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Chere B. Estrin is president and co-founding member of the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP), CEO and Founder of Paralegal Knowledge Institute and Editor-in-Chief of KNOW, the Magazine for Paralegals. She is also a co-founding member of the International Paralegal Management Association and is a member of Women in e-discovery. Ms. Estrin recently founded a brand new paralegal association, the Paralegal Internet Association (PIA), which is a global community. In just a couple of months, more than eight hundred people from all over the world have joined PIA.
Ms. Estrin specializes in providing prominent publications and continuing legal education to paralegals, attorneys, e-discovery, and legal support staff throughout the country. This includes webinars, e-learning, customized instruction, and on and off-site training. She also specializes in litigation support, legal technology, and SME in legal careers.
Ms. Estrin served as a career advice columnist for and was named "Career Guru" for Legal Assistant Today magazine. She is the editor-in-chief of two e-magazines: the OLP eJournal and KNOW, The Magazine for Paralegals. Ms. Estrin has also written ten career books including The Successful Paralegal's Job Search Guide, The Paralegal Career Guide Fourth Edition, and Hot Jobs & Amazing Careers: Smart Moves for Paralegals. In addition to her writing engagements, she has established The Estrin Report, a blog that focuses on careers, trends, and success stories.
Ms. Estrin was an administrator in two major law firms and she is a former executive with a Fortune 500 corporation. She is a successful entrepreneur who has more than twenty years of experience in the legal field as an educator, speaker, author, CEO, and vice president of a five billion dollar corporation. Ms. Estrin has been interviewed by The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, The National Law Journal, The Daily Journal, Maxxim, Working Woman, Latina, Frontier, The Tennessean, and other prestigious publications.
Over the years, she has been awarded with several distinctions. Ms. Estrin was a nominee for the Los Angeles Business Journal, Women of the Year 2009. She is the recipient of Women of Achievement 2000 (Century City/Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce); Entrepreneur of the Year finalist (Inc. magazine); LAMMIE award for excellence (California Lawyer magazine); and Lifetime Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Paralegal Association.
Ms. Estrin is an energetic seminar leader. She has been a featured speaker for the International Paralegal Management Association, national and regional Paralegal Associations, the California State Bar, the ABA, Women in Business, the Association of Legal Administrators, the Ohio State Bar, UCLA, and Loyola University, to name a few. Ms. Estrin has frequently appeared on TV and radio. She has also led numerous retreats and workshops in corporations and top law firms throughout the country.
Ms. Estrin was born and raised in Los Angeles. When she isn't working, she enjoys watching movies, house hunting, swimming, losing weight, and spending time with her family. When asked about a recent movie she enjoyed seeing, Ms. Estrin stated, "Well, I did see the movie 'Fed UP' from Katie Couric this weekend. It's about obesity in America, particularly in children and teens. It was very powerful for me because I just lost 115 pounds."
Ms. Estrin's Successful Career
Ms. Estrin is president and co-founding member of the OLP and CEO and Founder of the Paralegal Knowledge Institute. Why did she decide to get involved with these two organizations? Ms. Estrin noted:
"There was a need for eDiscovery certification (re OLP). This is a new field with no standard or formal training at the time we started. There was also a need for centralized, formal continuing education for experienced lawyers, litigation support professionals and paralegals from professionals who were immersed in the field, education that was directly from subject matter experts and not from an off-shoot of a bigger company that specialized in many industries. I co-founded OLP with some amazing people and founded PKI with my husband. The Board of Governors for OLP is the most incredible, savvy, helpful Board anyone can ask for. They are top names in the industry. I'm very lucky."
She is the CEO of Estrin Education Inc. What type of services does her company provide? "Estrin Education, Inc. is the parent company for OLP and PKI."
Ms. Estrin is currently a member of the Advisory Council for the ABA approved Paralegal Program at the University of California at San Diego. What motivated her to join the Advisory Council? "They asked me to join because they wanted input from someone with global experience which I had."
She was a legal recruiter and a paralegal. Why did Ms. Estrin decide to enter the legal field? She explained:
"Actually, I wasn't just a legal recruiter. I created and owned the company and sold it after 2 1/2 years to a $5 billion corporation where I then ran their legal staffing division of 12 offices. Here's how I became a paralegal. True story: I was a producer and director of a theatre company that was on the road 45 weeks a year. I wanted off the road. I was in Seattle at the time. I opened the paper and there was this job that said Paralegal. There were not many paralegal schools then, so you really didn't need a certificate. I went on the interview and 'lo and behold, the administrator just happened to have seen one of my shows. So he hired me. I learned on the job - something that I do not recommend to anyone today. Because I loved the field, I stayed."
What advice would Ms. Estrin give to someone who wants to be a paralegal? She stated:
"Get the best education you can at the best school you can afford. Check out the reputation of the school and find out where they are placing their paralegals. You need to know if going to that particular school will get you a job. Shadow a paralegal first before entering. Understand what it is that you're getting into. It is not Law and Order or anything else you see on television. Nor, for that matter, is it the greatest test to see if you want to enter law school. Most people thinking that way do not enter law school. Find out what the salary is before you enter and get disappointed. Importantly, the paralegal position is primarily made up of career changers on their 2nd, 3rd or more careers. The average age of students is 36 - 38. Leverage your background. Remember that paralegals are above average in intelligence. They have to be or they couldn't work with lawyers. If you find yourself taking on routine and repetitious tasks, you are headed for burn-out. Don't be a victim to your circumstances. Learn what taking the initiative means. It will help you immensely."
What information does Ms. Estrin wish she had when she was starting out as a paralegal? She acknowledged:
"First of all, no one told me I wasn't going to make partner. Seriously. It's a tough scene for someone who is ambitious and competitive not to have a defined, upward career path. That upward climb does not exist in most law firms. Corporate legal departments tend to offer more opportunities. You can become a VP as long as the legal department is not considered a step-child. The paralegal field, so far, has been primarily a horizontal, outward reach. I wish I entered the field knowing how creative and innovative you could be. I found out as I went along. People have just the opposite view when they think of law and stuffy old law firms. The field is still new and there are plenty of opportunities to create brand new positions."
What does she think are the keys to becoming a successful paralegal? Ms. Estrin asserted:
"Leadership skills are important. People confuse the fact that paralegals must be good team players and so therefore, leadership skills are unimportant. Not true. Those paralegals with an eye to the future doing something about it are valuable. The legal field is not known for rapid change. In fact, lawyers resist rapid change. I also think that you can't underestimate the value of continuing education. Learning does not stop with getting a paralegal certificate. In order to be successful, you have to be on top of the latest and one-step ahead of everyone else. I speak with too many paralegals who think that a) if the firm does not pay for my continuing legal education, I'm not going to go pay for it myself. My response? Give up your Starbucks. Then there's the common, 'I'll only take the minimum required, if any;' some are famous for saying, 'Well, they don't do that at MY firm, so I don't need to know xxxxx.' Finally, the excuse I hear the most is, 'I don't have time.' My advice? Get up an hour earlier. Excuses and their consequences cause you to be really sorry in the long-run, believe me."
What does she think makes the difference between a good paralegal and a great paralegal? "People say 'go the extra mile.' How boring and vague can you get? The difference between a good paralegal and a great paralegal is in the execution and delivery of assignments. The great ones have the knowledge, expertise and the acumen to get the job done."
What's one of the things that Ms. Estrin finds most challenging about running her businesses (OLP and the Paralegal Knowledge Institute)? She replied:
"Where is the time? I love what I do. Because of that I take on too much. The businesses are demanding, exacting, and require top-notch performance every single time without fail. We work with many major firms and Fortune 1000 corporations who are not forgiving. Not ever. They want the best, they deserve it and we strive to give it. That means hiring the best instructors, designing the best courses and webinars, and creating a workable environment for adult learning."
What would she say was the most important thing she learned as a paralegal? Ms. Estrin said:
"That I was really an entrepreneur. I compare that to when I was a Paralegal Administrator and built a paralegal department within one of the top entertainment firms at the time in Los Angeles. I took my entrepreneurial skills from the theatre company and applied them: you get an idea for structuring and building a show - you get an idea for structuring and building a department. You get the actors - you get the staff. You get it up and running and the reviews come in. That's what we call leveraging your background - very important for paralegals."
What is the best part of her job? "The people, people, people. The feedback when someone tells me that what they learned in OLP or PKI helped them move their career forward. I feel rewarded when I learn that what I do is important to someone else."
What does Ms. Estrin have a knack for? "People have said that I have the 'midas touch' by leveraging arenas in the legal field into successful businesses. I think that is somewhat exaggerated and am humbled by it. I personally think my knack is for implementing ideas and turning them into realities."
What does she think about the paralegal field in California today? What would Ms. Estrin change about it? She admitted:
"California is one of the most progressive states when it comes to paralegals. That mandatory hiring requirements and mandatory education was implemented says a lot towards how California paralegals are seriously setting standards where none previously existed (and still don't exist in most states). Anyone who wanted to could call themselves a paralegal. Put that up against a lawyer with a B.A. degree and 3 years of law school, who has no time to train you, and what would you get? Degenerative performances. What would I change? I would change the lack of upward mobility and pattern the paralegal field after the nursing field: give paralegals a chance to become what nurse practitioners and physician's assistants are to doctors. Give paralegals something to reach for and require the education to back it. Clients can only benefit from it."
If Ms. Estrin were not in the legal field, what would she most probably be doing? "I was unaware there was anything besides the legal field."
Where does she see herself in five years' time? "Sailing off to Greece with my wonderful, wonderful husband."
Mentoring a Number of People, The Estrin Report, Writing Engagements and People Who Inspire Ms. Estrin
Does Ms. Estrin consider herself a mentor? "I am actively mentoring several people right now. Believe me, it's not the easiest role to assume. I learned that it's a whole, complex science."
What is The Estrin Report? "The Estrin Report is a blog I have been writing since 2005. It concentrates on trends, careers, success stories."
Will she continue her writing engagements? Does Ms. Estrin plan on writing another book? "Writing is a passion. I am working on a new book now on Virtual Attorneys and Support Staff. What some consider the future is actually here now."
Who inspires her? "My father is my number one inspiration. He viewed everyone as someone who could teach him something. He could talk to a neurosurgeon and talk to the guy down the street. Everyone was a teacher to him. He learned from everyone and judged no one. That's a hard act to follow."
Biggest Concern from the Legal Profession, Accomplishing Tasks, Receiving Awards and Her Goals
What is the biggest concern Ms. Estrin hears from individuals in the legal profession? What does she advise them to do? "Post-recession workers are carrying scars. I hear how hard it is to 'do more with less' and fears about job security. I also am hearing a tremendous amount of real incidents of age discrimination. Who would think that age discrimination would exist with people who are in the business of carrying out the law?"
How does she accomplish all of her tasks while running her businesses? "I am passionate about what I do. My mantra is that you have to get up in the morning and love what you do. Everything else takes care of itself."
Over Ms. Estrin illustrious career, she has won several awards. How does it feel to be recognized for her work? "It's very humbling, believe me."
She has accomplished a lot in her career. What's next for her? "I actually have a new business in the works with my mentor. However, My fantasy for the future is to segment out just the areas that I love the very most: writing and speaking engagements, which are the most fun. I suppose I should be thinking about retirement, but that seems remote."
What to Expect When Working with Ms. Estrin
Ruby Manawis, a paralegal stated:
"Chere Estrin is simply the BEST in our field. Chere is someone whom I admire immensely not only because of her expertise but because she finds ways to assist, inspire and encourage those of us just starting in the paralegal field to soar and be successful! Chere is a valued mentor, admired for her continued dedication in promoting professionalism in the paralegal world. What an honor to have her as my mentor and to be called her friend! You make us all proud, Chere. Thank you for ALL you do for us."
Robin Elizabeth Margolis, a freelance writer, blogger, editor and proofreader for health care, law, business, science and medicine noted:
"Chere Estrin has been a tremendous help to paralegals like myself in helping our profession grow and specialize. She has written books, started organizations, and worked tirelessly. She was very generous with her shrewd advice and assistance to two groups that I founded, the Association of Intellectual Property Paralegals and the E-Discovery Paralegals Network. She has our undying gratitude!"
Marnie Carter, Western Regional Director for Women in Ediscovery, said "Chere is known in the legal industry as one who encourages others and recognizes talent. She is available to answer any question and always makes herself available. Her ability to provide resources, knowledge and top notch training and education is invaluable. If you need tools to further your career in the legal industry, contact Chere!"