Freshman Blues a Staple in All Walks of Life

By LAURENCE DARMIENTO
Staff Reporter

Carole Schlocker can relate to Arnold Schwarzenegger. The seasoned staffing executive, like the new governor, has found out how hard it can be to make that transition to a new job.

"What would I say? I guess the politically correct term is that business is 'off,'" said Schlocker, who has just completed her first year at iSpace Inc., an El Segundo technology staffing and outsourcing firm that she bought into a year ago after 16 years at her prior company.

"But," she added, "that's to put it politely."

California's new governor may be under the spotlight as he works to keep his campaign promises, but in a sense he is going through a familiar and often unpleasant business ritual learning the ropes at a new job.

Take David Lash, a veteran attorney who was executive director of Bet Tzedek Legal Services, a non-profit agency that provides free legal services to the poor, aged and disabled. This year he started a new job with O'Melveny & Myers LLP, the county's largest law firm.

Lash is managing the firm's pro bono work, but he's also handling straight commercial litigation, something he had not done since the early 1990s.

"The world of private practice has changed a lot in the decade I was out of it," said Lash. "Technology has transformed the practice of law. It's evolved and matured in a way that I could not imagine."

The large firm has the latest software programs for managing and sharing documents, researching court cases and investigating issues. At the same time, hourly rates are higher than ever. That means sophisticated legal papers often must be turned around overnight.

"I worked pretty hard at Bet Tzedek, but there are a lot more hard and fast deadlines," said Lash, who is still adjusting to the pace of his new job.

Then there are the more prosaic struggles, as with Gehrhard Wehr, chief financial officer at Applied DNA Sciences Inc., an L.A. startup whose technology uses genetic fingerprinting to enhance product security.

The German native is an international businessman who has worked in Switzerland and Asia, including a stint as a director at the British bank Barclays, where he had no shortage of staff to serve him.

"Here, it takes a lot of effort to get things done," said Wehr. "You don't have 5,000 people to help you and I have found that very challenging."

With only a handful of employees at his new company, Wehr shares a secretary and finds himself composing his own letters. He also is personnel director.

Schlocker knows all about companies cutting back on staff, though companies have begun to start hiring. She recently placed a computer analyst at a local university, but figures it took her 30 phones calls and several lunches.

And as the owner of a company for the first time, she has felt a new kind of pressure direct responsibility for her employees.

"It's not even your own money (you worry about), but it's the point that people are dependent on you," she said. "That's what you lose sleep over."

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