We spend a lot of time chronicling the lows of being a contract attorney. It’s the very bottom rung of the legal profession, but no matter how disrespected the job it is still an essential part of modern litigation. These jobs are rarely permanent positions so as contractors move from temp job to temp job there is an inordinate amount of terrible and just plain crazy jobs out there. Horrible working conditions, bad bosses and low wages are all par for the course, so it takes something really special to stand out.
This job posting a tipster sent in literally had my jaw dropping. So what job is flirting with minimum wage and has even a jaded industry insider like me shocked?
This job posting come to us from the USC alumni job boards — think more cock (Game) and less condoms (Trojans) for this one. Intellectually I am aware that the job market is not the most… vibrant in South Carolina, but I honestly had no idea it was this bad:
Immediate need for qualified individuals to assist in completing document review on complex civil rights discrimination litigation. Project will continue for 3 or more months until complete. Hours are flexible depending on number of individuals assisting on project. Full time reviewers preferred. Firm is located in Mount Pleasant. Compensation is $8 per hour. Start date is immediate.
I’ll focus right in on the relevant part for you — $8 per hour.
$8 an hour. 8.
That’s a whopping $.75 more than South Carolina’s minimum wage. So when I say this is the new low for document review, it can only possibly get 75 cents worse. Every unskilled, menial job that doesn’t even require a high school diploma let alone a college degree and a JD is paying pretty close to the same amount of money.
I have no idea why anyone would ever apply for or take this job. Usually my attitude regarding low-paying jobs is to take the money and run. After all, student loans don’t pay themselves and we all do what we have to in order to make ends meet. But $8 an hour? Seriously? That is beyond insultingly low. And there is absolutely no chance you’d be able to make a dent in your student loans on that salary. I think you’d have to be in poverty with a real concern about your ability to put food on the table to take this job. And if that is your situation, no judgment — there but for the grace of God go I and all that. But I’ll bet when you applied to law school you never thought you’d be taking a job in the same ballpark as minimum wage.
Perhaps some may be tempted by the seemingly exciting nature of the underlying case, “complex civil rights discrimination litigation.” Let’s be clear here, there is no such thing as a sexy document review project. No matter how interesting the case sounds on paper, you still have to click through documents and meet your target review rate. This will not be the substantive experience you may convince yourself you are getting out of the job. You are just the cheap labor necessary for other people to do their interesting jobs.
It’s jobs like this one, those that really push the envelope of what is an acceptable wage, that make crazed pleas for document reviewers to unionize seem reasonable. And it’s not just that so many that have gone to law school were sold on the notion of having a real and maybe even noble profession. It’s that there should be a floor for the work you need professionals to do, and that should be north of minimum wage.
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 and be sure to follow Alex on Twitter @AlexRichEsq