We’ve spent a fair amount of time in these pages decrying the low wages that contract attorneys are being offered. And the reasons for this go deeper than just some intrinsic belief that attorneys deserve to make more than minimum wage or the somewhat selfish desire to pay more than the minimum amount due on your student loans (or any of your other financial obligations).
Accepting low-paying jobs, and doing a decent (read: non-malpractice) job, has the effect of driving down the overall market rate. Once one major staffing agency or vendor starts offering below-market rates, others start dipping their toe into the cheaper waters and before you know it, the market standard has changed . . . and not in a way that helps contract attorneys. This reality has even gotten some begging their compatriots not to take below the market rate and even floating the idea of a contract attorney union.
So aside from the obvious, and all too common, scenario where you are trying to stave off financial ruin, is it ever okay to take a job that pays significantly below the market rate?
If clichés are to be believed, confidence is extremely important in the business world. And speaking in broad stereotypes, confidence (or at least faking it) is something that lawyers are supposed to possess. So I suppose it really shouldn’t be shocking that an attorney advertising for work would reek of smugness, but actually seeing it? Well, all I can think of is AC/DC.
Not content to scour Craigslist for available job listings, one contract attorney has taken things a step further. This intrepid individual has posted an ad seeking work as a contract attorney. And the results? They’re spectacular….
If your Facebook news feed is anything like mine, by now you’ve probably seen the Slate article encouraging people to “Apply to law school now!”, as well as Joe’s biting reply. The beef has gone back and forth. I’m not going to debate the job numbers; that’s been handled more than ably, and those who are willing to make an honest assessment of the job market already have.
Instead I am going to focus on the human cost of losing the law school lottery….
We all know the job market is tough. Despite the somewhat optimistic take David has on the the latest NALP employment numbers, the reality of trying to find employment as a full-time attorney remains challenging. Maybe you’ve heard about contract attorney positions, but are not quite ready to take the plunge into the exciting, fast-paced world of document review. Maybe the temporary nature of the work doesn’t fit your lifestyle or perhaps you’re just putting off the inevitable plunge into the life of mindlessly clicking on documents for as long as possible.
So, what do you do? One unfortunate soul packed their pride away and applied for a state government paralegal position. But the status of the application will probably give you pause.
It’s a baby and a briefcase! You know what that means: We’re talking about working moms and using stock images!
Whenever anyone (I’m guilty of it too) talks about the upside of working as a contract attorney, the word “flexibility” comes up within the first 10 seconds. When you have a job that is staggeringly boring that provides you with no job security you celebrate whatever advantages you can find, and the ability to take a day off whenever you’ve stopped giving a damn (and not be chained to a phone endlessly checking your email) is a boon. Sure, it might be because you are fungible and your employers has no investment in your career, but I’ll take the victories wherever I can find ‘em.
But is the level of flexibility contract attorneys enjoy something you can depend on, and really create a schedule around? Say, if you’re a working parent?
Starting a new job is never easy. That’s especially true when you’re looking to enter the world of document review. No one has ever gone to law school saying, “And when I’m done with this incredible investment of time and money, I’ll get to mindlessly click through documents!” We all thought we’d be arguing in front of the Supreme Court, or helping the less fortunate, or wheeling and dealing a big-time deal. But reality, she’s a harsh mistress. And student loans have got to be paid. So you make peace with the prospect of being a contract attorney.
As it turns out some loyal readers of this column are staring down the prospect of starting a sure-to-be-rewarding career as a contract attorney, and there are questions….
Well sports fans, its that time again. The once-every-four-years glory that is the World Cup is nearly upon us. And unlike the other prominent, quadrennial sporting event, the Olympics, this won’t be packaged into digestible and heartwarming primetime clips. No, the meat of this event — the stuff you don’t want to miss — will be smack dab right in the middle of the work day. Right when you are supposed to be coding documents.
By their very nature, temporary jobs, such as contract attorney positions, are less secure than full-time work. Case managers don’t even need a reason to cut you from a project, so keeping up with the beautiful game requires a little more savvy….
Sometimes I wonder if I have been giving the document review world a bad reputation, or at least a one-sided one. Sure, I have written about the gloom and desperation of document review, but, in reality e-discovery is more complex than that. Full-time work isn’t the chimera it once seemed, there is a growing market for full-time employment in the document review space, whether it’s working at a law firm as a discovery attorney, working for a vendor as a project manager or doing any one of the multitude of jobs rolled into the title of “staff attorney.”
The opportunities are definitely out there, the question is, should you take the job?
I often feel like the old guy at the end of the bar regaling his whiskey glass with tales of the old days. But the reality is the business of document review is changing fast. The first step was taking the reviews that used to be done by associates for hundreds of dollars an hour and making them the near exclusive purview of contract attorneys. Even then you’d see contract attorneys under the same roof as the associates and there was a sense of hands-on monitoring as the attorneys working on the case would have interactions with the poor plebes reviewing their documents. But those days are waning.
Much like InfiLaw’s takeover of law schools, big business is taking over doc review….
From the Southern District of New York there is an update in William Henig’s overtime lawsuit against Quinn Emanuel. For those of you that haven’t been following this case closely, Henig is the contract attorney-cum-plaintiff suing Quinn for overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York State law claiming the document review work he was hired to perform does not amount to the practice of law. It seems the discovery dispute between the parties has finally been resolved, but not before some good, old-fashioned litigation name calling.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
Whether you’re fresh off the bar exam or hitting your stride after hanging a shingle a few years ago, one thing’s for certain: independent attorneys who start a solo or small-law practice live with a certain amount of stress.
Non-attorneys would think the stress comes from preparing for a big trial, deposing a hostile witness, or crafting the perfect contract for a picky client.
But that’s nothing compared to the constant, nagging, real-life kind, the kind you get from the day-to-day grind of being a law-abiding attorney.
Connecticut plaintiffs-side boutique litigation firm (12 lawyers) seeks full-time associate with 2-4 years litigation experience, top tier undergraduate and law school education. Journal or clerkship experience a plus; highest ethical standards and strong work ethic required. Familiarity with Connecticut state court legal practice is preferred, but not required.
The firm handles sophisticated, high-end cases for plaintiffs, including individuals and businesses with significant claims in a wide array of matters. Our cases often have important public policy implications, and are litigated in state and federal courts throughout Connecticut. Representative areas of practice include medical malpractice, catastrophic personal injury, business torts, deceptive trade practices and other complex commercial litigation, and products liability.
Additional information can be located on our website, at www.sgtlaw.com.