Q) I’m a recent grad from a decent law school but obviously not a decent enough school to catch a break and get a job. I’ve been doing some temp work and non-legal work to pay the bills and am now considering document review, as the fun but non-legal stuff is drying up. I’ve never done doc review and don’t know much about it other than it sounds like you just review documents for certain phrases or words. Sounds easy enough. My question: is there a tiered system of document review, like law school or being on law review? I don’t want to end up in the wrong place, wasting my time and working again toward nothing.
A) I have to admit that I won’t be a ton of help when it comes to doc review, primarily because today seems to be the heyday of doc review and yesterday, when I was a bitter lawyer, I was employed full-time at a big firm. I never experienced doc review other than within the firm as an associate. And I never mixed with folks who we’re permanently doing doc review or even doing it on the side to make some money. It just wasn’t a thing back in, oh, 2006.
That said, sure, like most everything that lawyers touch, there are tiers to doc review. Exactly two tiers: projects that suck and projects that don’t suck as much. Within that, it will depend on who’s staffing the review and whether it’s done in-house, contracted out to some company like Kroll, or cobbled together by a combination of things. It will also depend the length of the jobs, on the other doc reviewers on the project, the attitude of any supervisors, and the physical surroundings. The TTT of doc review? I dunno. Probably a two-year doc review project in the basement of an American Legion Post in Columbus, Ohio, with no cell phone service, a bathroom toilet that only sporadically flushes, and a vending machine with only Bugles and Juicy Fruit.
Honestly, there’s such an industry around doc review these days that some lawyers are riding the doc review circuits in New York, Chicago, LA, Philly, and even Minneapolis. Or doing foreign-language doc review here in the US or even overseas. My advice? Ask around, see who among your friends or former law school classmates are doing doc review. Ask how they like it and find out how to get into it and what especially to avoid. Or read what commenters here on Bitter Lawyer (or even JDUnderground) may have to say, as I bet they know much more than I do about the ins and outs of the legal industry’s equivalent of factory piecework.