In this episode of Lessons I Learned in Law Scott Brown speaks to Karen Shafrir-Vladeck. Karen was an Employment Lawyer in the US and has recently pivoted into a role in legal recruitment with Whistler Parters. Karen is the perfect modern-day example of a legal recruiter, with industry experience and a passion for building community. You may also recognise Karen from her TikTok skits with one of our previous podcast guests, Alex Su!
Karen shares the three lessons she has learned in law including:
Karen’s pet hate in the legal profession is imposter syndrome and she explains why she would banish it to Room 101.
Have a listen to Karen’s podcast called In Loco Parent(i)s where she and her law professor husband Steve, "discuss parenting and lawyering - in that order".
Presented by Scott Brown of Heriot Brown Legal Recruitment.
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Scott Brown (00:00):
Hi, and welcome to Lessons I Learned in Law with me, Scott Brown. I'm founder and director at Heriot Brown In-House Legal Recruitment. I'm a recovering lawyer. On each episode of this podcast, you get to hear my conversations as a sit down with someone, a top legal mind or someone cool from the, the legal industry as we break down the lessons that they've learned in their legal career to date. Hopefully you'll, you'll leave the podcast and, and listening today, armed with some useful information that takes you along your own career path that you, that you can apply yourself. So I'm delighted to be joined today by Karen Vladeck. Hi, Karen.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (00:39):
Hey, how are you, Scott?
Scott Brown (00:41):
Great. Thank you. Thanks for joining me today. I’ve been following your progress and all that you've been up to recently so keen to hear about your new start with, with Whistler partners and your move in to recruitment. A lot of interesting stuff to talk about. But outside of that, we'll learn about Karen's Parenthoods and her challenges that she faces, which she documents also on TikTok and in her own podcast. Which again, we'll hear more about hopefully later, but if you wanted to do a quick intro Karen, and introduce yourself to people over on this side of the pond.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (01:18):
Yeah. I liked how you said recovering lawyer. Cause I am too. So I am a recovering lawyer, as Scott just said, I was a litigator for 13 years. And I just recently earlier this month moved over to Whistler Partners. We are a recruiting firm in United States. It specializes primarily in technology in in-house in law firm, of course, and we we kind of work like at the convergence of technology and media entertainment and where all that stuff meets. I also place just like your regular run of the mill commercial litigators, but because most of my colleagues are scared of litigators. I get all the litigators because as a, as a former litigator, everybody thinks that that's the only people I wanna work with. My husband, Steve and I, who is a law professor at the university of Texas, we live in Austin.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (02:13):
We moved here after spending nine years in DC. We have two kids, Maddie who just turned six and Sydney who is three and a half. And we also host a podcast of our own called ‘In Loco Parents’, which is a podcast about parenting and lawyering in that order. And we have on guests like you do Scott to talk about their experience being lawyers and also being parents. So we have on these really sort of like fancy people who are only in the spotlight for their lawyering or their legal careers. And then we're, we're all talking about the great equalizer in this world, which is kids because once you have kids, they don't care where your degree is from. They don't care how fancy your job is. They don't care how many placements you've made this year. The only thing that they care about is that you are their parent. So it's been a really fun adventure to do that. Yeah, that, so that's really my background and bio.
Scott Brown (03:09):
Amazing. I think the podcast has felt like a, this series anyway has, has definitely felt like a parents club clubbing together with similar issues as well. So yeah, keen to hear more about that as well and how you balance, how you balance things, but we'll kick off and jump in with, with lesson one, if you don't mind. Karen. Yeah.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (03:40):
So I would say the number one lesson that I have learned, and I'm really seeing it now on the legal recruiter side is casting the widest net that you possibly can and seeing what comes back to you. That is advice that I have given to myself since law school. And it is advice that I give to at law students. And it's advice that I give to practicing lawyers. So at Whistler, our tagline is take the meeting. And I'm sure as a recruiter, you agree with that concept, which is no one wants to change jobs. Change is actually antithetical to the human condition. If you think about how we evolved as human beings, it was not to go from cave to cave, to cave. It was to find the cave that worked for your family and build around that because actually it was dangerous for us to go out of those caves, right?
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (04:34):
And now if you transition that to what a modern life is like, most people feel really, really comfortable in that shell, even if it's not perfect. And so the wider net you cast, the more opportunities are gonna come your way. So that's, that's absolutely what I've learned in law because every job that I've had has been some sort of either personal connection or somebody that I met because of something else or someone who had seen me on something. I know you mentioned that Alex Su was on the podcast last year. Alex is how I got connected with Whistler and Alex and I got connected because I just reached that to him on a DM, a direct message on Twitter saying, ‘Hey, do you want, wanna do a TikTok together’? I had never done a TikTok. And he said, ‘Sure’. So, you know, again, it's one of those things that the wider net you cast the better off you are going to be. So that would definitely be the first one.
Scott Brown (05:44):
I definitely, I definitely agree with it. I think as recruiters there, there's obviously a natural bias and people listening would would say, yeah, you would say that, but yeah, genuinely everything. I, I am a firm believer as well. Everything happens for the reason. And those meetings that you take with an open mind is, is the right the right approach.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (06:08):
But I also think as recruiters, it's like just casting a wide net and meeting people doesn't necessarily mean you're gonna change jobs. Right. So one of the, one of the things that we say at Whistler is like, if we end up going through the process and it's what makes you realize like your current job is perfect for you, then we also won, right? Because then when someone doesn't have a good job, they you're gonna refer them to us. We never wanna place somebody in a job just for the sake of placement. Right. And so casting that wide net, you may meet with somebody in house that in two years is gonna be like, ‘oh my God, I, I love meeting that person. Let me send cases to them’. Right. Whereas if you just say, ‘Hmm, I don't really think that I'm in a place to move or I don't wanna talk to people’ you miss out on that whole opportunity.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (06:49):
Right. And even if you have no intention of ever leaving your job and you're the happiest that you've ever been, you should still meet with people. It cast a wide net in your networking, right. It's not just about switching jobs or finding that next position. It's about how do you build yourself as a brand? How do you, you know, generate business? All of those things I did in law, even when I had no intention of leaving my firm. So, so that's yeah. That's my cast a wide net. See what comes back to you like a fisherman. Yeah.
Scott Brown (07:15):
Yeah, definitely. It's good. What about, I dunno, lawyers in private, for instance, that they're, they're maybe not incentivized to do that. Like they're not rainmakers or out to develop business.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (07:27):
Yeah. And there are people who, there are genuinely people who business development is like the last thing on earth that they wanna do. And that would be my husband, Steve. So he and I joke that we are lawyers on two polar opposite poles. We have the person who loves business generation, loves talking to people, loves like solving those everyday problems. Lots of phone calls. I love when my calendar is filled from 9:30 to 5. And then you have my husband who wants to sit in a room, write a brief, solve a legal issue, explain super complicated legal principles to people, but he still has a super wide network. It's just people who are in that same place or who wanna learn from him or who, you know, value his expertise. And he just does it in a different way. So when I say a cast, a wide net, it doesn't necessarily mean in the way that I was describing it of like business generation and networking to that next job. It means finding people who are interested in the same things as you, who, when you need something or they need something they can call you and rely on you.
Scott Brown (08:37):
Yeah. Yeah. That's good. What approach did you take to recruiters when you were in the position of the, the hunted rather than the hunter?
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (08:50):
I was like, I just ignored them, just like everybody ignores me. Right. I mean, look, I think that one of the things that I've learned being quote unquote on the other side is like the, recruiter's just trying to do their job. And I reach out to people because I genuinely believe in the jobs that I'm trying to place them in. And you, as an in-house recruiter, I know that that's true, right? Because you wouldn't take on a job… you know, we don't specialize in in-house recruiting. At any point in time we probably have like 25 or 30 in-house jobs. But most of the time when I'm reaching out to someone, it's because I'm reaching out to a firm where I notoriously know that there could potentially be happier somewhere else. Right. We don't reach out to people at firms where we regularly place that a, because it would violate our agreement with them.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (09:35):
But B because I actually do think that not all firms are created equal. And if I can help someone get out of a firm where they're getting crushed and billing 2500, 2700 hours a year into a practice that they really wanna do, that's a success for me. And if someone doesn't want that, like that's on them, right. If they don't wanna answer recruiters. And I think every person has different needs in a recruiter, some people really just wanna get to the highest paying possible job. And then some people want someone who's gonna kind of hold their hand every step of the way. One of my candidates this morning texted me and said, I put this up on LinkedIn this morning. And she said, you're like the fairy godmother of legal recruiting. And it reminded me of like the bippity boppity of, you know, from Cinderella, because I literally am texting with her about what should I wear to my interview?
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (10:26):
What should I, you know what I mean? And I think when you're doing law firm placements like that, and you get so ingrained in that candidate's life and they're making such a huge decision, that's what I love. And that's why it feels, almost like being a lawyer, but just taking a different subject matter expertise and talking about it. And so when people ignore me, I'm like, that's fine. Maybe you'll come around in a year or maybe you'll never come around or maybe you'll work with someone else. Or maybe you'll direct apply. Like, I think at least in the United States, like we have so many lawyers here and so many law firms that if I send out 30 messages to people who I think I could be useful to, and one of them writes back, like, that's, that's a good day, you know? Yeah, yeah,
Scott Brown (11:06):
Yeah. Yeah. We're, we're very, very similar, I think in that approach, but really directed headhunt regardless of the level of opportunity it's is important just to make it, sing to that person, to make sure that you know, that you, you know, that you're doing it with purpose, then why would they not speak to you? Because at some point, or at least connect or whatever, engage in some level, because at some point they will need, like you said, take the meeting. Love the tagline, or the hashtag that, that you guys use. Because you never, you never know when you're gonna need someone or just market advice or insights. A very good first lesson.
We'll move on to lesson two, Karen.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (11:51):
Well, lesson two is, is a sort of parl off of lesson one, which is to always be open to new opportunities and not necessarily in jobs, right? So that this is just like something that I've learned as a lawyer and in life, which is sometimes practice changes, sometimes office move changes within your own organization. Sometimes client meetings, you always wanna be that person who clearly holds himself out to the world. As someone who's open to new opportunities. I can think of all the amazing opportunities that I've gotten and had over my life and it was always because I presented myself as somebody who was open and, and willing to take on those new opportunities. And I think some people shy away from that because they're introverted or they're happy with what they're doing, but even introverts can be open to new opportunities. It doesn't mean you have to be the most outgoing person in the room to put it out to the world. ‘Hey, do you have a new brief, do you have a new, do you have something new that you need some, you know, help on? I can be that person for you’. And that's always paid tenfold back to me just to say, I'm a person who is open to new opportunities.
Scott Brown (13:06):
Yeah. How did it come around then your move? You must have been open to the opportunity for the recent career switch you made.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (13:15):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I was at a small firm here. I had the best legal job on earth. I was a partner at a boutique firm doing exactly what I wanted to be doing, with exactly who I wanted to be doing it with. And I still woke up in the morning and said, ‘I don't wanna do the actual practice part’. And that was it. It, you know, when you're a junior associate, you can kind of blame not wanting to do the practice on all sorts of other factors, right? I'm in big law, I'm doing this, you know, I don't have control over my schedule. I had it all. I had control over my schedule, full control. I was making great money. I had great colleagues. I loved my clients. But it was that actual practice part of it where I thought, I don't wanna be doing this in 10 years.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (14:01):
I don't even wanna be doing this in five years. So I started to, you know, as point 2, kind of hold myself out as open to opportunities. And I started talking to different legal recruiters because I felt like something that really connected with my personality, which was, I've always loved lawyers and love being around the law, but I didn't love the actual practice part of it. Loved business development, networking, connecting people. I've always been a connector. And I started talking to recruiters and some recruiters hate it. Right. I actually got a lot of folks saying I don't like legal recruiting. I did it. And I didn't like it. And I asked people why they didn't like it. And the number one thing that people said was like the rejection part which is hard, right? Like people not responding to your messages or firms rejecting your candidate.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (14:48):
And then also that so much of it is outside of your control because you can have the greatest candidate on earth. You can have a job that they say they want someone. And then all of a sudden the budget goes away or an internal candidate gets it. Or your candidate screws up at the last second. You know, all of those things there is a lot that's outside of your control. And I was of those things don't scare me. Right? Those are, you know, not that uncommon with what I already have in the practice a lot, which is there's lots outside of my control and there's a lot of disappointment, right? Like you lose motions, you lose things. Clients go to somebody else. Like I was kind of ready for that. And so far it's been great. I've been really, really happy. And I, it, one of those things where I was talking with lots of different recruiting shops, and I said to myself on ‘I'll know it, when I see it’. And within like 10 minutes of meeting Whistler, Sean Burke, who's the founder of Whistler was like, ‘Yep, I want you to join us. What do I need to do to convince you to come over here?’ So, you know, he saw something in me. I saw something in them and it was a match.
Scott Brown (15:48):
Yeah. I was looking when we were connecting and exchanging messages on this as well. Yeah. Just looking into the marketing around it and the content just sits really well with what you've been doing, obviously as a bit of a side hustle.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (16:03):
Yeah. And I had kinda been talking with like all the big shops, you know, all the major names in the United States. And I looked at them and I was like, well, this is kind of like a law firm, but just for recruiters. And if I wanted to be at a law firm, I would just keep doing my own job. But as I've gotten more into like, you know, all the social stuff and TikTok and all that, I really wanted some place to embrace that. And frankly, Sean has not only embraced it, but like super encouraged it care and post, whatever you want, be 100% your authentic self out there. And, you know, I never wanted to like run a LinkedIn post by somebody in corporate. That's just not me. I never wanted to have to get that kind of approval. And Sean and Whistler is the way that we operate.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (16:46):
And the way that Sean Burke has operated his whole career is ‘I am my authentic self people that are drawn to me are gonna be drawn to Whistler. And we're gonna work well together. People who want a super square recruiter who is 100% by the book, who's not gonna be texting you at 11. O'clock being like, how did it go, blah, blah, blah. Like really into all of the details. That's not a good fit’. Right. and so, and it's the same approach that I took when I was in practice, which is, I don't have to be everybody’s lawyer, but the lawyer, the people who like me and the clients that like me, I want them to really like me, Karen as a person.
Scott Brown (17:20):
Yeah. Nice. And it's Austin - kicking off over there, is it not? It's quite a vibrant city. I hope I don't get canceled for admitting, but I listen to Joe Rogan in the past, obviously he's got ties to, to Austin. Yeah.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (17:39):
He lives here.
Scott Brown (17:40):
Connecting and everything that's going down. Yeah. But how's the, how's the legal market?
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (17:45):
The legal market's good. It's growing. I mean, Texas, I think a lot of people don't realize, but one in 10 Americans live in Texas. So it's a ginormous state that I think actually in legal recruiting has been behind New York. So Whistler is in New York based and we have offices in San Francisco and LA, and that’s very, that's very typical, right? Because those are the three biggest legal markets plus Chicago. And in Texas we have Houston, which is a huge legal market Dallas, which is huge in, in Austin as well. And a lot of firms are moving to Austin because their tech clients demand it and they want a more forward facing you know, a more modern law firm. And so Austin is a natural fit. It was a natural fit for Whistler. They have been wanting to expand here a lot. And we've gotten a really, really great response in Texas, lots of candidates coming out. And so it's been good.
Scott Brown (18:38):
That's great. I've been to Austin. My wife studied a year in UT. Oh, cool. A lot. She's a lawyer. So in her law, exchange program. She loved it.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (18:54):
I know. Yeah. I know that they, I think at UT they do something at Oxford where they go and some of the teachers, some of the professors go teach at Oxford for like a summer. Right. So come on, Steve, get it. Let's go to, let's go to England for a summer.
Scott Brown (19:08):
Yeah. Be nice. Maybe more possible now that the world was getting a little bit more, a little bit more normal. How did you guys come to start in, in local, PA, sorry, in local parents, is it in local parents? I, I, yeah.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (19:28):
Yeah. Yeah. So this ties into , I guess my third lesson, which is, like about how social media can be a really great connector for your working life. Yeah. So over COVID my husband, my husband had always been on Twitter. I was sort of on Twitter, but it's really started to expand when we were on COVID and we were like lockdown together. We couldn't talk to anybody else and he's, he's got a decent following. And so I just started to like, sort of mock him a little bit on Twitter. We would have banter. And one of our friends who went to law school with Steve, who is a producer on the Rachel meadow show on MSNBC, reached out and said, you guys should do a podcast.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (20:10):
And my husband had already done a podcast with one of his colleagues called the national security law podcast. And so we kind of had the infrastructure and the equipment and whatnot. And we were like, well, it's, COVID why not? So we just started chatting and talking. We had no vision for the podcast. We still kind of have no vision for the podcast. It's been, you know, really just like a connector for this, world that often time is overlooked, which is parents that are also professionals. Right. So there's tons of podcasts for professionals. There's tons of podcasts for just parents, but the there's not that many for parents that are also professionals. Yeah. And so that was kind of a niche that we wanted to fill and that's where it started.
Scott Brown (20:50):
Yeah. It's great. I've listened to to a few of them and do my research jealous of your trip to, was it Disney Disneyland? You were recently. Yeah.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (20:58):
Yeah. We just, oh, see, you're you're in, you're in England. So you got it earlier than most people in the space are just waking up. Oh,
Scott Brown (21:05):
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (21:05):
But yes, We were in Disneyland last weekend with our kids. So we talked about that. Yeah. This week on the podcast.
Scott Brown (21:12):
Cool. So Twitter, I'm big user of LinkedIn, but twitter, tik-tok… how do you manage the time to create content and, and keep up with it?
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (21:27):
So I think that one of the reasons that, that Twitter was sort of my initial social media platform is creating content on Twitter is extremely easy and takes very little time. Right. So first of all, you're maxed out at 280 characters. So it's, there's not like that LinkedIn sort of longer post or coming up with interesting content that lots of people are gonna like. On Twitter, I can just throw something up and sometimes I'll get tons of engagement and sometimes I'll get very little engagement and it doesn't matter because it's not uncommon on Twitter to have two or three tweets a day. Like that's just not uncommon. Whereas on LinkedIn, like it would get a little aggressive if people were posting two or three times a day. Right. Like, I don't think a- I don't think the algorithm would really like you and b- like it sort of devalues what you've already posted.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (22:16):
I know Alex Sue and I have talked about this. A lot of like, he spaces out his LinkedIn posts on purpose because otherwise the posts that you already have up, don't get the same engagement that you want. And so Twitter is a very different platform. It is meant to be used in a sort of one off, you know, there are exceptions of course, where you do like thoughtful threads and those take a lot more time. Like when I was in private practice, I would do substantive sort of thoughtful threads. But now for, for Twitter, like it's just firing things off here and there, I don't plan my content in advance for Twitter. I don't plan my content in advance for LinkedIn either. And a lot of times what happens now is I've just started to get into LinkedIn because I think it's a necessary evil of recruiting.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (23:00):
Like it's, it's our number one tool in terms of learning about people's professional lives. But I'll take something that I'll put up, put up on Twitter and it will spawn a thought in my mind, and then I will do a lengthier post on LinkedIn because there's no character limit. And so, yeah, that's, that's how I'd make my content. For TikTok it's a lot more work and I really have to be like inspired and come up with something creative. I do not put pressure on myself to make TikTok content. If something comes up, that's interesting to me, I do it. And the, and I post it and I don't worry about followers or likes on there at all.
Scott Brown (23:33):
Yeah. Alex is, Alex is absolutely prolific. Isn't he? He just he's
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (23:38):
Prolific. I don't understand. Did you see his recruiting one from earlier this week? I, it was so good. And I was, my first initial thought was, oh my God. I really wish I had thought that are amazing. He's so he's so talented and he's figured out how to use TikTok, which is kind of the first issue, because TikTok is a lot more complicated with the videos, right? Yeah,
Scott Brown (24:04):
God, yeah. We've been looking, looking into it with with my colleague, Katie as well. We've been brainstorming and trying to, it's taking that first plunge. It's the same with when I started the podcast, just the self doubt and imposter syndrome. Why am I doing a podcast? And then it becomes a little bit of second nature.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (24:23):
Scott Brown (24:26):
Yeah. And goes back to what you're saying about kinda take the meeting and just throw yourself into something and ‘what's the worst that can happen’.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (24:33):
Scott Brown (24:35):
But but yeah, I've been asking I've I've appreciate your, your time. And, and sort of running, running through the lessons there's loads I could ask you about, about recruitment and why, why now? And we've, we've sort of spoken about that, but also your employment law background and the ties into recruitment, but I've been sort of stopping or finishing the podcast with a a question this series for everyone is what, what would you throw into Room 101. So I don't know if it's a familiar concept and I don't think it's a British concept, but the Room 101 is where things are thrown into and never to be seen again. So from the legal profession, anything tied to law at the particular law that you hate would be something that you would throw in there.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (25:21):
Room 101. So things that I would get rid of in the law. So one thing that I would get rid:
You know, I think that a lot of people, especially as junior lawyers have a lot of personal self-doubt and imposter syndrome in the legal profession. I see it particularly with women and particularly with people of color who feel like they should not be in the room and there is 100% a need to fake it until you make it. So in Room 101, I would put imposter your syndrome because we all have it, no matter how senior you are. I mean, I just literally changed careers after 13 years going into something. I had literally no idea how to do. And in my first day I'm calling people and asking them to trust me with their career. And I just had to put on a face of like, ‘I can do this, I know that I will be able to do this because I am a successful person who will be able to do this’. And so I'm putting imposter syndrome into Room 10 1.
Scott Brown (27:31):
Great. I'll support you on that one. I think it's good. I think it's rife within the profession. I mean, it's rife and all society, but I think within legal as well, we're trained - lawyers are trained definitely to I've been risk averse and, and yeah, the self-doubt creeps in.
That's great. Well thank you very much for taking time out of your busy diary. And it's been great to great, to hear more about your career and, and also the recent, the recent developments in that. I will keep a keen eye on things on, on LinkedIn and Twitter and what have you. And yeah, hopefully we can speak again in the future.
Karen Shafrir-Vladeck (28:10):
Awesome. Thank you so much for having me, Scott. I really appreciate it.
Scott Brown (28:15):
Wow. Who would've thought two legal recruiters sitting down talking shop would, would be so interesting. I hope you found hope you found it that way. It was a little bit different and self-indulgent, but good to chat with Karen there on all things, all things law and legal recruitment.
Check her out on LinkedIn and give her podcast a follow ‘In local parentis’. It's great. Great stuff about parenting and law. Thank you for listening to Lessons I Learned in Law. For more information and all of my, and to check out previous episodes in the series, head over to heriotbrown.com/podcast where you can check them all out. I'm Scott Brown. See you next time.