Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Is BigLaw now replacing first year associates with contract lawyers?

Above the Law began a new column earlier this month in which a T14 law grad using the nom de plume Alex Rich writes about his experiences for the past seven years working as a contract lawyer doing document review for BigLaw.  It is work that law firm associates used to do at annual salaries exceeding $160k that's now being done by underemployed lawyers, some of them former BigLaw associates themselves, for $20.00 to $40.00 an hour.   In his most recent column entitled 5 Threats Contract Attorneys Pose for BigLaw Associates, Mr. Rich reports that he's hearing rumors that at least one BigLaw firm is now also using contact lawyers to do the work traditionally handled by first year associates like legal research and drafting memos and briefs. 

Drafting Briefs and/or Memos

What is it? I’ve been hearing rumors for a while that a certain prestigious Biglaw firm is hiring displaced former associates and hiring them on as contractors to essentially function as first-years. The pay is well north of $40 an hour and the work involves the full panoply of legal tasks from research to drafting motions.

Threat level? Danger, Will Robinson. Why take the time to train brand new (expensive) first-year associates to draft motions when a down-on-their-luck fifth-year will do it cheaper? The idea of farming basic legal work out to struggling older attorneys used to be fodder for pranks, but it’s becoming a reality. Firms recognize that work performed by experienced attorneys likely needs fewer edits and once crunch time is over they can stop paying the poor contractors.

You can read about the other four threats contract lawyers pose to the traditional BigLaw associate employment model by clicking here.


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