colleague. I don't say a word. I just grin. But truthfully, I was really glad I had given myself an extra dose of Secret that morning.

The other four panelists turned out having interesting things to say. The Legal Administrator, Luci Hamilton, had originally immigrated from Brazil to the US without knowing one word of English, spoke six languages and ended up leading one of the most prestigious boutique employment firms in Los Angeles. She stressed how paralegals were generally lacking financial skills. If they had that knowledge, combined with management skills, ability to size up situations, work with difficult personalities, and team skills, they were solid candidates for good career paths in HR and administration.

 Kai Ellis, a senior litigation paralegal talked about her foray into paralegal teaching. Here was an opportunity to exercise the benefits of your experience, gain the satisfaction of knowing you have assisted someone in their career and just feel great. Teaching also has upward career movement - besides writing opportunities, you can become head of a paralegal program or more.

There were two paralegals from a well-known major corporation, Disney. They talked about working for The Mouse. In-house legal departments have always caught the interest of paralegals from law firms. The myth is that the job is easier than one in a law firm. The reality is the job is not necessarily easier but the level of stress and politics is different. There are few, if any, billable hours, so the pressure on attorneys to make partner based upon how many clients they bring to the firm is non-existent resulting in less pressure on non-attorneys.

One of the in-house paralegals, Tamara Loveland, was in a hot, hot arena: technology. She rose from paralegal to head of the Litigation Support Department. This is a well-paying arena ripe for paralegals for a couple of reasons: professional technologists who also have a legal background are frankly, very hard to find. While paralegals have user friendly backgrounds, heavier technology skills are not that easy to find. Throw in management skills and the position becomes one that pays very well. I mean, very well.

The other paralegal, Yvonne Kubicek, spoke about the paralegal manager position. This is an interesting position as the job has changed over the years. Paralegal managers now have additional responsibilities than in earlier years. They may be in charge of other departments, They may have financial control over sophisticated budgets. They have more personnel responsibilities and certainly have more control over the workflow process and project management. It was interesting to hear her take on what it took to get into paralegal management. It is no longer the paralegal who does the best work who wins. It is now the paralegal who can demonstrate the best HR skills and understanding of the big picture - not an opportunity every paralegal is offered. This is one position a paralegal will probably have to seek training on their own.

It was timely that I was on the alternative career panel as I am adding an additional career avenue to my own career path: that of a job search strategist. With over 20 years in paralegal management, staffing, executive management, CEO and author of 10 books on legal careers, I realized this was something that I knew a lot about.

So, I have launched a new website, I am consulting with just a few select clients on job hunting strategies. Using the latest techniques to match the new norm job market, I have been coaching clients on the new way to write resumes, cover letters, answer tough interview questions, beat age discrimination, negotiate for the highest salaries, write a compelling LinkedIn profile, create a network that works and get your dream job.

So far, I have a 95% success rate. One person hadn't had a job in a year. Within one month, she had a job in a Fortune 1000 corporation. Another hadn't had an interview in months. With the new cover letter, she had 4 interviews lined up for the following week. I can't tell you how excited I am. Alternative careers can give you a boost even when you don't think you need one.

Oh, as for the paralegal on the panel who had the hissyfit, she didn't exactly apologize (which upon reflection, she probably didn't owe me). However, she did ask for a copy of the PowerPoints. I mean, what more can you ask for? My new BFF.

I have a free eBook I've prepared on alternative careers for paralegals. I'd be happy to send it to you. For a free copy, drop me an email at You just never know. A little spice here, a little spice there. It's good for the soul, believe me.


Still Thinking About Licensing Paralegals? Hogwash. Old School Thinking.

Winners.don't quitJust about every week, the question of whether to license paralegals comes up. What never comes up is the real "why". Oh sure, you'll hear ramblings on and on as to the pros and the cons. The reasoning includes how paralegals are supposed to come under the supervision of attorneys anyway (as though this relieves them somehow of major responsibility); whether it should be statutory licensing or certification; how it will help to ensure minimum qualification standards for the profession; result in paralegals gaining greater personal respect from attorneys and maybe even result in higher pay. I just read an interesting blog that quoted all of these reasons ( with some good points. However, it missed the main point entirely.

Licensing may establish minimum qualifications, but that won’t necessarily help you land the job. Attorneys will still rely on your resume to identify specific skills and work experience when they’re considering you for a position.

All of this, in my opinion, is hogwash. Yes, my friends. The debate about licensing at this stage in the game is ridiculous. Why? Because it puts the cart before the horse. Before anyone can run off and start yelling, "get licensed! get certification! get registered!" a lot of work still needs to go into the movement. The one thing that is missing?  There are no standard entrance requirements to be a paralegal. And you want to license a field that lets anyone in? Let's license doctors with high-school educations who know medical terminology and somehow wangled a two-year internship in a hospital. Or better yet, let's license attorneys with high-school educations who worked in the firm's mail room, read all the pleadings, took a prep course and passed the bar. Oh, wait a minute. California used to allow that.

Before the big debate on whether to license paralegals, first things first. (Be very clear: I am NOT talking about legal technicians giving services directly to the public. I am talking about paralegals working in a law firm.) Get across-the-board mandatory requirements to enter the field and finally make the paralegal profession a genuine, definition of a profession - not a "para" profession. Just like teaching. There are no "para-teachers". Just like nursing. There are no "para-nurses."  Just like attorneys. Hmmm.....there are "para-legals....." Right now, there are no mandatory requirements for paralegals to enter the field. Every state, every city, every law firm, every attorney, has different requirements as to the responsibilities of a paralegal - meaning the duties they perform. Each one has different standards as to what educational requirements are necessary for hiring. Never mind what the definition of a paralegal is from the ABA or NALA or California. Who is quoting uniform entrance requirements to the field? How on earth can you license something without a base foundation?

So far, there are no uniform mandatory educational requirements to enter the field. On what reasoning can you license someone when anyone, and I mean anyone, who meets years of experience (or not) and on-the-job training (or not and if they do, may be sketchy at best) can get licensed? And mind you, I am at the forefront of two very-well known certification exams: the OLP eDiscovery and Litigation Support Certification Exams. However, these exams are offshoots of sub-specialties and examinations of skills resulting from a particular job, not the job itself.

To answer the question of licensing: This debate has been going on for years. Right now, frankly, this is the cart before the horse. People talk about licensing without any concept of the backlash to the job, the public and the practice of law.

I personally think that the paralegal field will surprise all of us and head towards another direction entirely. It will follow the nursing model. Licensed nurses must still be under the supervision of a doctor. In the same manner, the fact that unlicensed paralegals must be under the supervision of an attorney does not let paralegals off the hook in terms of responsibility. The doctor is ultimately responsible, just like the attorney. Here's how I think it will end up:

  • There are Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants who have extraordinary education and experience: Master's Degrees; certifications; entrance requirements to the field; years of experience coming up the ranks; continuing education and more. They are allowed to make a simple diagnosis and write certain prescriptions up to a particular point where they then turn the patient over to the doctor.
  • The Registered Nurse: 4 years of nursing school; a BA degree and internship. They become registered through certain exams and complete an internship.
  • The Certified Vocational Nurse: Nursing school plus a certification exam. 
  • The Licensed Vocational Nurse: Nursing school plus sits for licensing exam. 
  • Nurse's aide: training in vocational school. Each state is different and may have other positions such as Certified Nurse's Aide.

All are under the guidance of the doctor.

The paralegal field will follow similar suit: 

  • The Attorney Practitioner: BA/BS degree; graduate school; 1 or 2 years of law school; able to perform previous attorney assignments: perhaps take a deposition; assess a case; prepare certain documents; appear in front of a judge;  (in King County, Seattle, this has been done with paralegals for years on default judgments and more). 
  • The Certified Paralegal: BA/BS; paralegal certificate; required number of years in the field; plus sits for certification exam.
  • The Paralegal: BA/BS degree plus paralegal certificate.
  • The Paralegal Assistant: An AA degree plus paralegal certificate.
  • The Paralegal Clerk: Either an AA degree, no paralegal certificate or paralegal certificate and no college degree. Cannot move up unless an AA degree and paralegal certificate are reached.

The field will stratify according to entry requirements, education, years of experience and expertise which will in turn limit the types of duties a paralegal of certain ranks will be allowed to do. Right now, there is only entry-level, mid-level, senior level and paralegal manager in most firms. Paralegals are paid according to years in the field, modeled after the associate program. They are not paid for performance. Right now, a 10 year paralegal can be performing at the two-year level but paid at the 10 year market level.

 In order to move up, the paralegal will be required to attain more education, sophisticated assignments and years in the field. This is not an unusual concept and in fact, is used in hundreds of other fields resulting in vertical climbs up. Right now, there is virtually no vertical climb upwards for a paralegal. The career path, in most organizations, is horizontal.

Based upon how the field has progressed plus how the public has embraced the use of
paralegals AND the phenomenal growth of Do It Yourself Law, i.e., LegalZoom, the field is headed in an entirely different direction than originally thought.  Plain old licensing is old school thinking in this new norm. No one accounted for huge client push back on outrageous fees nor how LegalZoom changed client thinking. There has to be new, fresh thinking about paralegals and their career paths. There may be some variation on this theme but I'll betcha $.25 cents this is the way it's headed - and trust me, I never go more than $.25.

The Salary Survey That Can Ruin Your Career

I got all excited. The NALA salary survey was out. Time to find out what paralegals around the country were making.

And then the other shoe dropped. 

I'm not a statistics expert. I don't claim to be. However, I am an advocate of higher salaries. Frankly, I don't know of advocates for lower salaries. I started to read the "small print" in the salary survey and all I can say is, buyer beware or at least question the information your employer is using.

While the NALA survey is generally thought of to be a quality survey, I noticed that only 1,069 paralegals were surveyed. The small print says that "With a population of 100,000 to 150,000 the sample is large enough for a confidence level of 99%, confidence interval (margin of error) of 4." 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics claims that as of 2012, there were 277,000 jobs for paralegals and legal assistants. My little calculator says that 1,069 is .003 of the BLS stats and if we use the 150,000 population, it's .007%. I have a couple of questions here. Did the paralegal population drop almost 150,000 positions in two years? I mean, come on. There were a few layoffs here, a couple of mergers and acquisitions there but 150,000 positions?

Then there is the vast difference in small firms vs. large firms. The International Practice Management Association (IPMA) salary survey that came out last year claims that paralegal managers are making around $80 per hour.  The NALA survey says that some results were not considered in the analysis where the numbers were unreasonable. I don't know. Has anyone looked at major firm billings for paralegals lately? What do you consider unreasonable? If those billing rates and salaries were unreasonable, why are clients paying them? Someone, certainly, doesn't consider those unreasonable and I can assure you, anyone making in excess of $150k really doesn't consider their salary unreasonable.

Then, we have what I consider significant: the different regions all combined in a manner that has just got to make the inconsistencies stick out like a braying donkey.  It's called Southwest, Southeast, Far West, well, you get the picture. So states that pay bupkus and states that are rolling in dough are combined into some kind of magical geographical boundary. In some of the states that paid the highest, such as New York, only 2 paralegals answered the NALA survey. States that pay on the lower end, such as Florida had some of the highest responses. How the heck are we going to even that one out? For heaven's sake! Get those higher paying salaries in there! And what about the "working" supervisors? Those managers who are still supposed to bill time? Where do they fit? Part-time? Apparently, the NALA survey looks at primarily small firms while the IPMA survey looked at 9,500 paralegals from 298 firms but concentrates on large and mid-size firms. Then there's the fact that the majority of law firms in the U.S. are small firms. But the more attorneys in the firm, the higher the salaries seem to go. I'm telling you, my pretty little used-to-be blonde head is swimming over here.

Then, we have the issue of age. The NALA survey says the average age of paralegal is 48. Forty-eight? I need to drop doing my 5 Simple Steps to Beat Age Discrimination seminar because at 48, certainly no one is discriminating. That means there are paralegals older and paralegals who are younger. Maybe it's the gray hair. If you're 25 and you have gray hair, you get to get discriminated against. Do they still make Clairol?

I also want to know about those paralegals who have the title of "Legal Assistant" who are included in the survey. Now, lately, "legal assistant" is the state-of-the-art term in lieu of legal secretary. That's so that the firm can bill out some of the duties a legal secretary does. No client is going to pay for something a legal secretary does. They will if they are charged for something a "legal assistant" does. Are these legal secretaries filling out a paralegal survey or are these paralegals whose firms refused to change with the times and are left with the title legal assistant from the old days? I need a little clarification here, folks. 

Moving right along, I noticed that the average salary for a paralegal with a high school diploma was around $57,960. At the same time, the average salary for a paralegal with a Masters Degree was $57,123. So, if I get this right, the time you spend in grad school actually decreases your compensation. To think I could have spent that time at the beach instead. A nice pool boy spritzing me as I read a mindless novel instead of grinding though the psychology of attorneys acting like second graders wearing ties. Maybe it's that the high school diploma folks have more street savvy and get paid for it. It's a mind tumbler, that's for sure.

So, I contacted a colleague of mine, Scott Barnett, who is CEO of CareerNumbers, a salary survey company to find out his take on all of this. Here is what he said:

"It's important to do apples to apples comparisons when benchmarking compensation.  Salary survey's that collect the majority of their data from one sub-segment of the population, such as those employed at small firms, often misrepresent what the data would look like for other segments of the population, such as those employed at larger firms."

He did go on to point out that 1000 people is a good sample size for the paralegal population. That said, there's two places where you're likely to see issues:

-- biases to the sample (e.g., it over-representing paralegals at small firms)
-- sub-populations not having enough data (e.g., having 2 data points from a specific city is not nearly enough to know the pay levels for that city).
My conclusion? If you are in a small firm with 1 - 5 attorneys, the NALA survey just may help you. If you're in a large firm in a major metropolitan city, it could be a career buster. Well, a budget cutter at least. On the other hand, if you're in a small city using the IPMA survey, you might be down at the BMW dealer looking over that cute little two-door racer with the black interior. 
Since there are very few paralegal salary surveys available, my advice is to run right over to your local headhunter. That's right. Your local headhunter. Here are the folks with the most accurate information. National salary surveys can skew your local market salary. Some cities, such as Los Angeles, can be so finitely defined that paralegals working downtown can earn more/less than those working on the Westside (only 12 miles away). Who has that information? The person who is actually negotiating the salaries for the same positions over and over and seeing the full picture. 
I should have thought of that to begin with before I started with all this mishugas. In fact, now that I think of it, I'll be back.  Apparently, I have to go and make a few phone calls. I sure hope they'll take my call......


I Quit - In Stilettos. (It was epic)

Our guest blogger, Jamie Collins, sure does take chances. Burn bridges? Maybe. Comic relief? Oh, definitely. Here's her latest escapade:

Quit.I quitToday I'm here to tell you about one of the most powerful days in my life. It was transforming. Awe-inspiring. A day filled with tremendous personal freedom. It was the day I quit. I'm pretty sure you're prepared to read some humdrum piece about a colossally awful job, with a dreadful boss, and the day I belted out a song that included the words, "these stilettos were made for walking." This ain't it.

The day I quit, my entire life began to change. I began to change. I realize it wouldn't be fair to make a bold statement like that without telling you about that pivotal day in my life, so here goes: life changed...

The day I decided to have a great attitude and work hard.

The day I quit waiting for validation from other people and realized I needed to provide it for myself, instead.

The day I quit waiting for people and opportunities to find me and sought them out with a will to win.

The day I quit believing that someone else could tell me the best way to "balance" my own family, work, and life obligations, because the only person on the planet who could do that was me.

The day I began to believe in myself.

The day I caught a glimpse of my potential and made the conscious decision to use it up as best as I could on this short adventure we call "life."

The day I decided to quit worrying about things uncertain. Preparing for things unnecessary. And fearing failure. And decided, instead, to embrace these things in all of their former unappreciated glory.

The day I decided to quit wishing and start "wandering"—through life. Into adventures, lessons, a crazy culmination of experiences, mistakes made, and a whole lot of fun, too.

The day I no longer allowed negative people to occupy valuable space in my mind, heart, or inner circle, and bid them farewell on my way out the door.

The day I quit questioning whether my spot in the parking lot of life was good enough. Or big enough. It was then. Still is now. I have the power to make that spot whatever I'd like it to be.

The day I decided to rise up to chase my passion, pay homage to my talents, and inspire others as much as I could on my journey. Because it's a short one, even when it's long.

The day I decided the ONLY person who could tell me what I couldn't do, or could do—was ME.

The day I decided to write this post to share it with the world, because I had something to say.

Because I didn't quit after all. The truth is, I hope I never quit. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.

And I hope you don't either.

We've got a few more rounds to go—some of us in stilettos. It is going to be epic.



Jamie Collins is a litigation paralegal turned writer, who also quit believing she couldn't start one of the leading paralegal blogs in the country, so she did. Follow her on LinkedIn by clicking the button above or below this post. You can also check out more of her legal-based (semi-brilliant, not at all boring) writing on The Paralegal Society, or her personal musings on The Bloggingtown Post.

**Note to Readers: Thanks for taking the time to read this post! If it inspired you, all likes, comments, and shares are truly appreciated.

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Paralegal Knowledge Institute and President & Co-Founding member of the Organization of Legal Professionals. She has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and in the field, oh, lots of years.  She can be reached at

Where the Big Bucks are for Paralegals - and it can make you leave the field.

Show me an employee who says the money doesn't matter and I'll show you someone whose nose is growing. 

Cover.LegalProjectManagementParalegals are now facing a tremendous game changer - the advent of technology plays a significant factor in whether or not you make good money. Statistics show that paralegals without technology know-how earn fewer dollars than those that have the skills. That doesn't mean you have to be a programmer or expert, it means that those paralegals who continue to claim Microsoft Office Suite, Word, Excel and PowerPoint as their mainstays are so far stuck in the past, they may as well not come to work at all. 

I spoke with Bert Binder today. She's a paralegal turned paralegal career coach who recalls in 1999 when she was one of the first paralegals to be handed a technology position. It was unheard of back then. "It was an accomplishment," she says. "No paralegals that we knew of had ever been promoted into technology nor were they even expected to have graced that side of the computer." 

Time to get on the bandwagon, folks. Recently, the Cowen Group published its Ninth Annual Salary Study for compensation and hiring trends in Litigation Support and eDiscovery. Now, bear in mind that litigation paralegals are becoming hybrids. They need to know not only how the legal process works but everything you need to know about eDiscovery. And now, you're expected to understand the technology for litigation support, know how to utilize legal project management and have the soft skills of HR management to supervise the teams you're expected to lead. It's all changed - and rapidly.

It turns out that the highest paying non-attorney jobs are in eDiscovery and Litigation Support. If you're not on that bandwagon, chances are you're either getting paid less than those who are or you're on track to lose your job because you will be expected to know and pretty damn soon. Fact of legal life, folks. Fact of life.

So what does the Cowan Group report tell us? They surveyed all levels of employment including Technologist, Project Managers, Managers, Directors and Attorneys. The survey included responses from over half of the AmLaw 200 and corporations, vendors and mid-size law firms. There were 90 responses from corporate participants. 

The corporate participation showed that corporate law departments are keeping the work in-house. While the demand for eDiscovery talent is predicted to remain the same for most organizations in 2015, on average, 30% of firms, vendors and corporations intend to grow their practice groups. And here's the kicker: corporations are predicting the biggest increased demand is for Paralegals, Analysts, eDiscovery Attorneys and Consultants. Paralegals -listen up! If the demand for you is there - you're going to have to get the skills to do the job. It's that simple.

The survey also indicated that the level of certifications has significantly increased over 12 months for the Project Management Professional and Certified eDiscovery Professionals. Relativity Certified Administrator was the most widely held technical certification. Clients are listing the certifications as "nice to haves" particularly for Project Manager roles - a great career path for a paralegal.

Here's how the survey broke down. You can find the complete survey at:

Litigation Support Analysts:        $71 - 85,000

Litigation Support Specialists:    $81 - 100,000

Project Managers:    $108 - 135,000

Litigation Support Coordinators:    $101 - 125,000

Firm-wide Managers of eDiscovery:    $131 - 190,000

Firm-wide Directors of eDiscovery:       $175 - 375,000

eDiscovery Attorneys:    $125 - 240,000

eDiscovery Partners:    $213 - 350,000

If you are serious about moving your career forward, the best thing to do is to get training. Most firms cannot or will not get you on-the-job training.  Most firms, as are in this survey, are not AmLaw 200 or major firms and do not have the staff nor the resources to train you.

If you want to be able to walk into your firm and ace these positions, you have to extend yourself. Firm doesn't pay for training? Give them an analysis of their ROI - return on investment. If they pay xxx for you, you can double or triple their investment simply by billing at a higher rate for a more specialized position. Trust me, they will understand the numbers. Really, they will.

Go to the Organization of Legal Professionals or the Paralegal Knowledge Institute Take any one of the online classes: eDiscovery Project Management, Litigation Support Project Management, Managing the Litigation Support & Technology Professional. Sign up for $59 for a six month membership with OLP and get a ton of free webinars all on eDiscovery and technology to enhance the training. For heaven's sake, let your firm know what you're doing. Stick it on your resume as well. No one can assume you know the topic and if you do, you're going to have to prove that you're staying well up-to-date with the latest information.

We all go through career changes and we all have to keep up. Age has no relevance when it comes to staying up-to-date. It doesn't matter how old you are. What matters is your mind-set. If the world is changing towards technology and you absolutely, positively hate technology, you might think about changing careers. This career may no longer fit your hopes, wants, dreams and desires. Paralegals generally have problems giving themselves permission to change. In my mind, you have to do what you love because in the end, passion is the key motivator and driver of change. It's really not the money. Money is a short-term motivator - you get used to the lifestyle but truthfully - you never get used to the passion. 

Note to my readers: With 20+ years of fantastic experience in the legal field, I have recently been asked to do some career coaching. I have been handling a small group of clients and have had success beyond what I had hoped for! Either I've learned well (and the hard way!) or I have a pretty savvy group of clients! (Or both...)

I am taking on a few clients on Fridays and Saturdays - mostly on successful job searching and changing careers. There are hour sessions, group sessions, webinars, ebooks and lots more. It's an investment in your career. You hire a personal trainer, a therapist, a dog trainer. Why not do something for your career where you are for 2/3 of your time and your living depends upon?

Watch for the new website: coming this weekend. In the meantime, since I can only take on just a few clients, reach me at and book a teleconference. Here's the bonus: book two hours and I'll give you the third one's a great deal and a lot of fun!

 Stay happy.