Contract Attorneys

In The Business Of Document Review, Contractors Lose

“Hold on, I have to apply for this job.”

I never practiced law in the good old days when document review consisted of boxes, each one of which would take a week to review. By today’s standards that level of productivity is likely to get you fired. Discovery is taking up the biggest chunk of corporate legal budgets and anything to mitigate those costs is considered a win. We all know this is where ediscovery vendors and contract attorneys have made their nut, coming in when a terabyte of data needs to be reviewed as inexpensively as possible. This is how the practice of law becomes a business and with that shift in dynamic, customer service has become as important as legal judgments.

Given this backdrop it is no surprise that when a client says “jump,” staffing agencies reply, “how many contract attorneys would you like to do that for you?”

So what crazy demands are being made of document reviewers?

This job posting comes to us from sunny Los Angeles, with what our tipster calls the “latest bit of contract attorney degradation.” Below are excerpts from an email sent by a staffing agency this week:

We have an immediate short-term, document-review project downtown, expected to start this Wednesday, May 7.

We will be submitting an initial (and perhaps final) wave of resumes TONIGHT, on a rolling basis, so please reply ASAP if available and interested.

Well, maybe this doesn’t seem too bad. Short term projects can be quite convenient for a lot of contract attorneys that value the flexibility of the job. And a same day turnaround isn’t really that crazy… oh, wait, when was it sent?

Date:05/05/2014 11:15 PM (GMT-08:00)

So, it is really more of a 45 minute turn around. On Cinco de Mayo. Maybe even if you are responsibly celebrating victory over the French at the local Mexican joint of choice, you can still forward your résumé from your phone, find the worm at the bottom of that bottle of tequila and wind up with a job in the morning.

Not so fast, this immediate turn around also comes with specific formatting requirements.

(1) an updated resume in MS-Word format (if possible, please send us your resume with the following information “Submitted by Lexolution, LLC (310) 461-1470 in place of your personal contact information, and please save/title the resume as “[last name][first name]1″, so, for example, my resume would be titled “RedactedRecruiter1”):

(2) confirm that you are licensed and active to practice in California;

(3) advise of any actual or potential scheduling issues (including any travel plans or any other pending opportunities) in the next 2-4 weeks which could conflict with your availability;

(4) confirm that you could (and would, if selected) begin this project any day this week after Tuesday.

These kinds of job postings are allowed to continue, and even flourish, because they trade on an economy of desperation. The surplus of barred attorneys available and willing to do document review is only growing, and the lack of certainty regarding where, what or for how much the next job may be means people are willing to accede to these midnight requests. Student loan payments wait for no man.

The big upside to this job seems to be the $35/hour rate, which we have seen is better than a lot of other jobs. Well that and as the posting says, “This project could lead to further opportunities at the firm, which hires contract attorneys regularly.” Yeah, I guess it could lead to permanent work. Just don’t hold your breath.

Redacted job posting on the next page….

(hidden for your protection)

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