eDiscovery Daily Blog

I Tell Ya, Review Attorneys Get No Respect, No Respect at All: eDiscovery Trends

If Rodney Dangerfield had been an attorney, he probably would have been a review attorney…

As the volume of data in the world doubles as frequently as every 1.2 years, the challenges to manage that data in discovery compound significantly as well.  With review being the biggest component of the discovery process – as much as 80% of the cost of eDiscovery – review attorneys have become a significant participant in that review process (even in some cases where technology assisted review may be used).  That doesn’t mean that review attorneys get the respect that they may deserve.

A recent article in the Washington Post (The lawyers who are fighting for the same rights as janitors, written by Lydia DePillis) discusses the challenges facing review attorneys who are trying to pay law school debt as large as $300,000 with an hourly rate as low as $25 per hour and how a group of attorneys is organizing to do something about it.

We’ve already seen two cases filed (one was settled, one was dismissed) where attorneys have sued for overtime pay based on their claim that the review work they were performing did not actually require legal skills.  As the article notes, a contract attorney in NYC (Valeria Georghiu) has banded attorneys together with help from a union and the National Lawyers Guild to launch a website for a new group called The United Contract Attorneys, which has taken small collective actions, like asking for higher rates on jobs that require specialized language skills, for which the labor pool is smaller.  They have also advocated paying contract attorneys time and a half for overtime, arguing that most of the work doesn’t require professional judgment.

“The assumption that lawyers earn a ‘professional’ salary – and are therefore categorically exempt from overtime compensation – is simply no longer true,” Gheorghiu wrote. “As a result, Contract Attorneys are a stark example of the disappearing middle class sorely in need of higher wages.”

To get a sense of how contract attorneys are treated, I asked the Director of Review Services at CloudNine, Karen DeSouza, if she had any examples of lack of respect for review attorneys in past review projects in which she worked.  She had plenty.  For example:

  • One project where she worked when the air conditioning went out in the middle of summer in Houston. The firm’s attempt to alleviate the issue was to put grocery sack paper over the floor to ceiling windows letting in the sunlight.
  • On that same project with 140+ reviewers, the bathrooms were out of commission at times.
  • On another project, the head paralegal and attorney in charge of the project took 10-15 reviewers into the office to tell them they were going too fast without even asking what documents were being reviewed.
  • She also worked on a project where a partner in the firm didn’t want the review attorneys walking past her office, so they were asked to walk a different way to their review stations.
  • Karen has also heard about projects where the reviewers were timed for restroom breaks and had their cell phones locked up in lockers while they worked.

Needless to say, review attorneys sometimes feel like they get no respect, no respect at all.  It will be interesting to see if they can at least get more pay through lawsuits for overtime pay and by organizing together in groups like the United Contract Attorneys.

So, what do you think?  Will organizing enable review attorneys to get the respect they deserve?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.