Willian Henig

Aw, that’s cute. You thought you’d see the inside of one of these when you graduated from law school.

Ed. noteAlex Rich is a contract attorney reviewing documents for meager pay so Biglaw attorneys don’t have to. Alex will be sharing some thoughts about the growing phenomenon of contract attorneys here on Above the Law.

The good old days.

That may not be a phrase you generally associate with being a contract attorney, but it did exist. $45 an hour. Overtime. Cars home. Meals expensed. In 2013 this seems chimerical, but it did exist. Now the industry is all $27/flat (or worse); no toilet paper; and mockable Craigslist pleas to unionize (because Cesar Chavez would totally have advertised/picketed alongside missed connections and ads for escorts in the 21st century).

I know there are partners or associates derisively reading this in an office somewhere with a door that actually closes feeling schadenfreude over the pain of contractors. I mean, contract attorneys are all TTT graduates who probably shouldn’t have gone to law school in the first place, moms who appreciate the scheduling “freedom” of temp work, or flaky wannabe actor/writer/comedians who can’t hold down the rigors of being a real lawyer. Right?

Wrong….

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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….

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