The invisible hand of the market makes fools of us all. No, I am not about to launch into a screed blaming capitalism for all of my woes, I’ll leave that to the PhDs desperately seeking tenure track jobs. The reality remains that the ups and downs of the legal market have a large effect on the rank and file document reviewer.
I’ve written before about the ways regional markets can wreak havoc on contract attorney, but it’s more than just dragging down the hourly wage. Without the benefit of full-time employment, contract attorneys are seen as eminently disposable and are rarely provided with much (or any) notice before a change in their employment status. Projects are scheduled that never start or a month-long project suddenly ends in two days. It can happen at any time, it’s the nature of the business (God, if I had a dollar for every time that annoying trope was trotted out by a staffing agency or project manager to cover for their poor management skills, well, I wouldn’t have to review documents any more). But over time, as long term projects fail to materialize it becomes a reflection of the overall health of that market.
According to our tipster, what document review market is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad 2014?
Oh Dallas. Great theme song, but maybe this is proof the halcyon days of big oil really are over. Here’s what our tipster has to say about it.
Saw your blog and had a question for you, is the 2014 contract atty mkt where you are as terrible as it is in Dallas? I have been doing this over 10 years and this year is starting out as the worst ever. Projects are scheduled to start, are delayed, then just disappear. Any idea if this is just a local thing with the Dallas mkt or are other areas suffering as well?
Yuck. We are over six weeks into 2014 and that is a long time to go without a decent project.
But back to the question on the table, are other markets experiencing a similar slow down? This can be tough to assess without “boots on the ground” in each of the markets. After all, agencies advertise when they are looking to staff big projects, not when they are delayed or canceled all together; and those are the very issues that seem to be plaguing the Dallas market. So if anyone out there has more specifics about other markets, please post them in the comments — I am sure our friend in Dallas would like to know if s/he is alone.
Despite the known unknowns in this endeavor, I have tried to amass some information in a few larger markets to see how the state of the document review union is faring.
New York is the largest of the legal markets, so it makes sense to start our mini-survey there. And if NYC is doing poorly, well then heaven help the rest of us.
Well decent news in the city that doesn’t sleep — its apparently because they are too busy coding documents. I have rumors of a few large, long term projects that are still going strong there. The Posse List has also had 3 postings within the last week for new documents review projects. The pay scale varies on these projects, but the hours and anticipated length of the project all seem strong. Some of the postings on Craigslist are just duplicates of what we are seeing on The Posse List, but there are at least a few other opportunities.
In terms of new staffing opportunities, things in DC seem a little leaner. The Posse List had only 2 postings in the last week, and most of the jobs on Indeed have been up for over a week (meaning the jobs have likely already gone to the most diligent of document review seekers).
All is not lost however, I recently came across this boastful tidbit describing a 100 person document review in DC.
a leading eDiscovery and document review solutions provider, is proud to have successfully provided document collection, processing, hosting, review and production services for a large-scale and high-stakes second request antitrust investigation pertaining to a telecommunications merger.
Hmmm… its not like a giant telecom merger is likely to come up again.
So how are things on the left coast? Maybe not quite as robust as the other markets we profiled, but there are still some decent projects being advertised within the last week. The overall state of that market, at least according to what I am hearing is pretty solid, though maybe it is just that Los Angeles attorneys are focusing on their budding YouTube careers to complain about document review. Yup, that’s the state of the legal market in 2014 — you have better prospects as a YouTube sensation than actually practicing law (or at least reviewing documents).
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