Sunday, September 16, 2012

Polar bears

I talked to a 2009 graduate yesterday, a very talented lawyer from a top-50 law school. He has been working the document review circuit, which he described this way:  "I feel like a polar bear faced with global warming. Each job is an ice floe melting below my feet. I swim from one chunk of ice to the next, but the chunks are melting faster and the swims are getting longer. There are no bridges from here to dry land."

When he mentions his job to former professors, this lawyer told me, they often congratulate him on "getting good experience." These professors are clueless about how document review works, how temp agencies operate, and how difficult it is for lawyers to move from document review to other positions. For those who don't understand, here are the cold facts of life for a legal polar bear:

  • Document reviewers develop expertise using computer programs to review documents. That expertise translates into nothing except using the same programs to review still more documents.
  • Law firms hire outsourcing companies to staff their document review projects. A standard arrangement is for the law firm to bill clients $100/hour for this work and to pocket half; the firm pays the outsourcing company $50/hour; and the company pays the document review attorney no more than $25/hour.
  • This financial arrangement is somewhat like the way in which firms leverage the work of associates--except for the very important fact that the document review lawyer has no way of moving up in the hierarchy. Under the conventional firm structure, the partners collect one-third of the associate's billings as compensation for training the associate and giving her access to client business. In document review, the firm collects one-half of the junior lawyer's billings, but with no interest in giving the reviewer advanced training, access to clients, or promotion opportunities.
  • Even when reviewers impress the law firms they are servicing, they have little chance to move into full-time staff positions. The reviewer's contract with the outsourcing company contains a clause prohibiting the reviewer from working for any of the company's law firm clients for a full year after the temp job ends--unless the law firm pays the outsourcing company a stiff fee. Even a very talented document reviewer will not impress a law firm enough to justify that premium price, especially when the firm can continue profiting so handsomely from temporary workers. 
  • The ice floes are melting faster because the computer software is getting slicker. Fewer attorneys are needed to supervise the latest programs. As fewer bears fit on each ice floe, more are left swimming in the sea.  
  • Temp work does not, as some professors romantically assume, offer workers a "more relaxed lifestyle." The polar bears work 8-10 hours a day on relaxed projects; 10-12 hours a day on more stressful ones. Law firm associates may struggle to get time off for a friend's wedding, family illness, or other commitment, but it's even harder for the polar bears. The temp agency has no investment in its bears' professional development or well-being. If this bear won't produce on schedule, there are plenty of other bears swimming in that cold sea.
Legal educators may denounce the law firms and temp agencies for their unprofessional behavior: As members of a profession, shouldn't more senior lawyers be willing to mentor junior lawyers? Shouldn't they create jobs that offer training, professional development, and a chance for advancement--rather than simply the greatest profit for the outsourcing company and firms' partners?

If we're serious about the idea of a profession, rather than a business cartel, then of course they should.   But the same criticism applies to law schools. We, too, are part of the legal profession. We shouldn't be admitting the most students we can entice, for the highest tuition we can gouge, only to release our graduates into a workplace that we know offers many of them just polar bear jobs--or no jobs at all. The economy will support only so many legal jobs with the possibility for advancement.

The real polar bears are not faring well. Neither are the legal polar bears, even the ones from top-50 habitats.

121 comments:

  1. Excellent comparison to polar bears and shrinking ice floes, DJM.

    Thanks for the post. And sorry to disappoint all you other guys, but I was FIRST.

    ReplyDelete
  2. And so kids:

    If ye be a law school debtor
    and six figures you be owin'
    you'll get no help or sympathy
    from Schweitzer, Quist and Cohen!

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Coder's Blues" (A parody of "Smuggler's Blues" by Glenn Frey)

    There's trouble on the screens tonight,
    I can feel it in my bones.
    I had a premonition,
    That I should not code alone.
    I knew the doc was privileged,
    But I didn't think it was hot.
    Next day, the boss exploded,
    And it seemed like I was shot.

    So baby, here's your mouse, now click it,
    Put that keyboard in your hand.
    Switch on your little MP3 player,
    Now code 'em just the way they planned.
    You sit still for fifty hours
    And they'll pay you about a grand (after taxes).
    I'm so sorry it went down like this,
    And my career, it had to lose,
    But it's the nature of the business,
    It's the coder's blues.
    Coder's Blues.

    The coders and paras,
    Staffers and associates at law,
    The partners and the markups,
    And the temps nobody saw.
    No matter if it's Summation, Concordance, or Flash,
    You've got to learn the platforms
    If you wanna earn that cash.
    There's lots of shady characters,
    Lots of dirty deals.
    Ev'ry time you have to sign NDAs
    In case somebody squeals.
    It's the lure of easy money,
    It's gotta very strong appeal.

    Perhaps you'd understand it better
    Standin' in my shoes,
    It's the ultimate entrapment,
    It's the coder's blues,
    Coder's Blues.

    See 'em on the Craigslist,
    You hear about'em ev'ry day.
    But soon they're gonna ship it out,
    Soon it's all gonna go away.
    They're moving it out from New York, shipping it out from L.A.,
    They're inshoring it to burgs like Tallahassee,
    But it's not really here to stay.
    It's popping up in sweatshops in Mumbai and Bengaluru,
    You ask the ABA man,
    He'll say "There's nothin' we can do,"
    From the office of the ABA President,
    Right down to me and you...me and you.

    It's a losing proposition,
    But one you can't refuse.
    It's the politics of contracting,
    It's the coder's blues,
    Coder's Blues...Coder's Blues...Coder's Blues...

    [fade out]

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't think it's going to India, rates are cheap enough in the U.S. that the inconvenience of the time differential will keep most of it here.

      That minor criticism aside, kudos on the song!

      Delete
  4. Temp work does not, as some professors romantically assume, offer workers a "more relaxed lifestyle."

    It really is a hellish existence. You are unemployed, waiting by the phone, scrimping & saving, praying for the next job to come in. When a job finally does come in, they expect you to work around the clock, which you gladly do because you haven't been working and you never know when the next job will be coming in. Weddings & family emergencies become secondary to financial survival. You can absolutely forget about planning a vacation or time off with your family. The agencies hold inordinate power. Take unplanned time off, or so much as look at them the wrong way, and they will blacklist you from working at other firms and go on to place some of the other starving polar bears.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't think the profs this person was talking to are representative. I would guess the people who said that he was getting good experience, or extolling the flexibility of document review, were trying to put the best face on things, as people are trained by their parents to do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And you say that based on what? Basically:

      1) DJM said this was the response the ex-student concerned often received. Certainly this is then representative of at least a portion of his former profs and their cluelessness as to what document review actually is.

      2) If they are 'putting the best face on things' then they are still not helping the student concerned.

      Delete
  6. Thank you for writing a revealing article on this topic to accompany the posts written by document reviewers on JD Underground.

    My law school told me about how document review was a great opportunity during the ten months between graduation and admission to the bar (luckily I passed the bar exam on the first try). Unfortunately, no document review jobs these days accept people unless they have bar admission! Very few document review jobs accept applicants in urban areas unless they have a year of prior experience. So, document review positions can be just as closed off to new lawyers as real law firm associate positions.

    Furthermore, if you are lucky enough to land a month-long gig (or more), the $25/hour salary will cause deferment to end and the $1000/month debt bills will start. That $25/hour starts to look at lot less attractive. Unless a person can get full-time back-to-back document review gigs, this option is just as bad as unemployment, except you also have zero free time to look for real jobs or to pursue a few solo clients.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First, put the loans on IBR.

      Second, APPLY for Unemployment between gigs. I got called back in our of the blue by a firm that I thought had blacklisted me as soon as I filed a claim against them.

      In both cases here, the government is unfortunately bolstering the law school scam, but we need to eat.

      Delete
    2. Unemployment compensation is not available to everyone. One has to have worked for several of the past few months in order to be eligible.

      Delete
    3. You also don't get unemployment if the government counts you as self employed.

      Delete
  7. "Even when reviewers impress the law firms they are servicing, they have little chance to move into full-time staff positions. The reviewer's contract with the outsourcing company contains a clause prohibiting the reviewer from working for any of the company's law firm clients for a full year after the temp job ends--unless the law firm pays the outsourcing company a stiff fee. Even a very talented document reviewer will not impress a law firm enough to justify that premium price, especially when the firm can continue profiting so handsomely from temporary workers."

    how heartwarming...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Besides which no reviewer would be likely to impress the law firm, where no one would ever know the reviewer's name.

      Delete
    2. Not to give any potential law students a glimmer of false hope, but there is a thin path from reviewer to perm employee.

      I know a few experienced and competent doc reviewers who moved from reviewer to team lead to staff attorney. Take the job seriously without being annoying and you've got half a shot.

      I don't think there's much of a vertical path from a staff attorney gig, but at least it's more stable than a doc review gig.

      Delete
    3. @ PDR: I have a friend in this position who is now a staff attorney. Unfortunately, the path from staff attorney --> associate doesn't seem to exist, and he is stuck without the career advancement he's worked so hard for. To be sure, he's much better off than where he started, with amenities like a monthly paycheck (!) and health insurance (!!) But it frustrates me that many firms seem to have created a caste system under which non-associates won't ever be considered for associate positions.

      Delete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Nine is a very bad luck number.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Are law professors that disconnected from reality that they will congratulate a grad for landing a doc review gig?

    Let me tell you a little tale of how doc review started. Back in the '80s, there was plenty of work to go around at law firms. Menial tasks such as doc review were given to paralegals and firms would bill their time at $60.00 an hour. Typically, Biglaw paralegals were hired from good undergraduate institutions. They were paid $25K to start (mid '80s salary) and provided with full medical and 401K benefits.

    Sometime in the mid '90s, a partner from a V10 firm decided that it would be more profitable to assign the doc review work to associates, who would be billed out at $225 an hour. Initially there was great resistance from clients for paying $225/hr for work that was previously being billed at $80 an hour and that was being performed by a paralegal. So as a compromise, law firms started outsourcing doc review to staffing companies such as Robert Hadley, Robert Half, etc. The purpose of this was to appease clients, billing doc review work at $100-150/hr instead of @225/hr. The staffing companies typically were paid a third of the billable hourly rate and that was split with the doc reviewer 60-65/35-40 (35-40% going to the doc reviewer). The added benefits were that the firm did not need to provide health benefits or match retirement plans. Also, doc reviewers could be placed in large conference rooms or the underbelly of the firms' offices (basement) instead of prime real estate office space (which adds to overhead). Sometimes, a partner would get a cut from the staffing agency (on a sub rosa basis of course) in exchange for selecting that particular agency. Doc review generated a lot of money for firms at its peak in 2007.

    Epilogue: Doc review is dying. Clients would rather go the tech or LPO way which is cheaper and it cuts out the middle man (staffing agencies). This also cuts out the law grad that could not secure traditional associate or attorney positions with firms.

    I never thought doc review positions were good to begin with, at least from the law grad's perspective. Yes, there were a few that earned six figure incomes (in the pre-2008 days) by working crazy overtime, through weekends and holidays. However, you had to procure your own medical insurance and the project was not guaranteed to last. Also, there was no room for growth. You could be a doc review superstar and it didn't mean squat for the law firm. Maybe it got you preferred assignments with the staffing agencies but that was it.

    Realistically, doc review work is monkey work. It really doesn't require a JD but firms and agencies put that requirement to justify the higher billable rates. When law schools claim law grads employed as doc reviewers in the category of jobs requiring a JD, it is another manner in which the employment numbers are manipulated.

    I think the grad that goes into doc review makes a grave mistake on his/her career. Anyone remember the actor Adam West? He played Batman in the '60s TV series. Apparently Mr. West was a classically trained actor who after Batman, could not land any serious roles (unless you count his voice work in Family Guy as serious acting). Mr. West was typecast as a cornball character for the rest of his career.

    I am afraid the same will happen to you if you take doc review work. No one will ever take you seriously as an attorney. Personally, I would never hire a former doc reviewer for an attorney position. That would be like hiring a hospital orderly to be a medical resident. It won't happen, unless you are connected or have some serious oral skills that are useful to a particular partner.

    Doc review work is another vestige of failure. And even in today's market, grads are running out of ways to fail with the doc review circuit being in the middle of a phasing out stage.

    A.E.S.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why didn't clients refuse to pay more than the cost for paralegals?

      I agree that document review is the kiss of death.

      Delete
    2. No, they are not that clueless. Well, you can find clueeless people in every category of life. The do not represent everyone in that category.

      Delete
    3. A.E.S.:

      Much of your comment I can't really argue with. That's the reality.

      But: "I am afraid the same will happen to you if you take doc review work. No one will ever take you seriously as an attorney. Personally, I would never hire a former doc reviewer for an attorney position. That would be like hiring a hospital orderly to be a medical resident. It won't happen, unless you are connected or have some serious oral skills that are useful to a particular partner."

      I don't doubt that just about everyone thinks this way, and I don't argue that the perception exists. But, wow, is that ever ignorant and arrogant. Maybe everyone here will ask what my first clue was, but I'm starting to think that part of the legal job market is the quality of the people running law firms. Have you any idea how fucking incompetent your colleagues are? In general, there is really no appreciable difference between a smart kid in 6 months of doc review and a first or second year associate in a firm somewhere. Without a doubt there is a stigma to document review, but is that only because the people doing doc review are so profoundly stupid or because the people doing the hiring in firms are profoundly just cunts?

      Delete
    4. 6:05PM

      I didn't make the rules or set the culture for Biglaw. The current state of affairs are a sad reality. But who said life, law school or the legal profession is fair? You could study your ass off and still get a B while someone who crammed gets an A. You could win a trial or write brilliant briefs but the idiot rainmaker is making partner while you are being told to leave the firm.

      Knowing this, kids will still continue to flood the law school gates to roll the dice. Either college grads today have a masochistic streak or are plain dumb.

      Don't cry about fairness if you knew exactly that the legal profession is completely arbitrary and capricious when it comes to fairness.

      A.E.S.

      Delete
    5. One last thing 6:05PM.

      If I hired a kid out of the doc review circuit and he screwed up a project or got bad reviews, my colleagues would begin to question my judgment. If I hired a counterpart who knows nothing straight out of law school and who has the numbers to make the cut, then I can always say it happens. If the kid came from doc review, I would be ridiculed. That is the truth.

      A.E.S.

      Delete
    6. I agree with 6:05 that law firms are full of wretched people. One might be excused for supposing that a firm that is billing hundreds of dollars per hour to clients that it wants to retain would hire capable people. Yet the incompetent work coming out of the big law firms is astounding. I see it all the time.

      Delete
    7. I didn't disagree with the fact that your perception of the market for document reviewers was correct. It is. That's reality. Which I think I said - so don't understand your pretty condescending advice that "life is unfair". I did wish to point out that it's a pretty arrogant attitude. Nice to know I was right and that your job would be under pressure simply because someone with document review on his or her resume fucked up, even if another candidate without document review on his or her resume made the same mistake.

      Delete
    8. Someone recently sent me some shit from the Wall Street Journal about "high" rates for document review in other languages. I don't care how high the rates are (and those listed weren't glorious): I'm not going to do document review.

      Delete
    9. Yeah, unfortunately document review is another form of employment that can be (and is being) automated and out-sourced out of existence. Basically any form of employment that basically consists of applying a few simple rules or a flow-chart to documents is going the way of the dodo. This process is far from over though, and there's still more occupations ready for the chop. Patenting is one area that is particularly ripe - particularly prior art searches and specification drafting, the bulk of both of which can be shifted from highly paid workers sitting in offices in Alexandria VA, Munich, or Tokyo to relatively low-paid (but high by local standards) workers in barn-sized rooms in Bangalore or Shenzhen.

      Delete
  11. Keep in mind thAtbeing a good reviewer does not always mean being a FAST reviewer. We work off of billable hours. The more we bill, the more the firms and the agencies make.

    ReplyDelete
  12. "the short-term jobs can sometimes come with medical coverage or retirement accounts"

    http://box552.bluehost.com/pipermail/articles_eamcap-articles.com/attachments/20110618/afa4cd07/attachment-0001.pdf

    ReplyDelete
  13. Is there any data on the number of doc reviewers who are working for agencies? Any idea how long they get to keep that job?

    I know there is a great guy on TLS who went to Northwestern and interviewed for a lot of 2L and 3L jobs. He was interviewing and doing call backs right after the crash. Got nothing. He is still in doc review as far as I know. It is such a waste because he would be a great lawyer for a firm.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Doc reviewers technically are not employed by temp or staffing agencies. They are considered independent contractors, which means you get a 1099 form in January and if you haven't been escrowing money, you will owe the IRS and the State a lot of taxes since those deductions typically are not made by the agencies.

      I know many T14 grads over the years that have sunk into the doc review circuit. Few ever climb out of that scene. I knew this one guy who went to Harvard Law and was working as a doc reviewer in NYC. He fizzled out of Biglaw and was stuck in doc review. The ironic thing was that he claimed to be more at peace working as a doc reviewer than as an associate. I have also met many Georgetown law center grads on the doc review circuit so don't think a T14 pedigree immunizes you from that type of work. Hell Michigan was encouraging grads two years ago to apply to an LPO company in India called Pangea3.

      Delete
    2. Wrong. Doc reviewers are w-2 employees. They have taxes withheld and can collect unemployment between gigs.

      Delete
  14. Speaking of Pangea3, look at the wonderful legal openings in their Mumbai offices:

    http://www.pangea3.com/list/current_openings.html

    If you can stomach the bad food, the lack of running water and arrange for Sallie Mae to be paid in rupees, then you may be a perfect fit at Pangea3, the global leader of legal process outsourcing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. http://www.legallyindia.com/wiki/Indian_lawyer_salaries

      The pay for Pangea3 reviewers in India is actually pretty high. $9300 to $13,000/yr. Considering the higher quality of review work in the US, I think India LPO is not far away from pricing itself out.

      Delete
  15. Wow. Sounds like I need to open one of these document review companies. I'd gladly split the 50% client's fee with the document reviewer. Of course, the reviewer must maintain his or her own malpractice insurance. Can't beat 25% fee for farming out work to a bunch of document reviewers.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I agree that the law schools should care about student outcomes, etc.

    However, to say that firms and experienced attorneys "should" do this or that is quite naive.

    Like it or not, everything outside of academia (and apparently INSIDE...which IS a problem) is driven by the profit motive. The law firm is looking at the temp atty and how he/she affects their bottom line, and so is the doc review company. The fact that the struggling new atty. is simply being squeezed for every drop of human capital they have is just the reality of the marketplace, and it is not going to change.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "The fact that the struggling new atty. is simply being squeezed for every drop of human capital they have is just the reality of the marketplace, and it is not going to change."

      It's especially unlikely to change when people talk about "the marketplace" as if this entity's rules were determined by some combination of divine edict and/or the laws of thermodynamics.

      Delete
    2. Hem and haw all you want, Professor. Companies need to cut legal costs to stay afloat during a tepid recovery with economic risks abound (inflation post-QE3, anyone?) and doc review is a way to accomplish that. Would you rather these grads (many, not all, but many of whom were doubtful candidates for law practice to begin with) be without work completely? Doc review is a way of the market bringing these grads work. Posturing about the well -known shortcomings about classical economic theory and arguing that firms should adopt certain practices without due regard for very real business concerns is asking for throwing good money after bad.

      Delete
    3. I agree that law is a business. The problem is that the lawyers with top jobs--the ones who are benefiting from these low-paid positions--are also demanding the perks of being a profession. The barriers to entry (3 years of law school, bar exam) are part of what allow the legal profession to maintain such a tournament-style structure, giving huge rewards to those at the top. If the winners want to maintain the professional/cartel structure that gives them those benefits, they should be willing to play by the professional rules.

      Delete
    4. No, the current economic structure of the FIRE service economy is what allows them to maintain a tournament-style structure.

      It's crony "capitalism", sure, but it's the same model used in finance.

      And finance doesn't have the barriers to entry.

      Delete
    5. Very astute observation DJM, however, with a couple hundred law schools and government loans accessible to anyone with half a brain cell and a pulse, the barriers to entry have returned to what they have traditionally been -- privilege(money) and connections. The JDs of today that do not have access are merely sweat-shop workers of the modern era. And since they are "professionals" (i.e. exempt from overtime laws etc.) they truly can be worked like dogs and paid table scraps. Ironic that most of these middle class kids believe going in that they are spending money and effort to pull themselves out of that grind. The more lawyers there are, the wealthier are those who hold the keys to the kingdom because the less they have to pay "professionals" for work product.

      Delete
    6. "(inflation post-QE3, anyone?)" uhhhhh, no. If you think inflation is the real danger out there, then you, along with the rest of the Eastwood gang should go hang out with the chimps. Economic behavior has a funny way of being used to cover for human behavior. Same way with intelligent people making simple issues complicated.

      The problem is selfishness.

      Delete
    7. "The problem is selfishness."

      You have a painful way of stating the obvious. I think that vice was identified sometime about the time people tamed fire. Any brilliant solutions?

      Delete
    8. Start championing selflessness.

      Delete
  17. I fear it's only a short hop from document review to the following "career opportunities" which were lauded in Business Week. These "enterprises are quite attractive to the venture capitalists who fund them, and, as far as I can tell, don't require a law degree:

    http://www.businessweek.com/printer/articles/71312-my-life-as-a-taskrabbit

    Very, very sad that this and document review are all this country can offer to the current job-seeking generation.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Doc Review is an abyss from which few people I know return. I got released from a document review assignments because I got sick and had to leave work early. I got a phone call the next morning telling me that the assignment had ended and I was not to go into work. Lucky for me that was early in my document review career. I was able to find a few cases and piece together my own firm.

    Lucky for me I was single and still had time to defer my loans. This was in 2011. But I saw 40 year old people with families trying to make a living through document review after being let go from big law firms.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Doc review sucks, nothing new here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Except for those professors who think that a grad is getting good experience in document review. They seem to think it is a sort of training ground that can move a lawyer up. It isn't.

      Delete
  20. Anybody interested in learning more about what kinds of jobs are available in doc review should look up "The Posse List" and subscribe to some of their email lists. As a 4 year veteran of the DC doc review circuit, I've subscribed to the DC list for a long time.

    I remember when I first started coding docs, people used to say that "contract (temporary) attorneys are mostly doing doc review now, but in the future, law firms will be using them for more substantive work." This was supposed to make us feel better about being temps. This prediction seems to be coming at least somewhat true, but not in the way we hoped. It isn't that law firms are offering substantive opportunities to people with doc review experience, that rarely happens. Coders are just coders.

    But rather, Posse List now sends me advertisements for substantive gigs that are strictly temporary and for which they want to hire experienced (but unemployed) attorneys. I've seen ads for weeks-long projects seeking people with 3-5 years of substantive experience. Some of these even demand that you be in the top of your class! Its ridiculous. I would not qualify for any of these jobs, but I always feel so bad for the sorry sap who ends up taking them. Anybody qualified applicant has obviously fallen a long way.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I don't understand why professors from top schools don't attack professors from crappy schools -- not because the latter are bad professors -- but because their chose to be employed by such schools floods the market with graduates, creates the scam nature of law school, and thus brings down the entire profession.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Why are we talking about the "Top-50" as though it means anything?

    Not only is it arbitrary, but it truly means nothing in terms of it's cohort.

    The major divides that I see are as follows:

    HYS
    T14
    Standard Issue School (Most of them)
    Really Bad School With Poor Reputation

    I'm not trolling.

    Am I wrong here that Top-50 is completely meaningless?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eldon Roderick Wentworth IVSeptember 17, 2012 at 7:22 AM

      "Yale or fail."

      Delete
    2. Exactly! Many T-50 professors assume that the job market won't hurt their students because they're in the top quarter of law schools. And 0Ls make the same mistake. I harp on the T-50 point to try to open those eyes.

      Delete
    3. I have never heard anyone refer to top 50 ad if it meant anything.

      Delete
    4. @ anon 10:04 AM:

      The people who refer to "top 50" typically go to schools ranked 30-50 and are hoping that that means something positive. No one else cares.

      Delete
  23. Meaningless in that the graduates reap no benefit, yes. I assume Top 50 grads have higher LSATs and GPAs, do maybe that means something.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was speaking to the reaping of no benefits rather that the quality of the student.

      Delete
  24. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum:

    When last term's clerks emerged from the [U.S. Supreme] court after working on headline-grabbing cases involving health care and immigration, they found a long line of law firms eager to sign them up, for a typical bonus of $280,000. Such a signing bonus alone exceeds the annual salary of $214,000 earned by most of the high court justices they served. (The chief justice makes slightly more.)

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443720204578000202789898248.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are simply fine gemstones for the BigLaw Imperial Crown.

      To obtain such an exquisite luxury item, you are in direction competition with the other top firms.

      And there are only so many finely crafted associates produced each year.

      Delete
    2. If I ran a firm I would hire a former supreme court clerk at whatever price they wanted. Many of them prefer to teach, so there is even more competition for the remaining clerks.

      Delete
    3. The bonus is to pay for the years they were not working at a firm.

      Delete
  25. Why doesn't the ABA and the various state bars find that Pangea3 is the unauthorized practice of law?

    I find this exasperating.

    ChicagoDePaul

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because globalization is cool.

      You do want lawyers to be cool, right?

      Delete
    2. I think it is because the aba decided that as long as they were under the supervision of a licensed US attorney , it was not unauthorized practice of law.l

      Delete
  26. Law stopped being worthy of being called a profession at least two decades ago, at least as early as my entry into the business. It is a business, medicine is a profession, dentistry is a profession, nursing is a profession, teaching is a profession. Law is not worthy of being dignified with the term 'profession.' Law as it is practiced in each and every firm, especially biglaw, is nothing more than those at the top, i.e. those who control the clients and thereby control the purse strings, doing all they can most of the time to extract as much money out of that power as possible. The fate of the document reviewers is just an example of how this vile and loathsome business works at the bottom of the pyramid. I sometimes am frustrated that anyone continues to use the word 'profession' to describe the loathsome, vile, inhumane business that I have known as law for 20 years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You get one life, why are you wasting yours doing something you despise?

      Delete
  27. Document review is a market which would make more sense if the services were performed by paralegals. Certainly any number of bright liberal arts grads could do the work, and they could do so without having to incur three years opportunity costs and the debt and financial burdens of law school. There would be little or no labor market "taint" (as there is now with JD's) with paralegal types performing the work, as they could move on to a bank or a contracts position and the like with a plus attached to them in that they have some familiarity with the legal system as opposed to being labeled as an underemployed (or unemployable) lawyer. As it stands now, document review is a way to inflate margins through the unnecessary use of lawyers. Yes, I know this position this hurts the existing crop of out of work or underemployed lawyers, but we desperately need to winnow down the number of law schools, and substantially so, and need more market events than we have now to substantiate it is plum crazy to go to law school.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I didn't read all the comments, so I apologize if this was mentioned, but another somewhat important bulletpoint to remember re: document review is that, just like "real" legal work, any matter on which an attorney works, no matter how removed or trivial gives rise to conflicts.

    Given that the bulk of document review projects are exclusive to those with significant $$ to throw down for paying click monkeys, it follows that every project taken becomes the potential to lose out on future projects. Obviously, temp agencies and firms have no real incentive to get these conflicts waived and, particularly the rare secondary markets where document review occurs (and in NYC/DC), one's availability for projects can run out quickly.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Nowadays, agencies lie more often than not. Bait and switch is the name of the game. You say you were promised 40 hours a week, but they send you home every afternoon at 2 because their IT dept is lazy and incompetent and they can't be bothered with fixing the document review system? Too bad for you. Just try jumping ship for something more stabile and you will soon have the big breasted dumb recruiter on the other line yelling at you for not fulfilling your one-sided commitment. She will type your name into her database and you will soon be blacklisted by all the agency's clients. Rinse and repeat, until you are soon conflicted out of every gig in town.

    ReplyDelete
  30. "Just try jumping ship for something more stabile and you will soon have the big breasted dumb recruiter on the other line yelling at you for not fulfilling your one-sided commitment."

    Cooley says that due to the nature of these one-sided unwritten employment contracts, they will mark these temporary jobs down as permanent in their advertising.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I have some good tales about things that I saw while preparing for the bar exam.

    For instance, there was the woman and young mother that brought her 8 or nine year old child to the bar prep course every night because she couldn't afford a babysitter, and how I saw that young girl sleeping in the hallways of Hofstra University while her exhausted looking mother was busy taking notes during a grueling 800 hour bar prep course.

    I really wonder if that young woman ever passed the bar, and whatever became of her and her daughter.

    It was a long time ago. 10 years or more by now.

    Like many of us, I guess the young mother thought she was going to grab the gold ring after she passed the bar exam and got off the law school scam carousel.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hey Prof! Top rate job! I would give this an A.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Doc review is to lawyers as porn is for actors.
    Once you do porn, it is tough to go mainstream.
    Once you do doc review, it is tough to get a real lawyer job.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Porn is a lot more fun.

      Delete
  34. Hi I stumbled upon this blog because I'm going to start law school in Jan 2013. I may or may not accelerate the melting of the ice in the legal profession. It all depends on wehther I can survive law school and whether or not I get admitted to the BAR after law school... lol. It's going to be a long shot before I become yet another threat to the habitat of the Legal Polar Bears:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What school are you attending?

      Delete
    2. Does it matter? (I.e., do any outside of TTTT offer spring admit?)

      Delete
    3. "Hi I stumbled upon this blog because I'm going to start law school in Jan 2013."

      Oh dear god.

      Delete
    4. 5:23 Did you actually read any of this blog after you "stumbled upon" it? Because, if you had read any of it, and actually comprehended what you had read, you would be shitting your pants instead of making jokes.

      Some people simply refuse to accept reality. It's sad.

      Delete
    5. Are you an idiot, 5:23? Having looked through this and seen what a terrible state the legal market is in now and is likely to be in for all of the foreseeable future, you really want to jump into that crap heap? You've stumbled upon the best help in your decision-making process you could possibly have found and you're just waltzing right past it. The market is terrible, and your deposit is a sunk cost. I'm sorry, but you would be much better off finding something better to do with your life. I recommend going to a good, strong market, learning a trade, and finding dependable work. Low cost for entry, low cost of failure to launch, respectable income if it works out, and decent probability of working out. You could do worse.

      Delete
    6. 12:39AM is right.

      I hope 5:23 PM is a joke. Prospective students posting their ignorance all over on TLS is one thing, even in the face of those of us who do drop by occasionally to warn you what a mistake you're making. It's easy for the warnings to get buried over there. Here though? Shucks you're fucked!

      Again, I hope 5:23 PM is a joke, but if not then please be warned . . . .

      THIS WILL NOT END WELL FOR YOU.

      Delete
  35. @4:09 PM

    No need to go that far.

    porn is not law and law is not porn, although many critics and/or devout students of American Democracy will argue that the two are inextricably intertwined by now.

    To me, it is as simple as this:

    There has to be a smooth and almost seamless transition from law school and into the workforce, and for a job that whatever the law school training was supposed to be for.

    If a starving law grad ends up serving pizza due to a dire need for cash......

    that situation, ironically, looks very bad in the mind of prospective employers.

    We are not talking about Medical School.

    ReplyDelete
  36. "Law stopped being worthy of being called a profession at least two decades ago, at least as early as my entry into the business. It is a business, medicine is a profession".

    This comment is wrong. I have family and relatives who are doctors. Trust me, the grass is not greener in the field of medicine. The lawyers are making it less green...

    ReplyDelete
  37. Doc review is a nightmare, and I wouldn't wish it on most law grads. The agencies are evil and the atmosphere at the facilities is hopeless and depressing. Ironically, though, giving up on "hanging a shingle" and "networking and [whatever crap is supposed to lead to a legal job that doesn't exist] and starting document review instead, actually helped me land my current position. I love the career path that I'm on and I haven't looked back for a second.

    On another note, I remember LP mentioning a while back that he was planning a post on doc review. Is that still in the works?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I remember LP mentioning a while back that he was planning a post on doc review. Is that still in the works?"

      Um, I think you just replied in/to it.

      Delete
    2. This was by DJM, not LP.

      Delete
  38. 10 years ago, I had to have sex with the coordinator of the doc review agency so I could get plum assignments. When I tried to stop the sexual relationship, she threatened to blacklist me with every agency in the country. Believe me, they do wield that power. So I continued to have sex with her so I could eat. Doc review is a miserable way to make a living. I am still traumatized by that fat cow's folds which would slap my skin when I was giving it to her just so I could pretend to be a "lawyer" and wear my suits with my briefcase to my doc review assignments. Fuck my life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, look at it this way . . . at least you performed a valuable service for someone during that time.

      Delete
    2. And 6:41, you contributed more than most law professors ever will. Just some perspective.

      Delete
  39. "I talked to a 2009 graduate yesterday, a very talented lawyer from a top-50 law school. He has been working the document review circuit"

    So, what exactly or even approximately is it that makes him a "very talented lawywer"?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He's much more miserable and yet much less an a-hole than you? Dunno. Just guessing.

      Delete
    2. What, you think it's not a legitimate question?

      He graduated 3 years ago and has been working the doc review circuit. What about that lends itself to Professor Merritt's being able (one way or another) to assess his legal talent?

      Hey, maybe she's reviewed his work product and found it very talented.

      But I kinda doubt it.

      Delete
    3. To the extent that you rely on the assumption that anyone doing document review must necessarily not possess the talent to be much of a lawyer, no, I do not think it's a legitimate question.

      Delete
    4. LOL at the idea of any law professor (DMJ, or BL or any of the anonymous others) being able to assess legal talent.

      Delete
    5. Look Out For Falling Straw Man!September 18, 2012 at 1:19 PM

      @ 8:49 pm, whatever in the world gave you the idea that I was relying on "the assumption that anyone doing document review must necessarily not possess the talent "?

      Pull stuff from your nether regions much, or what? And how do you thereafter get the straw to catch fire, given where it's been?

      C'mon. DJM claimed he was "a very talented lawyer". I made no claim to the contrary, I just question how one would know this given he's been living on "the doc review circuit". It's an honest question. Try less of a dishonest approach yourself, if you're able.

      Delete
  40. Someone with edit power wanna put 6:41 out of his misery? (Post-wise, that is...)

    ReplyDelete
  41. The staff attorneys that run some of these plantations are really the devil incarnate. I once did a document review gig at Cravath (my dark days) and the woman that ran the thing was a fat, bitter old hag who hadn't had sex in 20 years. She would take out her desperation & misery on the temps.

    ReplyDelete
  42. I compare doc review work to being stuck in the galleys of a sinking ship while the staff attorney hags flagellate you while yelling at you to row (click) faster. How the fuck can you compare that to being an attorney or being a member of this esteemed and noble profession?

    ReplyDelete
  43. DJM,

    The polar bear analogy is haunting. It's kept me up the past few nights. I don't have the power to delude myself with magical thinking anymore. I just hope my job holds out until I can pay back my loans. Right now, that isn't looking too likely.

    epic post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I recommend cutting expenses to as close to zero as possible and saving as much as possible.

      Yes, it's annoying and painful, but that's student loan debt world.

      Delete
    2. I've been living it for five years.

      I live with a roommate(girlfriend) in a small one bedroom in a ehh part of brooklyn. We survive on bulk grain, beans, and tofu. I make a very good salary. Top 90th percentile. Still the work is going away.

      Excel tells me that I'll have it all paid off in January 2015 at this rate, all else equal. 62 paychecks. I hope and pray.

      Delete
  44. would 5:53 PM care to elaborate how doc review helped him land his current job - just curious because doc review leading to anything other than more doc review is highly unusual - unless you have some IT background and can get one of those "lit support" or "e-discovery" gigs

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry I missed this, and I'm not sure that you'll ever see this response. But you're on the right track. E-discovery and lit support are huge and growing fields, and there are hardly enough people to fill the increased number of roles in these fields. Knowledge of these fields - not necessarily an IT background - is what is key to getting and succeeding in them. Meanwhile these fields are undermining the traditional legal "profession."

      Delete
  45. I can't believe I'm taking time out of my day to write this, but I think the commenter/law school shill "anon" who frequents various blogs actually IS Brian Leiter.

    Some time ago, Leiter posted a link on his blog to a comment thread on the "Workplace Prof Blog" that featured regular ITLSS commenter dybbuk. Within that thread "anon" attempts to embarass dybbuk by linking to some remarks made on jdunderground.

    This happened once before, actually, in a very old comment thread on this blog. Some anonymous commenter began linking to the same dybbuk comments on jdunderground. Lawprof actually said "stop it Brian" in response. (he stopped).

    Leiter has it out for dybbuk because of remarks dybbuk made on jdunderground about some protege of Leiter's who was on the job market, I forget the guy's name.

    Not exactly a rock solid chain of evidence or anything, but very interesting. So DJM, this "anon" who so regularly mischaracterizes your arguments over at the tax prof blog is probably Brian Leiter. This guy really is the worlds biggest troll.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I have known people for whom doc review lead to jobs. There are two ways.

    1. You meet a lot of people doing doc review. They aren't usually influential people, but on occasion you may meet somebody who can help you later. That is my story, I did doc review for 4 years before a former co-worker tipped me off to a job opening that I would have never known about otherwise. I applied and got the job. It was an entry level job so my lack of experience didn't matter.

    2. You get hired by the law firm as a permanent doc reviewer or doc review project manager. I temped for the same firm for 4 years. In that time, they hired about 6 contract attorneys to permanent positions as managers of the doc review projects. Some of those people then were able to move on to work for doc review software companies in capacities I don't understand.

    Both of these types of "outs" are very rare and should never be counted on to happen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And both those "outs" are horrid positions barely related to the practice of law. So they are a step up fro working doc review. So is every middle management position in the US.

      Delete
    2. I went to law school in order to become a lawyer, not to have a chance at Circle 2 of the document-review inferno.

      Delete
    3. So start your own firm and "become a lawyer."

      Delete
  47. These Black Abayas are really beautiful.My wife is damn crazy about Abayas i would like to buy this abaya.Is there any possibility to buy this abaya.

    ReplyDelete
  48. It has been some time since I visited website with such high quality information. Thank you so much for providing such helpful information. This is really informative and I will for sure refer my friends the same. Thanks.
    regards
    event staffing agency

    ReplyDelete
  49. Thanks for the post event staffing agency You should take part in a contest for one of the best blogs on the web. I will recommend this site!

    ReplyDelete
  50. It’s a blog with full of latest and spectacular information’s – This blog has helped me to gain much more information. I would like to appreciate the blog owner for his efforts

    ReplyDelete
  51. It’s a blog with full of latest and spectacular information’s – This blog has helped me to gain much more information. I event staffing agency would like to appreciate the blog owner for his efforts

    ReplyDelete
  52. Very Nice website. I just finished mine and i was looking for some ideas about Event Staffing Services that is the partner in full service event staffing and your website gave me some.

    ReplyDelete
  53. It has been some time since I visited website with such high quality information aboutstreet promotionsThank you so much for providing such helpful information. This is really informative and I will for sure refer my friends the same. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Well I sincerely enjoyed studying it. This subject offered by you is very effective for good planning, hard work and a great team always make a spotless work...I read your article on Event Staffingand find that you make nice point on the service..Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  55. It has been some time since I visited website with such high quality informationExperiential marketing

    ReplyDelete
  56. Thanks for the post. You should take part in a contest for one of the best blogs on the web. I will recommend this site got information of Event staffing

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.