* Virginia is for lovers — gay and straight alike. Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen (E.D. Va.) just struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage (but stayed her ruling pending appeal). Happy Valentine’s Day! [Washington Post]
* Did a Biglaw firm make a big-time mistake by blowing a deadline to appeal a $40 million verdict? [Law360 (sub. req.)]
* Speaking of screw-ups, making them in the e-discovery realm can be costly — a lesson that California is learning the hard way, to the tune of $32 million. [ACEDS]
* Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin thought he’d be acquitted; he thought wrong. [ABA Journal]
* George Washington wasn’t a member of the one of the 8 magic groups — but his story still illustrates the truth of The Triple Package (affiliate link), according to Washington biographer Logan Beirne. [Fox News]
* Authorities have made an arrest for the package bombing that killed a retired Tennessee lawyer and his wife. [CNN]
I’ve recently realized I do a lot of complaining. Maybe it’s hard not to. This column has given me a terrific forum to… well, complain about a lot of the things I think are wrong in the world of document review. Maybe it’s a screed about horrible bosses or how the reviewer next to me seems allergic to using tissues. I regret nothing.
Venting and getting it all out there has been cathartic and the response from you the readers has been vindicating. But, I am trying to be a little more zen about the legal profession and my small role in it.
It’s an imperfect science, and I am still working on it, but here are some tips for loving doc review….
In last week’s column, I drew some customer service lessons for lawyers from the way that Disney treats visitors to its theme parks. This week, I want to focus on how Disney incorporates technological advances into its theme parks as a means of enhancing the customer experience.
On my recent visit, I was struck by the presence of two familiar pieces of technology from the “real world” within the Disney parks: (1) Disney’s new smartphone app for theme park visitors and (2) the availability of wi-fi in most areas of the park. Each example illustrates distinct yet relate, approaches to implementing technology for the benefit of the customer. And while I am sure that each took Disney many man-hours to develop, test, and roll-out publicly, it was refreshing for me as a lawyer to see a company of that stature making the investment to do so. It was also a real contrast to my Biglaw experience, where implementing technology in a way tailored to improve the client (and even employee) experience was all too often a low priority….
Everyone has an opinion about a trip to Disney World. Some people relish immersing themselves in the experience, while others bemoan the long lines, incessant invitations to spend money, and roaming packs of at-turns hyperactive and hysterical children.
Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle, if leaning a bit to being a Disney-phile as opposed to a Disney-phobe. Having just spent a week there with my family, I can attest to the importance of having realistic expectations regarding the trip — such as recognizing that it will not be a relaxing “vacation,” in the traditional sense. Whether physically or emotionally, anything more than a day visit can be quite draining. At the same time, it is also a lot of fun, and can be quite educational for the kids as well. And there is a lot we can learn as lawyers from the way that Disney goes about its business….
Email. In the last 20 years it has gone from office novelty to a ubiquitous mainstay of our daily lives. I am not complaining about this; the explosion of email is part of what has fed the growth of document review. Everytime you hit send, a new document is created and a contract attorney gets their wings.
And, oh, the fun of email! Of course there are jokes and forwards, all of which are designed to be entertaining, but there are so many other enjoyable aspects of the medium. Such as the firm-wide screed of a recently terminated document review attorney.
So what Biglaw firm was treated to an angry missive from a fired doc reviewer?
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….
I think everybody who has ever sat in a windowless conference room while staring at a screen and clicking through millions of documents has thought to themselves: “I wish I were dead.” “Somebody, please help me, it hurts.” “Zihuatanejo.” “I am not doing legal work.”
Whether you find yourself contracting after three years of law school or you were fired from a real legal job and are now contracting in lieu of moving back home with your parents, you don’t actually need a law degree to know that trained chimpanzees could be doing contract attorney work. In fact, the only reason they don’t use trained chimpanzees is that it’s much, much cheaper to train human beings to do it. And after a while, the chimps might revolt and kill their document room overseer while the humans will sit there in docile and vain hopes that one day they might get a real lawyer job.
Which brings us to the subject of today’s lawsuit challenging the Biglaw system of hiring contract attorneys to do menial, low-level, thoughtless work, and then not paying them overtime. Attorney Willian Henig has sued Quinn Emanuel alleging that contract attorneys should not be exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act rules about overtime pay.
We’ve seen suits like this before, but this one is coming at one of the biggest and most well-known firms in all of Biglaw….
I think that every lawyer feels that they have been employed by Satan at one time or another. It’s just like how criminals end up working for Keyser Söze without knowing it. Whether he’s running your firm from a corner office, or he’s a client you end up representing, most lawyers end up working for the devil at one time or another.
Usually, Satanic jobs and assignments try to appear normal. But that job market is really tight. Evidently, it’s such a buyer’s market that Satan doesn’t feel like he has to hide his true nature anymore. He’s now openly advertising to hire some new associates on Craigslist….
Some of you must have seen that show Cash Cab on the Discovery Channel. If for some reason you haven’t, here’s what goes down in each and every episode of the show: a good-looking taxi driver carts unknowing passengers around town and offers them the chance to win money by correctly answering trivia questions on the way to their destinations.
If it seems too good to be true, well, it was — alas, lawyers just got invited to ruin the party for everyone else.
The evolution of relationships between the genders continues. Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind workplace where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.
Henry Ford sat on his workbench and sighed. A year earlier, he had personally built 13,000 Model Ts with his own hands. Fashioning lugnuts and tie rods by hand, Ford was loath to ask for help. Sure, there were things about the car that he didn’t quite understand. This explains the lack of reliable navigation systems in the Model T. But Ford persevered because he knew that unless he did everything, he could not reliably call these cars his own.
“Unless my own personal toil is responsible for it, it may as well be called a Hyundai,” Ford remarked at the time.
The preceding may sound unfamiliar because it is categorically untrue. And also monumentally stupid. Henry Ford didn’t build all those cars by hand. He had help and plenty of it. Almost exactly one hundred years ago, Henry Ford opened up the most technologically advanced assembly line the world had ever seen. Built on the premise that work can be chopped up into digestible pieces and completed by many men better than one, the line ushered in an age of unparalleled productivity.
Today, an attorney refers business because he can’t do everything the client asks of him.
There are three reasons why this is way dumber than a made-up Henry Ford story…
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 six years. You can reach them by email: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.