We all know that outsourcing document review to contract attorneys is a cost-cutting measure. Gone forever are the glory days of junior associates spending weeks slogging through the most mundane of emails… all while billing their time out at $300/hr. Contract attorneys now do that work (and feel lucky to even get 1/10th of the associate’s hourly rate) and because they have experience with the review tools and don’t labor under the illusion that document review is below them, they tend to do it faster with no appreciable decrease in quality.
But even though the purpose of using contract attorneys is to save money, that doesn’t mean that waste is eliminated. It still happens all the time.
But what is the most blatant waste of money I’ve ever seen?
When you’ve been doing anything for a while there are certain patterns that emerge as you start to make sense of the madness. Document review is no different. Sure, as a temporary job your employer changes frequently, but the core of the job at hand remains the same. So it doesn’t matter who the client is, what staffing agency you’re with, or how the project is managed there are some idiosyncrasies to the job that crop up repeatedly. These are the dependable quirks of contract attorney life that have become the bane of my existence and I am certain other doc review monkeys will recognize the pattern.
So what are the ways in which all document review projects are the same?
Ah, the billable hour. It is the bane of many attorneys’ existence, and almost anyone who has spent time within a law firm has their own story about… ethical lapses surrounding billing. Maybe it’s something seemingly small or benign like always rounding up when tracking working time or billing through bathroom breaks (or Farmville breaks) because, hey, your brain was still thinking about the issue. Or maybe it’s billing the exact number of hours a partner believes a task should take, no matter how quickly you are actually able to charge through it.
The perverse incentives created by billing by the hour (especially when the attorneys involved have billable requirements for either their job security or their expected bonus) for legal work has been well tread, but sometimes a document review attorney has a really clever excuse….
When portraying lawyers, television tends to stay away from the horrors of Biglaw. The good versus evil of the criminal justice system tends to get more play; there is more inherent drama when freedom is on the line (and who can resist the ubiquitous chung CHUNG). If any other types of lawyers are represented, it skews toward do-gooders making emotional pleas in court as champion of the underdog or smarmy corporate lawyers finding the loopholes for the rich. But the hard-working cogs that actually make the legal industry churn along go unrecognized.
So what happens when a network sitcom tries to take on Biglaw?
* After losing before the Supreme Court, the University of Texas affirmative action admissions program looked to be in serious trouble. But the Fifth Circuit just ruled that the UT policy met the strict-scrutiny analysis mandated by the Court. The lesson for Abigail Fisher is once more, “How about you get better grades instead of whining?” Or at least “Get politically connected.” [Chronicle of Higher Education]
* Apple agrees to a conditional $450 million settlement with the NYAG’s office in the e-book suit. So you might get some money back from the 50 Shades of Grey purchase. [Reuters]
* The Manassas city police have decided not to engage in kiddie porn pursuant to a warrant. Good for them. [Washington Post]
* “Judges are not deities. They are humans.” Let’s not tell Lat, the shock might kill him. [Katz Justice]
* The hell? Parents arrested for letting their 9-year-old go to the park alone? Suffocating parenting is bad enough without the government expecting it of parents. [Slate]
* CPAs are suing the IRS because the regulation of tax preparers lacks Congressional approval. Because we need more folks off the street claiming to be tax preparers. [TaxProf Blog]
* Lawyer and former South Carolina GOP executive director Todd Kincannon is under investigation by the South Carolina Office of Disciplinary Counsel for basically being a dick on Twitter. As Ken White notes, the First Amendment is all about giving guys like this a forum. [Slate]
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?
* Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes took advantage of Washington state law and purchased himself some legal pot yesterday, making him the highest-profile lawyer in the country. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]
* DC Comics blocked plans to build a memorial to a murdered 5-year-old Superman fan dressed in costume. Realizing that this was awful and stupid, they’ve reversed themselves. [Gawker]
* New York Justice Roger Barto said he was attacked and beaten with a toilet seat. The police disagree. [WHAM]
* Laurence Tribe recounting his experiences with a young Barack Obama. [Fiscal Times]
* Remember when Justice Scalia screwed up that decision and quietly edited it hoping we wouldn’t notice? Well the days of the secret editing of SCOTUS opinions are over. [CREW]
* The continuing coverage of the Donald Sterling trial: Sterling takes the stand. [mitchell epner]
* We talk a lot about work-life balance among lawyers, but we don’t think much about the work-life balance among law professors. [TaxProf Blog]
* If you wanted to understand the UK legal market, this infographic is basically “choose your own adventure” for a legal career across the pond. [Gorvins]
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.
Ms. JD is hosting their 2nd annual cocktail benefit to raise money for the Global Education Fund. The event will be held on August 21, 2014 at 111 Minna in San Francisco. Our goal is to raise $20,000 to fund the legal educations of four dedicated law students in Uganda who count on our support to continue their studies at Makerere University during the 2014-15 academic year.
The Global Education Fund enable womens in developing countries to pursue legal educations who otherwise would not have access to further education. According to the World Bank, investment in education for girls has one of the highest rates of return to promote development. In Uganda, more than 45% of women over the age of 25 have no schooling at all, and men are more than twice as likely as women to have access to higher education. Together, we can work to end educational inequality. For more information about the program, please visit http://ms-jd.org/programs/global-education-fund/
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We at Kinney Asia have made a number of FCPA / White Collar US associate placements in Hong Kong / China thus far in 2014. Most of such placements have been commercial litigation associates from major US markets, fluent in Mandarin, switching to FCPA / White Collar litigation. Some have already had FCPA experience, but those are difficult candidates for firms to find (this will change in coming years as US firms are now promoting FCPA / White Collar to their 2L summers who are fluent in Mandarin and have an interest in transferring to China at some point).
Legal Week quoted Kinney’s Head of Asia, Evan Jowers, extensively in the following relevant article here.
There is a new trend in the market, though, where mid-level transactional US associates, fluent in spoken Mandarin and written Chinese, are interviewing for and in some cases landing junior FCPA / White Collar spots in Hong Kong / China at very top tier US firms.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.