Email. In the last 20 years it has gone from office novelty to a ubiquitous mainstay of our daily lives. I am not complaining about this; the explosion of email is part of what has fed the growth of document review. Everytime you hit send, a new document is created and a contract attorney gets their wings.
And, oh, the fun of email! Of course there are jokes and forwards, all of which are designed to be entertaining, but there are so many other enjoyable aspects of the medium. Such as the firm-wide screed of a recently terminated document review attorney.
So what Biglaw firm was treated to an angry missive from a fired doc reviewer?
The firm in question was Winston & Strawn. Apparently the email’s author had been hired by the firm as a document review attorney, and was not pleased when the axe fell. And in another twist in this edition of “Days Of Our Document Review,” the email she sent the entire firm was magically (totally through science) removed from everyone’s inbox shortly after it was sent. But due to the wonder of ATL’s tipsters, we’ve gotten ahold of the email (redacted to protect all parties — guilty and innocent).
The email starts with a time-honored tradition: making it clear how awesome you are and criticizing the industry you are working in. Oh, and the email’s author wants to write a book, because of course. I’m not even going to try and insert [sic] as often as would be required:
The world of e-discovery requires speed. In my vast experience, SPEED has always been the main criteria (up to 100 docs an hour). It is a money making business, which is ok, since we still live under socio-capitalism. In addition to speed, accuracy is another big thing. The reason I was retained and asked to be part of so many projects is because I am good at both: speed and accuracy. I am not going to get into details of how unreasonable the co-existence of these two requirements is. I think I am going to publish a book about it, and how it compromises the legal profession. For now, the purpose of my letter stems from my being terminated from W&S in the most arbitrary, capricious, and abusive way.
Cracks about capitalism aside, this is spot on. There is an inherent tension between the speed and accuracy demanded of reviewers, and it is only going to become more pronounced until the machines take over….
Back to the details of this case. Apparently, mistakes were made. A privileged document was produced. Yikes. In my experience, when this happens someone will get fired. Document reviewers, whether they are hired directly by the firm or work through an agency, are the easiest to blame. They are the first, and often only, set of eyes on most of the documents, and they are expendable. There is a glut of attorneys, especially in markets like New York, that will happily step in and take the job.
So, I guess, the xxxxx case finally when into production, and the adverse party received our “quality checked” documents. Apparently, [Associate C], or whoever worked with him on the xxxxxx case, let one of the responsive documents slip without making sure that it had to be marked as privileged. Unfortunately, I made the initial mistake of not making it privileged. However, it is the responsibility of the so called Quality Control associates such as [Associate C] to be the final set of eyes before it goes out. Very long story short, the partner got mad, most likely at the associate (my guess, [Associate C]) got even more mad, expressed it to my supervisor [Supervisor], he questioned her about my employment status at the firm and why I was still at the firm. [Supervisor] told me yesterday that she had no choice but to terminate me.
Now our newly fired reviewer gets mad. And really, what is the point of a firm-wide email without some self-righteous anger?
ME?! TERMINATED?! One of the best, one the fastest, one of the most diligent contract attorneys, one of most loyal attorneys, who, despite being offered better deals at other firms, decided to stay with W&S for the most embarrassing rate of $32.00 per hour. I worked on the xxxxxx case when I went into labor; I was back at work within 5 days after giving birth. Because my labor was a bit untimely, I made sure I emailed [Associate G] — associate in charge of the case, letting him know where the files were and where I saved relevant documents — all within an hour of delivering the baby. I wanted to return as soon as possible (which I did) because the case was becoming time sensitive, and because I was responsible for working on documents that were used at depositions.
And finally, we get to the last stage of grief, acceptance. This document reviewer has been around the block and understands why she was let go — but not without a parting shot about the treatment of reviewers at Winston:
So, why me? I got terminated because attorneys like me, in the eyes of a very “structured” firm are the target. I know it, you all know, [Associate C] knows it; anyone with even half a brain knows that under the circumstances I, the “employee” of the firm would be the easiest person to get rid of; “Employee” whose insurance packet is inferior to the packets of W&S’s associates and partners; “Employee” who gets disinvited to holiday parties, and then in lieu of the party gets treated with the so-called “Document Reviewer appreciation lunch” where I am served old greasy chicken with faded greens.
Burn. Take your wilted iceberg lettuce and shove it.
The full letter, which is quite the read, is available on the next page….