HR Manager, attorney, paralegal, marketing manager, may describe your role but it sure ain’t fun.
By Chere B. Estrin
COVID-19 has led a lot of people to search for a brand new position. The problem is, those brand new positions may be sporting brand new titles and you haven’t a clue what to look for anymore. Let me give you an example: A couple of months ago, my client, one of the biggest law firms in the world, called me and told me they wanted a “Professional Development Innovative Specialist.” and that they had been looking quite awhile with no success. They look at me and my team as really specializing in hard-to-find candidates and let me tell you, we have worked hard for that recognition,
But, when I heard that, I was between a rock and a hard place. The cone of silence had descended. You could count down, “10, 9,8, 7,……” with not even a peep on my end. I absolutely did not want to admit that I had no idea what a Professional Development Innovative Specialist is. I am, after all, supposed to be a career specialist.
But in the face of good client service, I wanted to maintain my reputation. “Of course”, I said, hoping I was smiling. “Professional Development Innovation Specialist role. My team will get right on it.” “Great”, said the HR Manager. “We are in a hurry to hire and would like to see resumes starting next week.” Starting next week??? Seriously?? I had no idea what this was, who hires, what industry it was in much less why it belonged in a law firm. I sincerely doubt you can list this job in Indeed under Professional Development Specialist and get a whopping number of applicants. Back that truck up, Al and dump those resumes off. What happened to Attorney, Paralegal, Administrator? Where did those positions go? “Can you send me the job description?” I asked. Maybe that would have a clue.
I got the job description, all righty. I combed through it to trying to pick up some semblance of familiar lingo. It said something about “Collaborates with colleagues in Innovative Strategies”. Terrific. What the heck is innovative strategies?
I googled it. The definition said, “An innovation strategy is a plan used by a company to encourage advancements in technology or services, usually by investing money in research and development activities.” OK……technology. Is this someone who buys software for the firm? Couldn’t be. I read further, “An innovation strategy in business is defined as a commitment to a common innovation mission and a structured set of activities designed to support the future growth of an organization.” This was getting me nowhere. I had no idea what innovation meant in the context here. In my mind, it meant someone who was being creative. Obviously, I was missing the newly created boat.
The dictionary said, “a new idea, method, or device or the introduction of something new”. OK, now we’re getting somewhere. I read the job description further: Develops and implements learning solutions to address identified gaps or challenges to assist lawyers with learning about and adopting innovation tools.
There it is again, innovation tools. Oh, lordy. I am not getting the meaning of “innovative” in this context. This could cost me minus 10 points in my recruiter’s file.
“Back that truck up, Al, and start dumping those resumes out.”
Reading further, the job description finally gave me a clue because certainly the title remained a mystery: “Manages vendor relationships on innovation, research tools/product training programs. Coordinates and collaborates with vendors to provide training on the firm’s tools or resources”. And:
- Provides training for new attorneys on the various research resources including Lexis, Westlaw, Casetext, etc. Monitors attorney’s usage of these tools at 3, 6, 9, and 12-month intervals Aha!!! Research training……
- Then: Reviews and edits existing training documentation. OK, now it’s beginning to look like a research trainer. Who the heck trains in research outside of law school? Then I read the skills needed: “Demonstrated expertise with law firm research, innovation tools and solutions including Casetext, Contract Companion, Westlaw/Lexis, and Lexis Search Advantage.
- Proficiency in facilitating training programs in classroom and virtual environments.
- Proficiency in the application of instructional design, curriculum design and adult-learning principles.
Clearly, this was a job for an instructional trainer with a specialization in legal research. That must be it. I immediately went to work sourcing candidates. I could not come up with anyone with a title of Professional Development Innovative Specialist, nor a trainer with a JD who could professionally train a group of attorneys and paralegals lacking excellent research skills. I began to panic. There was no one out there who could fit the bill. I searched the entire country. Sure, there were software trainers and vendors who could teach their software but that wasn’t going to work.
Then I read the requirements for the position:
Advanced degree in library science, research or a Juris Doctorate preferred. Bingo! There you have it – your old fashioned, can always rely on, totally knowledgeable – law librarian! That’s what this had to be. I started to source for law librarians with training background who could teach in a classroom setting, review and grade work, and used instructional design principles to – yep, teach.
Long story short: I came up with a number of excellent candidates across the country with the title Law Librarian. Buried deep in their descriptions of present and past positions were the golden sentences: trained attorneys and paralegals in a classroom setting along the lines of developing and conducting training on legal research platforms for summer associates, pre-bar associates, recent hires, and attorneys. Holy, moly! Ring that bell!
Somehow, my team and I managed to come up with around 20 great candidates, all with major firm background, JD’s and librarian degrees with 5 plus years’ experience. We actually came through and placed the Specialist with the firm. However, she was so experienced, they brought her in as a manager at a six-figure salary. I was told by the HR department that we were the only staffing organization that really came through for them. Well, yeah……..who the heck knew what a Professional Development Innovative Specialist was.
Which leads me to current trends in the employee morale boosting arena. Firms today are seeking ways to motivate employees and get away from boring, unimaginative titles that only tells a person just where they are on the organizational chart. These new, fanciful titles disguise everyday positions as fantastical – even mythical – opportunities. In the tightest candidate market we have ever seen, this is a brilliant marketing move. The old titles do not account for spirit, level of competency nor do they impact productivity. And, let’s step up to the truth table here. For law firms to be creative requires a huge leap of faith. They just barely got into computers.
Here’s a collection of our 2021 favorites gaining traction even in law firms:
HR and Recruiting positions:
- Talent Acquisition Director or Specialist – formerly an in-house recruiter or HR Specialist. Other titles include Talent Delivery Specialists, Chief Talent Officers, Contingent Workforce Managers, Hybrid Recruiters, Talent Scouts, Talent Identification Managers and Talent Attraction Consultants.
- America’s People Advisory Manager – National HR Manager
- Candidate Manager – Recruiter or HR assistant
- Cognitive Recruitment Assistant
- Global Head Attraction
- Global Strategic Sourcing Manager
- Head of Active Sourcing
- Director Talent Procurement
- Director Talent Strategy
- Performance Consultant
- SVP Global Talent & Culture
- Talent Champion
- Legal Assistant Support (formerly Legal Assistant)
- Support Assistant (Legal Assistant)
- Chief Ninja Officer (Attorney)
- Change Agent
- Culture & Digital Transformation Manager
- COVID-19 Response Manager
- HR Transformation Lead
- Partner in Change
- Corporate Wellness Specialist
- Remote Working Advisor
- Onboarding Specialist
- Onboarding Success Coordinator or Partner
Innovation and others
- Global Head of Workforce of the Future
- Global HR Lead Digital Transformation
- Group Head of HR Modernization
Employee Experience (Not sure what “Employee Experience” is….)
- Adventure Coach
- Employee Experience Architect
- Employee Journey Guide
- Employee Success Program Manager
- Happiness Activator
- Happy Officer
- Head of Employee Experience
- Chief Collaboration Officer
- Chief Hearts & Meaning Officer
- Chief Human Capital Officer
- Chief People Officer
- Chief People & Change Management Officer
- Chief Purpose Officer
- Director of First Impressions – Receptionist
- Wizard of Light Bulb Moments – Marketing position – very popular on LinkedIn
- Director of Fundom – Marketing Manager
- Chief Happiness Officer – Formerly the Complaint Department
- Software Ninjaneer – Software Engineer
- Vibe Manager – Administrative Assistant
- Competitive Intelligence Specialist – Someone who can check out the competition
- Chief Learning Officer – Someone in charge of in-house training and CLE
- Creator of Opportunities – Sr. VP of Business Development
I look at it this way. When we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up, we would say: Attorney, doctor, nurse, teacher, fireperson or something else that frankly, was pretty boring, routine and repetitious. (No one said, “When I grow up, I want to be a paralegal. That’s like saying “When I grow up, I want to be an actuary.”)
These days, you have to ride the horse in the direction it is going. Don’t be surprised if, when you ask your kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” they come back with, “I want to be either a Vibe Manager of All Things Awesome” or an “America’s People Advisory Director”. At least, you’ll know what it is.
Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top national and international staffing organization. She is the Co-Founding Member and Vice-President of the Organization of Legal Professionals providing online legal technology training.
Chere has written 10 books about legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur, Above the Law and others. Chere is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award, a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award and a Los Angeles Paralegal Association Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient She is a former administrator at an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: firstname.lastname@example.org.