Document Review

I reported several weeks ago that I had been solicited to write an article about the future of Biglaw firms. But it was actually better than that: The invitation came from the “Sunday Review” (formerly “The Week In Review”) section of The New York Times, which is a pretty cool place to ask you to write.

Unfortunately, and apparently unbeknownst to the editor of the “Sunday Review” section, the Times ran a “DealBook” section on the fate of large law firms before my ditty could appear in print. This preempted my article (or at least that’s what the editor said, although maybe she was just sparing my feelings). So instead of having a piece in the NYT, I’m just another schlub typing away at Above the Law.

But if I took the time to write a 1,200-word piece on the future of big law firms, then I’m sure as heck going to get some use out of it. So here you are: “The Assault on Biglaw,” by yours truly, which damn near appeared in the Sunday Times….

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Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist, is available on Amazon, as is his previous book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

Someone posted the following astonishing comment in response to one of my columns a few months back:

“I’ve never worked in a Biglaw firm, but what happens if an associate just says no, I am busy this weekend, or no, I am on vacation that week, so I won’t be able to do that project. Do you immediately get fired? If that’s true, then you must not really have much to offer to the firm in the first place. In a situation where the associate had some real value to offer to the firm, I do not see why the firm would fire someone for that. Am I hopelessly naive?”

Go ahead — laugh. Get it out of your system. You know perfectly well your guffaws wear thin, right about when that twinge of poignancy creeps in. You, too, once mulled the notion of rising above the fray — going all Bartleby the Scrivener and muttering, “I’d prefer not to,” when asked — oops, I mean told — to work and work and work and work and work….

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‘Which one of you is special?’

Today, the ATL Career Center launches its latest feature: a Pre-Law section, featuring ratings, inside info, and expert advice on law schools, LSAT prep, and the application process. Check it out here.

While law school applications continue to decline and legal jobs are scarce, the business of discouraging people from going to law school is positively booming. There is a mountain of data which would seemingly dissuade anyone from taking on massive debt only to then leap into the clogged toilet of this job market. (And yet, see this compelling analysis that now is actually a great time to apply to law school, especially for lower scoring applicants.)

But what about future law students — are the 0Ls getting these gloomy memos? And how is it shaping their choices?

Recently, in collaboration with our friends at Blueprint Test Prep, we conducted a survey of BluePrint’s summer students studying for the October 2012 LSAT. We had nearly 600 respondents. Our goal was to get a snapshot of these 0Ls’ perception of the legal landscape, including the realities of financing a law school education and the current state of the legal job market.

After the jump, see some of what we could glean from the 0L mind, including a striking disconnect between the “job market” and a “career path”….

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Scenic waterfront of Wheeling, West Virginia. And the town got a traffic light too!

We’ve written extensively about the offices of Orrick in Wheeling, West Virginia. It’s the place where non-partner track associates go to perform the kind of quasi-paralegal tasks that you really shouldn’t have to pay somebody $160,000 a year to get done.

Here’s the thing about these “onshore,” “insourcing” operations: they are successful. Ridiculously successful. In an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Orrick chairman Ralph Baxter called the decision to open the Wheeling center “one of the smartest decisions we’ve ever made for the firm and our clients.” And that’s coming from a man who made the smart decision not to merge with Dewey Ballantine.

That’s why every Biglaw managing partner, and every law student thinking of taking out hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to law school, should pay attention to what’s going on in Wheeling…

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It almost feels like John Quinn is the one on trial, instead of Apple and Samsung.

* Last year, the TSA was supposed to hold public hearings about those naked body scanners everyone loves so much, but they still haven’t done it (surprise, surprise). Now the D.C. Circuit is starting to get angry. [Wired / Threat Level]

* Is there really life, hope, and maybe even an associate position beyond doc review work? This writer thinks so. [Greedy Associates]

* Remember the man convicted of murder who claimed that “celebrity angels and demons” told him to do it? His mistress and coworker of has now been arrested and charged as well. [AJC]

* This is a comic strip about a bear who also happens to be a lawyer. It is silly but also surprisingly clever, and funny jokes abound. [Bear Lawyer]

* Apple fired back at John Quinn regarding his declaration in the Apple / Samsung trial, and then the company filed “an emergency motion for sanctions” with Judge Lucy Koh. I think everyone in this case needs to take a timeout and cool their jets for a while. [Bloomberg]

* I mean, the trial is so hostile, the parties can’t even agree on the name of the case. [All Things D]

* Who murdered Robert Wone? The mystery looms as large today as it did six years ago. [Who Murdered Robert Wone]

* Holy s**t, this is like a real-life, Chinese version of “I’m Oscar! Dot com!” [Slate]

Wet Hot American Document Review?

We get a lot of tips from attorneys lamenting bad job postings. Frankly, most of them don’t interest us that much. Yes, we’ve covered the SAUSA positions that don’t pay anything. We’ve covered all kinds of crazy Craigslist jobs, to the point where many of them don’t surprise us anymore.

But, I have to say, when a tipster writes in to tell us about an electronic discovery advertisement that is so hilariously bad she can’t tell if the organization wants “a lawyer or a camp counselor,” our interest is piqued…

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Back in April, we wrote about Mark and Rhonda Lesher, a couple in rural Texas who won a massive defamation verdict against formerly anonymous online commenters. The online comments followed a trial during which they were acquitted of sexual assault. The multimillion dollar verdict appeared to set things right.

But it turns out there is much, much more to their story. Theirs is an unsettling tale of small-town justice, politics, and Mark Lesher, a lawyer-slash-“professional agitator,” who tried to do the right thing in a town that apparently wanted none of it.

Let’s start with news that the defamation verdict was overturned last month, and go backwards from there….

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Last week I wrote a story asking the question, “How important is it for law schools to teach students about electronic discovery?” The post stemmed from a perturbed tipster, who lamented the fact that her alma mater had decided to offer a class exclusively dealing with the subject.

The poll results were interesting. Most of you said the subject is definitely worth learning in school, despite its alleged unsexiness.

Additionally, I received an letter a few days after the story ran, signed by 14 attorneys, including small firm and Biglaw partners, tech company leaders, and one state judge, who wanted to give their collective opinion on the issue.

Technophiles will appreciate the note, although some young lawyers might find it an ominous sign of document review work to come. Let’s take a look at what these decision-making readers had to say…

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It is no secret that electronic discovery is not exactly fun or glamorous work. Entry-level associates who have to do document review almost universally hate it. But how important is it, really? Can one deny that e-discovery has become a crucial part of the litigation system?

Has it become important enough to merit its own class in law school? At least one Midwestern law professor thinks so. Read about his plan to integrate it into his law school, and let us know your opinion in our reader poll

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It has been quite a while since we have covered a grand mal discovery screw-up here at Above the Law. For a while, we almost started to believe the legal industry as a whole had finally caught up to technology — or at least had figured out how to keep major mistakes under the radar.

Well, our dry spell has ended. As we mentioned yesterday in Non-Sequiturs, the California office of a Biglaw firm handling some high-profile litigation for Goldman Sachs accidentally released an unredacted version of some files that the firm and its clients have spent years trying to keep secret.

Oopsies…

Keep reading to learn more about the case and see which firm reportedly disseminated evidence of the bank’s “naked” short selling…

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