QI’m a new lawyer who has been doing contract document review work for about 18 months. While the assignments can be miserable (usually related to whether I can use my iPod or not), there are some that are more bearable than others. Typically, the more bearable projects are run by shops that treat us like humans, professionals even.
The miserable assignments get my goat, the ones that make me check my phone at the front desk, overly restrict billing time, and create working conditions that are unbearable—literally a sweat shop in some airless basement in a warehouse or office building. Believe me, there are working conditions for doc review that rival those of Chinese factories. And yet we keep coming back.
Here’s the deal. I’ve had enough and want to be part of unionizing document reviewers. There are three of us who are behind it, each of us committed to get it done. We understand the risks, are realistic about the goals, and two of use have solid experience as community organizers, which means we know what we are getting into. What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea? Time’s ripe?
AOK, you know Bitter Lawyer was joking about Garvey Harris, otherwise known as the “the man to unionize doc review? But all joking aside, I’m pessimistically mixed on your desire to be the Mother Jones of document review. On the one hand, it would be interesting to see the doc review world disrupted, with potentially legions of underpaid and abused doc review workers getting a fair or better shake. Maybe it’s actually overdue for disruption.
On the other hand, you will be crushed. Crushed if you are more than halfway serious about unionizing. And the problem will be not only the moneyed interests that oppose it (i.e., BigLaw and its minions of doc review agencies) but also fellow capitalist comrades who see doc review merely as a temporary but necessary station in their legal lives, whether true or not. Your capitalist colleagues won’t want to rock any boat that could jeopardize their dreams of making it upstairs.
That’s obviously the double rub of any union effort—the capitalists who oppose it and the worker bees who are scared stiff about losing any potential paid work. But in your case, in the doc review world, things just aren’t that bad. It’s not as if you’re picking cotton or processing chicken gizzards. And I doubt that your gigs are as bad as those infamous “Chinese factories” that you have probably never seen. No iPod on the job? Have to check your phone at the front desk? Yeah, let’s unionize doc review over those issues. I can just see the picket signs.
Bottom line? Try it if one of your life’s goals is to be an heroic failure. Otherwise, keep hacking and coding away and looking for something better.