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Discover What You Do Best: We All Have Something
published May 21, 2014
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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!"
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