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.
So I went to the annual conference of the Association of American Law Schools in New Orleans this past weekend. The place was lousy with law school deans and I had a ton of interesting, off-the-record conversations that I can’t report on. I also spent a weekend in New Orleans that involved all sorts of other things I can’t report on. It was fun and informative, you just have to trust me.
One thing I can report on was an AALS panel I attended, “The 75th Anniversary of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: Looking Back, Looking Ahead.” Now… I know that doesn’t scream “drop your panties,” but the panel was moderated by Arthur Miller. Yeah, thatArthur Miller, the famous law professor who wrote Death of A Civil Procedure Rules Salesman or something. And the all-star panel he was moderating included Justice Antonin Scalia… a person Miller doesn’t really agree with when it comes to rules. I had to go. Literally, I had to.
Unfortunately, the conversation was completely over my head. I’m not embarrassed to say that. Other people in my position may pretend that they got the most out of this discussion between Miller, Scalia, Biglaw partners, district judges, and others who have advised the Rules Committee. To me it sounded like, “TWOMBLY wha wha whaa, but in IQBAL wha wha wha wha! Wha? Given TWOMBLY’s wha and IQBAL’s wha, how could you wha wha whaaa?? [Laughter]”
As we mentioned yesterday in Morning Docket, Judge Marcia Gail Cooke (S.D. Fla.) recently issued an omnibus order on multiple motions for sanctions in the high-profile case of Coquina Investments v. TD Bank. The plaintiff, Coquina Investments, moved for sanctions related to various alleged discovery violations.
At a contempt hearing held back in May, Judge Cooke heard testimony from employees of TD Bank and current and former lawyers from Greenberg Traurig, which previously represented the bank. She took the matter under advisement — but not before saying things like, “It is hard for me to describe in words the difficulty throughout this trial related to documents and discovery.”
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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When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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