I’ve recently realized I do a lot of complaining. Maybe it’s hard not to. This column has given me a terrific forum to… well, complain about a lot of the things I think are wrong in the world of document review. Maybe it’s a screed about horrible bosses or how the reviewer next to me seems allergic to using tissues. I regret nothing.
Venting and getting it all out there has been cathartic and the response from you the readers has been vindicating. But, I am trying to be a little more zen about the legal profession and my small role in it.
It’s an imperfect science, and I am still working on it, but here are some tips for loving doc review….
No job is perfect. That is just the reality we live in. We all have lots of friends in professions that at least seem cooler than the legal one, and when you get a cocktail or four in them, they’ll complain about it just the same. And none of these little tricks are going to make your eyes hurt less after twelve hours of coding docs, but maybe, just maybe they can bring a tiny smile to your face.
Embrace the Cutting Edge of the Industry.
Our friends at Posse List recently wrote a post about LegalTech and why every contractor should go. That isn’t always possible — some of us don’t live in New York, and the delightful weather the country is experiencing has made traveling even more challenging than usual — but the point remains a good one even if you can’t make it to Manhattan. Stay on top of the technology. Lawyers have a reputation for not liking new technology, so it can be easy to ignore the tech changes unless we are forced to deal with them. However, if ediscovery is your industry it can only help you to stay abreast of the changing landscape.
Stop Splitting Your Career.
In the 90s, Kordell Stewart rose to prominence as a football player that was uncannily versatile. He was a quarterback/running back/wide receiver/whatever and they even started referring to him as “Slash.” That chameleon-like quality served him well for a while, but he never really transcended to the elite of the NFL. As a contract attorney I have seen so many “Slash Attorneys” making ends meet as a document reviewer. They are trying to hang out their own shingle and are using contract work to make ends meet. I do not begrudge anyone trying to do it all but recognize when your best effort is not in either job. If your true dream is to have your own practice, then utilize document review as a tool to pay your bills and don’t get sucked into the crazy hours and drama of a year-long review. And if you haven’t had a case since you helped your cousin with a DUI eighteen months ago, then maybe you should realize ediscovery is your actual career.
Build Your Skills.
Yes, I know. Document review is so easy even a monkey can do it. We’ve all heard, and probably even felt, the same derisive stuff about the work of a contract attorney. Yet somehow, across multiple projects with different clients and different agencies, the same people get pulled onto QC or the higher-paying “special projects.” When you’ve been doing document review in the same market for a while you start seeing these trends. These are the folks that really care about what they’re doing and it pays off. As more clients are using technology to limit their document review population, they don’t need 500 reviewers to look at documents to meet their production deadline. So do everything you can to position yourself as being very good at your job. Yes, sometimes working on quality control is more stressful for no extra money, but that isn’t a reason to turn down the opportunity. Maybe it’s clichéd, but any opportunity to build your resume (through new review platforms, tasks or types of cases) can really pay off in terms of both money and feeling accomplished.
YMMV on these tips, but I have found that going to work (particularly when I have to trudge through snow) is easier when you find small ways to like your job.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.