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LEGAL STAFF TRAINING CORNER

Profile: Chere B. Estrin, CEO Career Coaches International [9-6-04 by Regan Morris] Thousands of paralegals, attorneys, and legal staff planning ways to get ahead in their careers look to Chere B. Estrin. She wrote the book - actually eight books - to guide legal staffers in their careers. LawCrossing talks with Estrin about her passion for training legal staff and her knack for building companies.

Chere B. Estrin started her career as a para-

but her talent, she says, is training people

fession is gaining a lot of professional recog-

legal in Seattle and quickly rose through the

and building companies.

nition. Attorneys are giving paralegals much

ranks as an administrator in two law firms.

more sophisticated kinds of assignments; so

She soon realized she had reached the top of

When her staffing businesses struggled after

her profession and became frustrated with

Sept. 11, 2001, Estrin started a new business,

this predicament. So she quit her job and

Career Coaches International, which com-

started her own business, a temporary legal

bined her skills. She coaches people in the

gram in Paralegal Studies, and aside from

staffing company based in Los Angeles.

legal field how to ascend beyond the stan-

her coaching business, she still handles

dard ceilings in law firms so that they avoid

some staffing business, placing highly expe-

routinization and repetition in their work.

rienced paralegals in elite law firms.

a law firm,” she told LawCrossing. “It’s hard

“People look for a vertical climb up when

The firms she works with tend to hire at-

to get ahead in an environment that doesn’t

there is none, and instead, they need to look

torneys from the top law schools, Yale,

allow you to move up. I mean even partners,

for a horizontal climb. So we teach them in

Stanford, Princeton, etc. Correspondingly,

once you make partner that’s it.”

the coaching how to have job satisfaction

they hire the best paralegals. She says the

and increase their responsibilities and their

bright people coming out of the best schools

Her staffing company was such a success

pay check by moving in a horizontal manner

can also be the most in need of professional

that she sold it to Spherion, a Fortune 500

rather than vertical,” she said.

coaching. She helps them with so-called

“Unless you’re an attorney, you cap out. So I

you really need to study,” she said. Estrin teaches at the UCLA Extension pro-

had pretty much gone as far as I could go in

firm, and became national director of the

“soft skills” - time management, stress

increased staffing unit. After a few years in

She says the legal field has changed dra-

management, and how to get ahead in their

the corporate world, Estrin grew antsy again.

matically via new technology over the last

careers - and even more substantive skills

Her entrepreneurial instincts told her it was

decade, which is why she has been updating

involving litigation and corporate skills.

time to start a new company, which she did in

her books. Legal staff, she says, are being

the form of a smaller staffing company.

given much more sophisticated assignments,

How does one get ahead in his/her career?

which creates a greater need for continuing

“The ticket is through quality work, educa-

Author or co-author of eight books in the

education. She also believes that paralegals

tion, and playing the right office politics,”

legal field, including The Paralegal Career

have a more prominent reputation and that

she says. “I think you have to be savvy in all

Guide, The Successful Paralegal Job Search Handbook, and The Attorney Career Guide, Estrin was the career-advice columnist for six years for Legal Assistant Today magazine and has written numerous articles for local and national publications.

clients are more likely to place more respon-

of that.”

sibility on the paralegal. She says many attorneys and legal staff beEstrin, who helps run Paralegal SuperCon-

come disenchanted with their careers.

ferences across the country to train people and help them network, says it’s not so easy

“It isn’t what Law & Order said it would be; it

to become a paralegal without the right

isn’t like TV. So we teach them how to cope,”

Estrin, who holds a Master’s Degree in Em-

education and urges people to complete a

she says. “It’s not the easiest thing in the

ployment Development and a Ph.D. in Human

paralegal studies course.

world to be in a law firm environment. It’s crisis management. You have to be either into

Resources Development, says it’s crucial for people to identify their talents and distin-

“It used to be that anyone who wanted to

that kind of mentality and positive about it or

guish them from their emotional passions.

could call themselves a paralegal, but that’s

you’re going to have a hard time.”

She was emotionally involved with the law,

not true anymore. Primarily because the pro-

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LEGAL STAFF TRAINING CORNER

She says you can’t be driven by fear to adjust and you should be able to meet daily crises because you never know if you’re going to trial or what the other side is planning. “In other words, your clients don’t call you because they’re feeling good,” she says. “They call you because they need you.”

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Chere B. Estrin, CEO Career Coaches International