Ode to our Doc Review Friends
As you may have noticed, there are a substantial number of young attorneys whose entire job consists of reviewing documents for major litigation cases at large firms. These attorneys are called document review, contract or temporary attorneys. Arin Greenwood, a contract attorney, wrote an informative article in Washington City Paper about his experience with “doc review” as well as the experiences of several others.
Greenwood explains: “[he] does not do research, and he does not write; he does not go to court, and he does not meet with clients. The clients whose cases he works on do not know his name. There is no room for promotion in this job…
“On a given day, [contract attorneys] 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.”
Some of the benefits of doc review are that the money is good (often double what first year associates at many small firms make), there is a lot of flexibility and almost no responsiblity.
But it’s not all fun and games for contract attorneys. According to Tom the Temp there are “blacklists” of temps, jobs can end on a moment’s notice and some large firms are outsourcing contract jobs to India. The site likens doc review to working in the fields of Soviet Russia and/or a sweatshop (this site includes a specific post where contract attorneys argue about Dechert and Hudson).
A major concern of many doc reviewers is that if they stay for too long, no other firms will hire them. Joseph Miller, a contract attorney in Washington, D.C., started a blog specifically to help motivate contract attorneys in their careers and to help address stagnation – after all, there are no promotions in doc review.
I spoke with a young Philadelphia attorney, who recently left doc review for a job as an associate at a mid-sized firm, to get the scoop on the local doc review scene. She said, “I had a 401(K), healthcare and paid days off, but my self esteem took a beating because my non-doc review friends don’t view it as ‘real work.'”