WINSTON & STRAWN — FIRM-WIDE EMAIL FROM FORMER CONTRACT ATTORNEY
To: Everyone at Winston & Strawn
From: My name, Esq.
My name is xxxxxxx. I am one of the contract attorneys who have been brought to W&S by [Partner K] from Dewey in May 2012. I have worked on least 8-10 different matters since I joined W&S, including FCPA Russia case (Russian review-xxxxxxx)), xxxxxx case (xxxx), 2 xxxx cases, various Russian translations, xxxxx case, xxxxxxx case, xxxxxx case, xxxxx case and some other cases, names of which I cannot recall right now. xxxxx , xxxx ,xxxxxx Russia (FCPA) cases came back on a few occasions, and each time I was asked to join the teams again. I have always been an excellent worker.
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.
A few months ago I was asked to join the team in the xxxxx case (xxxxxx False adverting litigation). Demand of production deadline required speed, attention to privilege, and accuracy with regard to relevancy and issue tagging. From the very beginning the case was a mess: the Equivio System (sort of mass tagging based on topic, not family) produced a fiasco! Documents kept getting miscoded, and, most importantly, privilege had been consistently overlooked. Some of us made a suggestion about changing the coding method, but until things became almost catastrophic, nothing had been done with regard to changing the system. I think that if experienced document review attorneys working at the “enviable” rate of $32.00 an hour have the audacity of make a suggestion to associate-attorneys (making as table salary of at least $160,000 year plus bonuses with full benefits and paid vocations), such suggestion should be accepted and thanked for. We do the ground work, and the associates like [Associate C] do quality control. They are the last line of defense. I made a couple of mistakes. One of them I can’t even consider a mistake: I made responsive (based on some search terms) which ended up not being responsive.
My other mistake was more serious, because I missed a privileged document, which was corrected before it when into production. For that at the request (as I was told) of [Associate C] I was taken off that project. It was of, course, a very unimportant thing to [Associate C] that it was I who kept spotting new attorneys and law firms, so that they could be added to the list of other attorneys and firms for purposes of making responsive documents privileged. After that case, I continued to work on 3-4 other projects: speedily and accurately; without any complaints from the associates handling those matters.
I never had any complaints from such associates as [Associate L], [Associate F], [Associate G] and many other attorneys I worked with back at Dewey and at W&S.
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.
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.
So, why was I terminated yesterday (November 15, 2013)? It has been two months since I have been off the xxxxx case; since xxxxx I worked on a couple of emergency projects, and I was then selected for 3 other cases , one of which – a case I worked on before. I was asked by [Associate F] to join the team again.
Yes, I made a mistake… but I was not the only one who made that mistake. Mr. [Associate C] let the document slip, and he then panicked. So, why not fire him? He was the last person to review the document before it was produced. Someone might say that not every document gets checked… Well, based on the mistakes he had already seen (whether made by me or other people) he should have checked every responsive document. He had made a number of wrong decisions in the case from the beginning. In all my experience with document review, I never worked with someone whose handling of a case was as unprofessional as that [Associate C]. 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.
It means very little to me that I am the “at will employee”. Of course, you have the right to “terminate” me, even at 3:00 AM on the Yom Kippur. However, there is such thing as fairness, there is such notion as reasonableness, three is such “novelty” as good manners, there is such thing as, dare I say it?, -justice (or at least modest attempt to long for it).
Everyone who took part in my termination has acted; the way one acts to discipline a child, who has no rights and no power to claim these rights.
I think what‘s been done to me is shameful and cowardly. I was terminated from W&S after I was two weeks into a new project, after I had not worked for 3 weeks (the forced vocation, for which you don’t get paid). We were told that the new xxxxxx case would last at least through New Year and will pay $32.00 an hour with no overtime. I relied on this “alluring” longevity. I declined a couple of offers with much better rates, including a paid trip to Europe to work on a case there. I have a family, I have two small children. So now I would like to be compensated for the time that I am now forced to miss due to my absurd termination.
Winston and Strawn as a Firm, as well as the Firm’s attorneys such as [Associate C], and, probably, some of the partners, have acted shamefully, arrogantly, cruelly, unfairly and un-lawyerly when they terminated me, one the most efficient and loyal review attorneys.
My name, Esq.
Alex Rich is a T14 grad and Biglaw refugee who has worked as a contract attorney for the last 7 years… and counting. If you have a story about the underbelly of the legal world known as contract work, email Alex at email@example.com