Contract Attorneys

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?

This is more than just a hypothetical question…

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* 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]

* What do the former Biglaw Bigshot and Joan Rivers have in common? [Law and More]

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….

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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….

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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.

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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?

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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.

Now what?

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….

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Puff, puff, pass those voter initiatives.

* This failed firm’s drama is the Biglaw gift that keeps on giving: Dewey & LeBoeuf’s bankruptcy trustee filed an amended complaint against Steve DiCarmine and Joel Sanders seeking the return of more than $21.8 million. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Norton Rose Fulbright elected someone who “love, love, love[s] the law firm” as U.S. managing partner, and she’s the first woman to ever serve as U.S. chair of its management committee. We love, love, love this news! [National Law Journal]

* According to a California judge, tenure laws are unconstitutional and are depriving students of the high quality of education they deserve. The end is nigh, law professors. Enjoy it while it lasts. [New York Times]

* Not all states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, but it’d be a lot cooler if they did. The tide is turning across the United States, and we’ll soon see which states’ drug laws go up in smoke. [Slate]

* “Document review attorneys are in demand now but the demand will gradually decrease.” Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the one job you were able to get soon won’t need or want you. [InsideCounsel]

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….

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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?

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