Thursday, October 22, 2009

Are contract lawyers being asked to pursue quantity over quality in reviewing documents?

The ABA Journal reports here about increasing pressure on contract attorneys to review discovery documents at a faster pace.  A contract lawyer reports having received an e-mail instructing the lawyer to "pick up the pace," and specifying that for the $23 per hour wage being paid, the expectation was that the lawyer review about 80 documents per hour.  That was about double the pace at which the lawyer had been reviewing documents. 

This e-mail was originally reported on the Temporary Attorney blog. Many of the commenters to the Temporary Attorney post note similar pressure and frustration when doing document review work. For example, one commenter noted that, often, directives regarding quickening the pace of document review do not take into account any factors regarding the nature of the particular documents being reviewed, such as the length, complexity, or number of attachments. The post has generated discussion on Legal Blog Watch about whether such a fast pace undermines quality in document review.  Legal Blog Watch states:

Having worked on some massive document reviews myself, I agree that it is unreasonable to believe that reviewers will be able to thoughtfully review documents over any sustained period at those rates. When the documents the attorneys are reviewing become lengthy or complex, and the attorneys simply are not capable of reviewing and coding each one in a minute or so, mandates like the one in the e-mail above force a choice: get fired or perform a woefully deficient review. 

Other contract attorneys have made similar complaints about the work load and work conditions they face when reviewing documents. Last summer, Above the Law blog reported here about a contract lawyer's blog which describes some bitter observations about working as a contract attorney.


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