Discovery Attorneys

I found today’s piece on contract attorneys interesting, given that I just attended an e-discovery CLE program run by a local firm (Ward Greenberg) last week. The program centered around the practicalities and ethics of e-discovery and the case law surrounding those topics.

I admit to being taken aback at how times have changed since I was utilizing an OCR viewer to review documents while searching for keywords to code. Those were the days. As mentioned in the contract attorney column, doc review was a sure way to meet and exceed billable-hour targets simply by doing essentially monkey work. And the firms were all too happy to bill me at out at hundreds of dollars per hour for looking over repetitive and duplicative documents.

Now that I am in-house, I would have a conniption fit if a firm tried to pull such a stunt — and I don’t think many firms would….

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From a legal staffing viewpoint, it means that a lot of people who used to be allocated to conduct document review are no longer able to be billed out. People get bored, people get headaches. Computers don’t.

Bill Herr, a lawyer who used to supervise document review for a chemical company, discussing new e-discovery software that can analyze documents quickly and cheaply. Herr is quoted in an interesting New York Times article entitled Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software.

I know lots of guys fantasize about boinking “barely legal” teenage girls. Not me, I like women: fully formed, adult women. There’s just something unseemly about older men salivating over girls who could have been in high school a year ago. Call me crazy, but it’s just more interesting as an adult to be intimate with other adults.

Similarly, I like my lawyers to actually practice law. There’s something unseemly about watching market forces turn law school graduates into glorified paralegals and secretaries. Call me a prude, but there’s just something gross about seeing young, nubile attorneys going around begging for document review positions. These people spent three years of their lives and six figures of their (or someone else’s) money to get law degrees; they should have something to show for their efforts.

But even if I don’t like to look, I can’t deny that this is happening. We are all living in a time that will be studied by future generations: a time when attorney career paths bifurcated, between traditional partnership-track associates and what I’ll call “barely legal” career paths….

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Earlier this week, I had the chance to sit down with David Tanenholz, one of the co-founders and partners at Hardinger & Tanenholz LLP (H&T), which is one of the few firms — if not the first — to promote itself solely as “discovery counsel.” And with their experience as Biglaw alumni, the two founders may represent a glimpse into the future of how lawyers can carve out a niche by fusing technology and project management.

So what is it that puts them ahead of the curve? Let’s find out….

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In a couple of months, the class of 2012 will embark on its quest to find an elusive Biglaw summer associate gig. But let’s not forget that many in the class of 2009 are still sitting on the sidelines, waiting to start.

Most of McDermott Will & Emery’s 2009 class has started already. But last week a few of the stragglers received some bad news. A tipster reports:

Just a heads up, McDermott Will & Emery rescinded offers to most of their deferred 2009 graduates on Wednesday via a phone call.

We reached out to MWE, and their spokespersons strongly disagree with characterization that offers to “most” of the deferred associates were rescinded….

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document review Above the Law blog.jpgThat’s the question that Arin Greenwood — who previously brought us this great article, as you may recall — tackles in a long but interesting piece for the Washington City Paper, entitled Attorney at Blah. Greenwood writes:

For more and more law school graduates, this is the legal life: On a given day, they may plow through a few hundred documents—e-mails, PowerPoint presentations, memos, and anything else on a hard drive. Each document appears on their computer screen. They read it, then click one of the buttons on the screen that says “relevant” or “not relevant,” and then they look at the next document.

This isn’t anyone’s dream job, but more and more lawyers in big cities around the country are finding that seven years of higher education, crushing student loans, and an unfriendly job market have brought them to windowless rooms around the city, where they do well-paid work that sometimes seems to require no more than a law degree, the use of a single index finger, and the ability to sit still for 15 hours a day. Is this being a lawyer? It is now.

The best stuff is at the beginning, in which Greenwood paints a vivid (and hilarious) picture of a temp attorney’s daily grind of document review. The end of the piece, a description of the grim realities of the legal job market for most law school graduates, might be interesting to lay readers, but it will be all too familiar to anyone who’s heard of Loyola 2L.

Check out the full piece by clicking here.

Attorney at Blah [Washington City Paper]