Biglaw, Contract Attorneys, Document Review, Quote of the Day, Staff Attorneys / Discovery Attorneys

Is Document Review Real Legal Work?

They’re exploiting the prestige of the profession to screw a lawyer out of his rightful wages. I think there’s a general sense that if we’re a law firm and we’re doing it, then it’s legal.

— New York plaintiffs’ lawyer D. Maimon Kirschenbaum, in remarks made about his latest client’s Fair Labor Standards Act suit against Skadden Arps and Tower Legal Staffing. This is the third FLSA suit filed by Kirschenbaum in which a plaintiff claims that document reviewers are entitled to overtime pay due to the routine nature of the work.

(Keep reading for additional details about Kirschenbaum’s prior suits, and to see the latest complaint, replete with the truth on the horrors of doc review.)

Kirschenbaum filed the first suit of this kind against Labaton Sucharow in 2010, and it was quietly settled. We wrote at length about his second suit against Quinn Emanuel and Providus, in which a plaintiff more or less claimed he was nothing more than a mindless document monkey. The firm has since requested that the complaint be dismissed, “because an attorney properly performing such review necessarily brings his training, knowledge and judgment to bear on the task.” Clicking a mouse repeatedly now requires an excess of training and brain power, who knew? Dude, Quinn Emanuel!

When we last discussed Kirschenbaum’s pleas to get a court to say that document review is not real legal work, we had hoped for a complaint with a more self-deprecating look at what being a professional button-pusher was really like. With the latest suit against Skadden, we get that and then some.

Check out the glamorous work that a million-dollar degree can get you these days:

This is what the legal profession has been reduced to for law school graduates who have fallen victim to the recession. Kirschenbaum agrees, saying firms are taking advantage of out-of-work lawyers’ plight.

Query whether Skadden will make the same claims as Quinn Emanuel in the future, in particular, that since document review is often conducted by “full-time first- and second-year associates in large law firms,” it must be real legal work. To be perfectly honest, we’re sure that if contract attorneys were paid six figures like Biglaw associates, they’d agree that it’s real legal work, too.

(If you’d like to take a look, the full complaint is available on the next page.)

(hidden for your protection)

comments sponsored by

Show all comments