Founded in 1970, Update initially provided temporary clerical staff in New York City. In 1991, the company entered into the legal staffing business when it decided it should have a more focused approach. Now, Update Legal boasts nine offices nationwide and around 90 in-house employees. With revenue of more than $75 million, Update is the third-largest legal staffing firm in the US under the leadership of COO April Pish, Esq. Associate Editor Sharon Thomas spoke with Pish about the company’s values, the importance of personal relationships and what lies ahead.

Tell us about Update’s services.

We provide document review and managed services for law firms and corporations as well as offering several other types of legal services. We have a specialized attorney division where we focus on attorneys who have a niche expertise, a foreign language arm for language document review, and a permanent paralegal placement division.

In 2009, we launched Update Discovery to provide discovery and managed review services.

Discovery is part of the pre-trial litigation process during which each party requests relevant information and documents from the other side in an attempt to “discover” important facts.

Attorneys will go through thousands of documents, reviewing them for information that is relevant to the case. We offer our clients access to highly experienced project managers who focus on the accuracy and efficiency of projects using analytics and reviewing metrics to really make sure that the process is complete and as I mentioned before teams of attorneys to do the actual review.

(The company also has a smaller creative staffing division, which has been part of the industry for more than 20 years).

April Pish

What is your background?

I immediately connected with employment law while in law school. I enjoy dealing with people. Being an attorney, you have to love what you do and there is no greater reward than being able to use my degree to help others.

After graduating law school, I was in-house counsel for KB Toys where I focused on employment law. However, when KB Toys went through its first bankruptcy, I felt it was time to find a different career path. I came across the opportunity at Update and joined in 2006 as Director of Human Resources.

What’s the background of your recruiting staff ?

It takes a special person to be a recruiter because they are constantly dealing with the human side of the business. We are in the business of helping people, so you have to have an affinity toward that. Many of our recruiters hold a J.D. or an advanced degree. Update’s recruiters are well versed in the legal industry.

So much of staffing flows through vendor management systems. Is that the case in legal staffing?

VMS has not been a large trend with us. We know it’s potentially the way of the future, but I do believe that the one-on-one relationship with our clients needs to remain and cannot be replaced by a VMS. Having relationships with our clients and being able to discuss with them what they truly need will continue to be important.

What’s next for Update?

We are growing our sales team. This year, we hired six new sales people across the country. We are also looking to enhance our offerings.

And we are in the middle of a rebranding initiative. We are making improvements to our current website, logo and marketing material. We want our look to express the passion we have for our clients and candidates.

What differentiates you from your competitors?

It’s all about service. We have a unique company culture. Our environment really does shape our performance, and there is a sense of pride and commitment to service that sets us apart.

Everything these days is all about technology, but with it you lose the human component. When a job comes in, it’s too easy to send a mass email or a text message to candidates like many of our competitors do asking, “Anyone looking for work, please reply.” That is not our model. What makes us unique is the personal relationship that we have with our candidates and our clients. Candidates are going to receive that phone call and we are going to walk them through the job and together determine whether or not they are suitable for it.

How do you recruit your attorneys and other staff?

One of our biggest testaments is that 60% of our candidates are referred to us from existing candidates. People who have really enjoyed working with us refer their friends. We have built relationships with law schools across the nation. Our recruiters attend as many networking events as possible to engage with the community and find candidates who are looking for work. We have also found LinkedIn to be a valuable tool.

How many temporaries do you have out on assignment at a given time?

We have 600 to 800 candidates out on assignment at any given time, but of course that can vary, depending upon the time of the year and the market. Summer tends to be slower, with fall through year end tending to be our busier time.

What’s the typical assignment length?

All assignments are unique, so our typical assignment is a few weeks to a few months in length, but you can never predict litigation. Cases can settle or additional documents may be found. We always make it clear to candidates that assignments are unpredictable. We have seen some assignments that were supposed to be a few weeks end up lasting months, and a few that were supposed to last a few weeks end in a few days. Flexibility is key when working as a contract attorney.

Do your attorneys and other legal staff stay with you a long time?

We have candidates who are very loyal to Update, some who have been on assignment for over a year. We pride ourselves on creating close relationships. Before we place any candidate, we have a very extensive background process. Every candidate comes in for a face-to-face interview.

In addition to that, we check in with our candidates while they are on assignment to ensure the assignment is going well. It is another way to maintain that relationship.

We also hold roundtables where we invite candidates to our offices to find out what we can improve upon. The candidates are very honest with us, and I think they appreciate that we are open to hearing how we can improve.

Even when candidates are on assignment, we stay in touch with them, checking their status and availability. We will also call them and find out if they are available to meet for a coffee, where we are able to check in with them in a less formal setting. This multifaceted approach to our candidates and our relationships help us staff our jobs quickly.

How long does it take you to make placements?

Typically, we may have a few days’ notice, but we are prepared to staff a job within a day. Yesterday, for example, a job came in for 50 candidates in Miami; we had the job staffed by the end of the day. Our recruiters maintain daily availability of candidates who are ready for their next assignment. Not only do we reach out to our candidates, we also encourage them to check in with us when they are available for work. This constant communication is critical to our success.

We were also one of the first legal staffing firms to institute round-theclock service. This is not an answering service that takes a message; these are dedicated Update employees that you will reach. The average tenure on our 24-hour team is 10 years, so this team understands our clients as well as our candidates.

A client who calls at 3:00 a.m. will talk to a live, fully trained employee, and if they say, “I need five attorneys to start tomorrow first thing,” we’ll be able to staff that job the same day.

Are most of the assignments on-site?

For most of the managed review assignments, they are at Update space, but that can vary as well. Each of our offices has plenty of project space, so if a client needs attorneys, but does not have the space, we can easily put them on our location.

What makes our work spaces unique is that they are connected to our in-house staff, so we can have interaction with our candidates when they are on our site. This helps make those relationships even stronger.

In addition to the 24-hour service, what has Update Legal done that’s innovative?

Our mission statement is actually, “Innovating people and defining service.” Innovation to me is how we can be a better version of ourselves. As I mentioned before, we are rebranding Update with a new logo and website, which will be launched this summer. We are in the people industry and we want to be a defi ning factor as to how companies should service their clients. We want to do whatever it takes to be different. We want to be the company that you can always reach, if you have a need.

We innovate daily by challenging ourselves to find ways to improve. It is the small improvements that are specific to creating an experience of excellent service for our candidates and clients. The little things at the end of the day will make a larger impact on our team and on how we service.

What advice might you give to someone thinking of entering legal staffing?

I think the first piece of advice would be that it takes passion; it can’t be just a job. You have to truly enjoy working with people and want to make a difference. And be prepared to work hard, but never compromise your ethics and morals. For us, we will stand behind our ethics any day; that’s one thing that has always been engrained in us.

Embrace failures and use them to improve. I fail all the time, but I try to use it as a learning opportunity to say, “How can I do better?”

Relationships are not device-driven. It’s very easy to rely on technology or a device to create that relationship. But this industry calls for personalized relationships that are not device-dependent.

Finally, live your values. At Update, all employees have our values on their desk and we have begun to question each decision in terms of them. It’s amazing how this exercise has brought employees together and now we are asking, among other things, “Am I inspiring myself and others to a higher state of service?” “Am I providing a teaching moment when I’m working with others?” But most importantly, “Am I taking risks to improve myself and the company?”