Contract Attorneys

I’ve recently been reflecting on the differences between working for a Biglaw firm and doing contract work, and yes they are obvious and many. The pay, the respect, the security, the pay… well, the list goes on. Even for a lowly first year associate, whose job is literally the same pointing and clicking through documents that contract attorneys do, there are countless differences.

For example, there’s all the free stuff at law firms. The entire summer associate program (even in these decidedly leaner times) is a monument to the perks those with Biglaw jobs get. And though it may not be as sexy as box seats at a Yankee game, firms are also great about ponying up for bar dues and Continuing Legal Education credits. As a contractor you are pretty much on your own…

So, how do you find the best deal to stay “licensed in one or more jurisdiction”?

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Limited discovery: NOW!

* Exciting news: Justice Sonia Sotomayor will be leading the countdown on the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square. She’ll be the first SCOTUS justice to perform the task. You go girl! [New York Times]

* Blank Rome and Nixon Peabody are reportedly in merger talks, but one firm’s managing partner says he “talk[s] to firms all the time,” it’s no big deal. No word on what guys from his high school do. [Reuters]

* Sorry, Quinn Emanuel, but this limited discovery thing is going to happen. Judge Ronnie Abrams recently slapped down the firm’s attempt to appeal her MTD denial in this contract attorney’s suit. [Am Law Daily]

* A state court judge from Texas stands accused of strangling his girlfriend over the balcony of his apartment and threatening to “f**king kill [her].” Romance in Texas has certainly got some of that je ne sais quoi. [Dallas Morning News]

* A legal soap opera? An ex-prosecutor whose relationship with a judge landed her lover in hot water was found dead in her home hours after a judicial misconduct ruling came down. R.I.P. [Reno Gazette-Journal]

* Take a look back at the legal profession’s year that was: from the highest of highs in gay marriages to the lowest of lows in law school enrollment, 2013 was a year for the record books. [National Law Journal]

Except with fewer hundreds. Lots fewer hundreds.

Did you grow up idolizing Bond, James Bond? Can you recite all the one-liners from Archer? Ever want to jump into the daring and dangerous world of espionage? Maybe try your hand at being an international man (or woman) of mystery?

Well, this probably isn’t the job for you then. But if you are a natural busybody who would like to get paid for those snooping skills, then you may be interested. And all you need is a J.D.

This tip was sent to us from Craigslist and it is exactly as ridiculous as it sounds….

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It’s that time of year again. Maybe you call it the most wonderful time of the year, but it isn’t all holiday parties and goodwill towards men. There is inherent stress build into the expectations of the season (the trifecta of family time, gift giving and less sunlight) that can turn ordinary people into basket cases.

While contract attorneys may not have the burden of worrying about what to get their secretary, there are still financial, emotional and social pitfalls to avoid.

So what are the best tips to survive this season…

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As mentioned in yesterday’s Morning Docket, William Henig’s case against Quinn Emanuel has survived a Motion to Dismiss. 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.

While Staci is correct — we humble peasants are rejoicing — I wouldn’t start mentally cashing those back OT checks just yet…

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Yeardley Love

* “This should be a red flag for everyone in legal education and the law firm world.” According to NALP, the percentage of women associates has dropped for the fourth consecutive year. That’s just lovely. [National Law Journal]

* Next summer, the co-CEOs of Hogan Lovells from legacy firms Hogan & Hartson and Lovells will make way for a single CEO structure. If approved by vote, Stephen Immelt will be in charge. Congratulations! [Am Law Daily]

* And the peasants rejoiced, for one of the FLSA overtime suits filed by a document review attorney has survived a motion to dismiss. Quinn Emanuel must have been genuinely shocked by this judge’s ruling. [Am Law Daily]

* “One thing we understand is law and economics.” Yet another law school finally, finally gets it. George Mason University School of Law has agreed to freeze its tuition — for the time being. We may have more on this development later today. [InTheCapital]

* George Huguely V, the UVA LAX bro convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend, has got one hell of a lawyer. Paul Clement is arguing his client’s right to counsel was violated at trial. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

Today we have a story of a contract attorney who made good — well, a contract attorney who got a permanent position. That position was called “staff attorney” and he still had to review documents, but now with health insurance.

But what happens when that staff attorney feels like he is on the losing end of favoritism, finds himself passed over for promotions, and eventually gets fired? You get employment litigation.

Which firm finds itself defending against a document-reviewer-cum-staff attorney’s claims of age discrimination?

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* Stan Stallworth, the Sidley partner accused of sexual assault, has hired a prominent criminal defense attorney to represent him in the case while the firm stands by its man. [Am Law Daily]

* Wall Street regulators are considering approval of a formidable version of the Volcker Rule that would ban banks from proprietary trading. Voting occurs later today. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Skadden Arps has asked a judge to toss an FLSA lawsuit filed against the firm by one of its document reviewers. Aww, silly contract attorney — there’s no way you’re getting overtime pay. [Law360 (sub. req.)]

* Weil Gotshal is still leaking like a sieve. This time, Bruce Colbath, a partner from the firm’s New York office, defected to the Antitrust and Trade Regulation practice group at Sheppard Mullin. [Market Wired]

* Lawyerly Lairs, China Edition: Raymond Li, chair of the Greater China practice at Paul Hastings, just purchased a townhouse for about $95 million — and paid “mostly in cash,” homie. [Wall Street Journal]

* They’re extremely tardy to the party, but if the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar gets its way, law schools will be subject to random audits of their employment stats. [ABA Journal]

* It’s a tough job that “can really beat you down,” but an organization called Gideon’s Promise just made it a whole lot easier for law students to secure jobs as public defenders in the South. [National Law Journal]

Earlier this week the Anonymous Partner wrote about Biglaw’s dirty little open secret, which he generously referred to as “creative billing” but which we all know is simply bilking money from your clients. It’s a common enough practice, and while an associate’s bonus may or may not be linked to the number of hours billed, it certainly improves the firm’s bottom line. But could you imagine the abuses that would occur if the associate’s weekly paycheck fluctuated depending on the number of hours they billed that week?

Welcome to the world of the contract attorney…

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… because you’ll find a sad man crying himself to sleep.

Here we are on the eve of Thanksgiving, and it is traditional to publicly spew all of the things we are thankful for ad nauseam. Fine. Despite the horror of not yet knowing the exact bonus benchmark that “elite” firms will set for themselves this year, I am sure there is something for which I am thankful. Well, I am on a large project that seems like it will last through the end of the year. That is pretty much the best a contract attorney can hope for — especially in a week where we will miss out on two days of work (you call it a holiday, I call it forced budgeting).

This weekly column has really been about the nature of the worst legal job, and the underlying message is that it can be a sad existence. I am not saying this to garner sympathy — let’s face it, anyone who decided to go to law school probably isn’t a great candidate for sympathy — but rather to describe reality. Packed into a room of people who were positive, in the not too distant past, that they were better than the life they are currently living can be disheartening. We’ve focused a lot on the dollar amount associated with being a contractor, and the actual tasks you might do, but what is life really like for the legal underground?

You won’t believe the extremes one West Coaster is going to for an hourly wage…

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