Laura K. Umetsu, Editor in Chief
Do you know someone who has been turned down for a job based on their social media presence? If so, that person is far from alone. According to a 2012 report by Forbes Magazine, the majority of modern employers screen potential job candidates for their online presence.
I interviewed Kelly Chang Rickert (KCR), a nationally renowned Los Angeles family law attorney and mediator, on her take of social media and professionalism, as well as establishing a niche in a brutally competitive job landscape.
KCR made her national media attorney debut as a contestant in NBC’s reality television show, The Law Firm. Since her television debut as an attorney, KCR has become a sought after family law specialist in the media. KCR’s media appearances have included an M.T.V. interview regarding Britney Spears’s child custody battle, Inside Edition’s coverage of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart’s dog custody case, and as a legal expert on National Public Radio’s talk show, Marketplace Money.
LU: Tell me about your practice.
KCR: I am a certified family law specialist. I specialized in family law because I love helping individuals instead of corporations. I wanted to be recognized in my field of expertise. Tabloids and t.v. shows get my name by searching “Los Angeles family law attorney.” There are also a lot of positive word of mouth recommendations that get me media appearances.
LU: How has your background helped in your career as an attorney?
KCR: I speak fluent Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, English, and some French. It’s a tremendous advantage, especially in cases where having an interpreter with native fluency, or picking up on nonverbal, cultural subtleties, is vital. In family law, it’s also a tremendous advantage to be a woman in some domestic violence cases. Often, female clients just don’t want to open up to a man or are just more open when talking to a female attorney [referring to cases of rape or other severe abuse].
LU: Have you ever encountered barriers in your profession?
KCR: As an Asian woman [referring to fighting against the submissive Asian female stereotype], yes. But once I’ve made it… How many prominent female Asian attorneys are there, period? Not many, especially not ones as outspoken as I am. Sometimes Asian women seek me out because I can understand them better. I know the right questions to ask and how to ask them to win their case.
I had to carve out my own niche because I went into law without any significant connections. It can be an old boys club. But that doesn’t mean I’m not as good as the attorney with an established family network who gets more clients [because of that network].
I’m better than some female attorneys who got to where they are largely because of the influence and money of their husbands, boyfriends, or fathers. I wasn’t born into a successful law practice. I know I made it on my own. I didn’t need or depend on a man in my life to establish myself professionally and financially.
As for racial barriers, there is a high end club in California that only accepts white male professionals into their membership. I have to go elsewhere for referrals and networking.
LU: What is the internet screening process when you hire attorneys?
KCR: When I hire someone for a project, the first thing I do is google them. I want to know what kind of interests they have. It’s not good for that candidate if I see criminal activity, drug abuse, excessive drinking, and other irresponsible behavior. I look at what they post on Twitter. I also look for evidence that would indicate their interest and competence in the family law field.
I never consider school, or G.P.A. I sometimes see these amazing looking resumes. But many of these graduates are looking at my firm as a last resort to pay their bills because they didn’t get a corporate offer. I want to know if they would be interested in helping my clients. I need to know that they can go right to work, so experience means everything to me. I facebook friend my employees, so that I can keep an eye on their professional behavior while they are in my employ. These days, with the internet, you can sort of spy on people with the information they leave lying around.
LU: What would be your biggest piece of advice to someone who is trying to “clean up” their online presence?
KCR: Google yourself, and see what comes up. Delete bad stuff that shows up. Remove bad pictures of yourself from your Facebook account. Use Twitter wisely. Not many people can afford to use the internet irresponsibly, especially not in this economy.”
To find out more about Kelly’s practice, visit http://purposedrivenlawyers.com/