Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hey I am Back!!!

Is anyone still out there?? I am truly sorry to my loyal readers who were hoping for some help recently. But I want to say right here and now, I do not have all of the answers. I am just as stuck as the rest of you. I began this website in the hopes of trying to change things that I didn’t like about contracting, but there was another reason too. I wanted to learn if there were any answers that all of us could come up with together to solve some of the problems with contracting. While I try to keep people informed of opportunities that I hear about, I am not the best source for that. (I would try the Posse List, they seem pretty good. Or just call/e-mail any other contractors that you know, they likely will have heard something.)


As far as jobs out there right now, I would suggest trying to call securities litigation firms directly (both plaintiff and defense) and see if there is any work. With the markets falling, this type of work might see an uptick right now. There are 2 benefits of a direct call, first you might get on board ahead of the contract firms and thus be in a better position to turn the job into a longer term proposition, and second, you might get paid more as an independent contractor then you would through an agency.


Anyway, sorry again, that I haven’t posted anything in a while (wow, almost 4 months). There were numerous reasons for that. First, as I think I said, I was enjoying the sun and warm weather before it was gone. Second, I started getting hooked on blogging generally, and started to do some political stuff, and I wanted to keep my personal voting choices and endorsements off of this site. Third, as many of you were, I was impacted by the market. I have been scrambling around trying to put an income together with shorter jobs.


It is time for me, and I imagine many of you, to take a serious look at this employment and think about doing something else. This is not a career, it is a holding place. And that is all it looks like on the resume too. If you want further education, now might be the time after all there is not much employment out there.


Back to the lack of reliability of the market, it sucks and has gotten worse because of the economy, and the number of attorneys out there who have been doing this in recent years. Since my last post I have heard about mass layoffs in September at both McCarter English and at Stradley Ronon. These layoffs effectively eliminated hundreds more positions for contractors which means there are many more people on the street looking for contract work. Some of those people have landed positions, some of those people have taken jobs out of town (DC or NYC--both markets which if you want to do contract work you should monitor). Many, however, are on unemployment. At the same time, all of those recent grads just got their bar results back, and a large number of them now meet the minimum qualifications for about 90% of contract work in the area. The bad news is that there are no truly massive projects to stick all of the contract lawyers on. I would wager that the last quarter is not looking so hot to Hudson right now. They essentially were funded by 2 major projects in the last 3 years. Now they are back on par with the rest of the agencies fighting to place people.


A little side note, apparently Stradley Ronon has decided to hire a few more contractors, the word is that they are not using Oxford anymore, and they are now using Juristaff who is paying $35/hour instead of the $40/hour that Special Counsel is still offering for the same position. Talk about a pay discrepancy. One reason that I heard they did this is because of economy. They were trying to save money and got a better deal with Juristaff. Another reason I heard is because sometime in August there was a major problem on the project and the coders were not consistent with the way they were coding. That is either bad contractors or a problem with poor instruction/supervision. In other words, the powers that be at Stradley may screwed up in the way they had people coding, or put inadequate checks in place and blamed it on the coders.


I will try to go back to once every couple of weeks, but we shall see. Does anybody have any stories or advice out there that they would like to share?? E-mail me at: phillycontractlawyer@gmail.com.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hey all, how is the Sun?

I know that I haven't written in over a month. Sorry about that. That is for multiple reasons, but let me assure you, I am still working, and still reviewing documents. I am also taking my own time and partying in the summer sun. As an aside, we had some good conversation on the last post, I am not sure if this is because of the length between posts, the fact that document review is slow right now (including over at the AZ review where they have had a lot of time to just sit around), or what, but it encourages me to keep writing, so keep it up.

Let take this opportunity to welcome the recent graduates who are hunting for jobs. Many of them will no doubt be joining you soon. For those recent grads who where fortuitous enough to get an associate position at a Big Law firm, have fun. The likelihood is that for the next few months you will be reviewing documents, and/or overseeing contractors reviewing documents. Have fun. For those of you who did not get the big law job, the likelihood is good that you will be either overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated OR you will join the rest of us in contract land dreaming of something more.

Here is the trap, if you do not get out in your first year, and went straight through college and law school, you are trapped. Don't get trapped. Take whatever time you need and find a permanent position.

For those dreaming of a career in Law that will make them a lot of money, think again. There are too many lawyers out there, and the salary level for all but the top graduates has dropped. Take a look at this graph from NALP.

Source:Jobs & JD's, Class of 2007

Note: The graph is based on 23,337 salaries. A few salaries above $200,000 are excluded for clarity.

Here are two links to learn more about the NALP surveys.
http://www.nalp.org/content/index.php?pid=618
http://www.nalp.org/content/index.php?pid=561

Incidentally, Tom the Temp recently reviewed some of these results, his blog on this is located at: http://temporaryattorney.blogspot.com/2008/08/ghettoization-of-legal-profession.html

If I am not mistaken, this reminds me of grafts that I learned about in high school when reading about Marxist theory. If I recall the income gap grows and grows until a point where the proletariat becomes large enough, and unhappy enough, and finally decides to violently overthrow the bourgeoisie. The unfortunate part of all of this is, as attorneys, we are looked at by society as the bourgeoisie.

I will try to write more soon. And for those who are not currently employed, I have heard that there are 2 or 3 potential projects in the works for the Philadelphia Area. Feel free to share with others what agencies are or might be hiring.

More Later,
The Black Sheep

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hudson/McCarter project continues Cutbacks

As I understand it, last Wednesday the McCarter project made further cutbacks to its hours, limiting the coders from the previous 50 to 40. This came in an announcement that made it impossible to make even 40 hours for the week because the site would close early on Thursday, and would not be open Friday. This comes as little surprise to many contractors as apparently there have been many periods when the site has been sitting idle because documents were not coming in fast enough. The only surprise here is why the client, McCarter or Hudson did not make the decision to limit hours, or close on Fridays sooner. There were apparently very similar lulls in productivity last year throughout the late summer and early fall. Why didn't they have more limited hours then?

I would submit that now something has changed. They are getting closer to the end of current discovery orders and now are on the verge of closing down or laying off many more people at the site.

Coincidentally, on Wednesday afternoon 30-40 contractors on the McCarter project were called upstairs as a group to Hudson's offices to be told that their services were no longer needed. They could have until the end of the week to clean off their workspaces (which was only one more day).

I believe this is a vast improvement over the way layoffs on the same project were handled this past April. In that layoff, there was a lot of assurances from people that should have known better that there was nothing to worry about. Even some of the more experienced Contractors were not prepared to be laid off that weekend. This time there were no assurances.

In April, Contractors were merely told to check their e-mail over the weekend. This was not out of the ordinary as the Team Leads frequently would use E-mail to tell the rest of the Contractors when and if there would be weekend hours. This caused many to assume it was business as usual. Instead, hundreds of people in PA and NJ were told by E-mail that they were let go. This was ridiculous. Here, Julie Dailey and Lauren Gibson actually delivered the news face to face (even if in a large group).

In April, Contractors were not even allowed into the premises to get their own stuff, rather, the team leads merely packed it into a box which they then had to get from the front desk. This time, they were allowed back into the premises and allowed to earn a couple of more hours pay, and could pack up their own stuff.

Incidentally, I have always wondered about this practice of not letting a contract attorney back into the offices after they have been let go. Why? Do they think we are going to commit acts of vandalism? Do they think we are going to steal the oh so valuable documents we have been working on and give them to opposing counsel? Do they think we are going to steal a client? that we would steal office supplies or computers? What is the point? The practice is inane and perpetuates the myth of the unstable or untruthful attorney. We are attorneys, we had to pass some sort of character screening to be licensed. And let's face it, there are numerous people that would be observing our actions. None of these ill effects is likely to occur.

So here are some questions for you. Was the way this layoff handled better then the one in April? I think so. Were Julie and Lauren influenced by the way the contract community (via these blogs) reacted to the April Layoff? Or is this the way that they would act if they were not pressured to lay off so many workers? Did the McCarter or the Client influence the way either of these layoffs were handled? Which would you prefer in person and 1 day, or by e-mail over the weekend?

We welcome your thoughts.

For those who were laid off, I do not have any real current leads for you. Things are a little slow right now. Make sure you apply for unemployment, you can do it online now. Good luck to you, and if I hear of anything I will try to let you know.

To the other contractors out there, I am sure these guys might appreciate a little help. And to those former contractors, what are you doing now, and how did you get there. I am sure that some of those laid off are looking to get out of contracting and into something else, maybe even out of the Law.

Anyway, that's it for today. Keep in touch.

The Black Sheep

Monday, July 7, 2008

Happy 4th of July Weekend!

Anybody out there celebrate the 4th working? I actually did not.
How about the Philly 4th Celebrations? I was out of town.

This weekend we celebrated our Independence from Tyrannical rule by a dictator located many miles away in England. Ironically many of us contractors are subject to the tyrannical rule of the law firm running our projects, but are not on site. We could easily overthrow our overseers with physical violence, but that would be the end of the project. they would deal with the situation and write us off. So how can we regain a little control? Think about it. What do you want out of your job situation? Do you want to be a mindless robot spending innumerable hours staring at a computer screen in poor conditions for relatively small salaries for the rest of your lives?? Or would you like to have your opportunity to move up the ladder? To have a say about your conditions? To increase your pay scale? To get better benefits?

Anyway, this post I have a couple of news tidbits.

First, I have heard that McCarter has officially closed the doors of its large Newark, New Jersey Document review site. The reason being not enough work (though some have reported that it was because the coders up there were so piss poor). There have been rumors that both Vlad and David King are returning to Philly, but this is unconfirmed.

Second, we for got to celebrate the FLSA's birthday it was June 25, 1938. It was meant to create standard wage practices, primarily for non-management hourly workers. It essentially mandated that anyone working more than 40 hours per week get lunch breaks and pay for overtime. Read it sometime it is worth it.

Third, the Temp Attorney website has a good benefits story that everyone should read. It is at:

http://temporaryattorney.blogspot.com/2008/07/spherion-temp-agency-pure-evil.html


FINALLY, I would like to close with an issue that has been bugging me as of late. On the large jobs that I have worked here in Philadelphia lately, I have noticed something. There is a lot of the attitude that Philly contractors are better than New York contractors, and that they cost less. Many of the contractors that forward this opinion, tend to go on to say that the large firms see this and will choose Philly over New York for future large jobs. I do not think this is true at all, especially in light of how Philly was before the Pharmaceutical Products Liability cases brought massive Doc Review to Philly. So, I wanted to get your opinions on this. Are Philly Contractors better then NYC? Will Philly take work from NYC? Is taking pride in our fair city's contractors worth any effort? Does it really matter?

I welcome your comments as always on any of the above issues or articles. Also feel free to post about issues you would like more about, or in the alternative, send me an e-mail, I will do what I can to address anything you bring up.

Thanks,
Black Sheep

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Unions Part 2: Good for the Firms

Hey All,

Happy Start of Summer. I know I have not been posting very often lately (not for a month). There are multiple reasons for this break, but the one I like best is that the weather has been too good. I am still interested in posting some of your thoughts, but I have not received any of note.

As far as the market, I have heard of a few smaller jobs starting recently at places like Montgomery McCracken and Reed Smith as well as a few at smaller firms

I know that you won't believe me, that the Law Firms wouldn't admit this, but unions can be good for them too. The Contract Agencies would probably hate the idea of unions; after all, they would serve as competition for job hunting.

Some academic studies (mostly taken from the AFL-CIO website at http://www.aflcio.org/joinaunion/why/uniondifference/uniondiff8.cfm) note that unions are responsible for creating benefits to employers and the economy such as:

  • Productivity
  • Quality Service
  • Training
  • Turnover
  • Workplace health and safety
Productivity

According to a recent survey of 73 independent studies on unions and productivity: “The available evidence points to a positive and statistically significant association between unions and productivity in the U.S. manufacturing and education sectors, of around 10 and 7 percent, respectively.”

If we as contractors get the terms that we want, then the hours that we work, we will be much more efficient.
Quality Services

A study looking at the relationship between unionization and product quality in the auto industry. According to a summary of this study prepared by American Rights at Work:

“The author examines the system of co-management created through the General Motors-United Auto Workers partnership at the Saturn Corporation…The author credits the union with building a dense communications network throughout Saturn's management system. Compared to non-represented advisors, union advisors showed greater levels of lateral communication and coordination, which had a significant positive impact on quality performance.”

Just like the auto workers producing a better car, a unionized shop will code better and reduce fines from the court due to the experience, knowledge and dedication that we bring to the job.

Training

Several studies have found a positive association between unionization and the amount and quality of workforce training. There are a number of reasons for this: less turnover among union workers, making the employer more likely to offer training; collective bargaining agreements that require employers to provide training; and finally, unions often conduct their own training.

Look let's face it we have all sat through the five minute training sessions that we get on whatever Document review program we will be working in, but it is enough? I have had to help many people on the job to find their way around in a computer program where there was insufficient training. I have seen numerous man hours blown waiting for a tech support person to address an issue that a coder has with the software. This is not good for the client of the law firm, and thus not good for the law firm, and thus not good for the contractor. Of course problems like this do not make individual contractors suffer, rather it is all of us that feels the pain if we are not trained properly.
Turnover

Freeman and Medoff found that “about one fifth of the union productivity effect stemmed from lower worker turnover. Unions improve communication channels giving workers the ability to improve their conditions short of ‘exiting.’”

The only way I see. And judging by the blog traffic, the only way most people see of getting change on a project is by leaving. In fact, if I remember correctly, major changes came down at vioxx when they started to see many people leaving after a few months into the project. one of those of course was pizza fridays (big woop
Workplace Health and Safety

Employers should be concerned about workplace health and safety as a matter of enlightened self-interest, after all they could be sued by you each individually. According to an American Rights at Work summary of a study by John E. Baugher and J. Timmons Roberts:

“Only one factor effectively moves workers who are in subordinate positions to actively cope with hazards: membership in an independent labor union. ...These findings suggest that union growth could indirectly reduce job stress by giving workers the voice to cope effectively with job hazards.”

Look, our methods to complain about physical conditions is limited at best. When walls go up to reduce sound problems, they can also put us at risk of death during mass evacuations, or trap in the heat. When boxes of paper are all over the place it is a fire and collapse hazard and it impedes our access to the exits of the building. To many computers on one table fire hazard. People sitting too close without barriers an infectious disease hazard. And what about those rats i nthe kitchen? Coders would be so much happier and not leave so quickly if law firms just treated them like human beings.

...........................................................................................................................

I think the firms have a more direct and higher motivation in all of these areas, and to be quite honest I think the firms would love to see an effective hiring oriented union for document review. They could save costs. Ironically, this is exactly why the contract agencies would hate the idea of a contract attorney union. The likelihood is that it would take money out of their pockets.

Anyway, I will try to be more near and dear to all of your hearts next time, but as always, I could use some more input.

For some of my other discussion on unions, see also:
Unions Part 1, Why should we form one?—Finally…

Thanks,
The Black Sheep

Monday, May 19, 2008

Philly Magazine--Death of the Philly Lawyer

Hey Everyone,

Sorry that I haven't been around much lately. While I want to provide you with a little information and the best materials possible, I also have to pay the bills, and I have been a bit preoccupied with that lately.

Here are some comments that I was preparing last month for the Philadelphia Magazine Article that came out at that time (April Edition). I know it is a little late, and most people have moved on from this, but i included the link. An interesting article to be sure.

I have heard many people talking about the Philadelphia Magazine article about the death of the Philadelphia Lawyer. Here is a link to the article: http://www.phillymag.com/articles/the_last_days_of_the_philadelphia_lawyer

After having read the article, I have a couple of observations.

First, the idea that only 20 or so firms will handle the major corporate accounts worldwide is absurd. The corporations would not let it get that far because at some point before that businesses would act like businesses and find the lowest rate for the right quality. To get it down to only 20 mega firms worldwide, there would have to be some kind of price fixing at hand at some point. Of course, on the other hand, I believe the accounting world has gone this way (oligarchy that is) with the big 4 (Price Waterhouse, KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst and Young).

Second, this article purports to talk about the death of the Philadelphia Lawyer in the tradition of Andrew Hamilton. Here is the thing, what a lawyer is has changed a lot from the time of Hamilton even before now. This article really talks about the death of the traditional law firm, and what I believe is a downturn in the professionalism in the field of law.

Third, the article only talks about Big Law. It does not actually deign to discuss what is happening with the small or mid-size firms which is all that they had in the time of Hamilton. They are still alive and well, though pay much more modest salaries. They are were a lawyer like Hamilton would come from.

...

Anyway, what does any of this have to do with contractors? Well, one thing is that if it goes the way the article suggests, Philly might not be the place that the top 20 firms choose to locate their Document reviews, and thus the market for large scale contract work will dry up.

Also, I think that we will be facing a greater disparity in pay and hiring then we do even now. After, a consolidation like this, those types of law that are not practiced on the major firm scale are going to be for small sized firms and they will pay shitty. So, the middle class jobs in law will disappear, and it will truly become a sink or swim profession.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this article, or my comments.

The Black Sheep

Friday, April 25, 2008

Another Philly Contract Attorney Blogger??

Hey Everyone,

I recently discovered that another contract attorney is seeking to start a blog out there, or maybe it is an agency fishing for me and other potential bloggers, but I will talk more about that in a minute. First I want to respond to a couple of comments on the last post with the pay charts.

When posting information such as that in the pay charts, I try to use the most up to date information that I have. Unfortunately, I am just one person, and I am only working on one particular contract job at any one time, or I am job hunting and trying to get information out of recruiters. The pay charts that I post may have some incorrect information on them, if that is the case, then please send me an e-mail in confidence, and I will update the information for the next post.

As to the charts themselves, I tried to include the information that I would want to know if I am considering my options as a contractor. Do I take a job, or wait for something else? Do I try to convince a recruiter to place me at a particular firm or do I try to get an independent placement? Is the salary enough or should I ask for more? Are they offering a salary below the going rate? What should I expect when I arrive? These things can all be answered by some of the information that is contained within the chart. But, I would like the information to be as correct and up to date as possible, and that means that I need you to participate. I am only one person, and do not have perfect information. You have the information about your job, if you send it to me or post it, then I can keep the charts updated for all the jobs out there.

As to the poster who wanted to know where I am working, I cannot release that information as it will narrow my identity down to some one working for a particular firm and I become not one of a couple thousand people, but one of 100 or less. I try to protect your identities as well as my own because I would not want any of us to lose our jobs or livelihoods. I take the position that the information that is posted on this website is not a violation of Attorney Ethics as the information is not about the clients of a law firm. Writing a comment on here does not violate the attorney-client privilege unless it is about the client (Merck, Astra-Zeneca, Glaxo). The problem with these blog websites that exists is that the contract firms like Hudson, Kelly, and Juristaff take the position that the name of the Law Firm that you work for is confidential, that your pay rate is confidential, that your location is confidential, and that your pay rate is confidential. There are a variety of reasons for this position, and some contract firms actually write it into your employment contract. That being said if I were to be discovered, the contract firm that was employing me at the time would likely fire me immediately, blacklist me, and even try to sue me (groundless, but costly). If they catch one of you, it would probably be an immediate dismissal, and maybe a short term blacklisting. So I urge you to be careful with what you say when commenting on the website. As far as E-mailing me, your address and identity will remain confidential, and I will try to remove any information which I feel will identify you from the narrative. If I don't protect you, then I have no information to rely on myself. In any case, I cannot go into further detail about my circumstances in the interests of protecting this website.

Finally, back on topic. Last week, I was reviewing Craig's List postings for Philadelphia legal employment, and I found this posting:

Philly Doc Review Attorney Wanted (cc - telecommute)


Reply to: job-640362112@craigslist.org
Date: 2008-04-12, 10:49PM EDT

Fellow contract attorney seeks interested doc reviewer(s) to blog about the profession near and dear to all of our hearts.

Ideal situation would be for a group of 3-5 of us to each contribute 1 post per week (flexible). You would not need to put your name on the blog. You do not need to blog about your current project / confidential information.

Send me something about yourself and your situation - and any thoughts as to what you might be interested in posting about - and maybe what blogger you think you would be most like :-)

Much like working as a contract attorney, you'll be underpaid (but hopefully not underappreciated). The rough plan is to create a paid job board on the site dealing exclusively in contract and doc review jobs. Revenue sharing would most likely be on some sort of sliding scale based on posts + lengths + comments + ?
  • Location: cc - telecommute
  • Compensation: $500/hr
  • Telecommuting is ok.
  • Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
  • Please, no phone calls about this job!
  • Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.
PostingID: 640362112

I did not post this. After reading the entry I thought several things: Why am I not making any money off of this Blog? My blog is not for profit, I do not have advertising on it, I do not charge for information, and I have not sold things. That is not to say that it will always be that way, but I am not looking to make money off of my fellow contractors. Wouldn't it be great to have another Contractor blog out there, so I wouldn't have any pressure to post anymore? Why doesn't this person use my Blog and try to join up with me? We would make 2 of the 3-5 he seeks. Does this person even care about being a contractor, or is this just his way out of contracting (by bilking other contractors)? Is this what I have to do to get more people to write in with posts, offer money? Is this actually a recruiter or recruiting firm trying to ferret me and other potentially like minded individuals out so that we can be dealt with? Is this a person trying to start a recruiting firm and hoping to get leads this way? And what about this $500/hr compensation.? Probably, a huge joke.

What do you guys think?

Anyway, enough for now.

The Black Sheep

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Contractor Pay and what else is out there.

Okay, everyone I know I took a little longer than a week with this information, but I had some other obligations including taxes. Speaking of which, at some point I would like to do a post on the tax differential between independent contractors and agencies. When you are an independent and are negotiating, then you need to be aware of the income differential and cover yourself as well as any medical etc. that you might need. I digress.

As far as what is out there, the answer is not much. Certainly not enough at the moment to cover all of the 125 or so that were laid off from the McCarter job. There will likely be a Document review (rather large) opening for Vytorin soon. That is through Dechert. Rumor has it that they already have a small group other than the former Vioxx people working on it. Most of the other projects I have heard about are ongoing, and most were known earlier in the year. I have heard a rumor that the Duane Morris project ended, but no confirmation yet. If you have new information or want to update the chart, I will try to do so as often as I can. I will keep you updated about any new information that I hear.

As to the McCarter layoff, it seems that the layoffs on the project were indeed without regard to date of hire, though the newest people received the most drastic cuts. Team leads do indeed appear to have been asked for their opinions of 7+ people that they wanted to cut. This resulted in team leads exercising sometimes arbitrary judgment and played reality TV with people's jobs and lives. I don't like this person, so I am voting them off the island. In some cases there were valid reasons, but in others people were let go without regard for their excellent work product. Some of these firings came across as revenge terminations. While it is temp work and cut backs are inevitable, this particular one was very poorly handled.

As to those that are unemployed and still looking, I also might recommend looking at legal options against Hudson. If you had seniority over the people who started in January, you were making your minimum hours, your productivity and accuracy were high, and you feel that the main reason for your selection was merely that your team lead did not like you, then you have a potential suit for WRONGFUL TERMINATION. What is better than just the idea that you might have a suit, is that they likely never documented any of the activities that they could say they let you go for. Second, if you had discussed the ideas of unionization or engaged in any protected concerted action just prior to the layoffs and feel that this is the reason for your termination, then you may want to get Hudson in trouble with the NLRB, your rights should have been protected. Third, there is no no impediment to trying to sue them for back wages for those weeks that you worked more than 40 hours, I believe that if you sue under the FLSA, you can get the overtime pay for what you should have earned between 40 and 45 hours which was time and a half. Now you have an opportunity to do things that many contractors want to do, stick it to Hudson.

Anyway, I have babbled on long enough. Here are the pay charts. Please send me updates.

The Black Sheep.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hudson sends hundreds home on AZ project

Thats right, many people on the Hudson McCarter English project have been laid off. The project had staffed up to numbers around 1000 attorneys total. These contractors were all needed to meet the Mid-March discovery deadline. I believe that Hudson and McCarter both had hopes that these contractors would be kept on for the long term, but at some point a realization that there might not be enough work coming down to necessitate keeping all of them on resulted in laying off a large portion (something like 600 or so total).

The interesting aspect of this lay off is that even after that Mid-march deadline, Hudson and McCarter were both trying to fill seats at both the NJ and PA sites. In fact, someone sent me an e-mail from Law Crossing that McCarter was looking for direct hire contractors on March 18.

There were assurances from some that there would be more documents on Monday, that the servers were being reset over the weekend, and that this was just downtime like they had earlier on the project. However, with the size of the project it was evident that without more work coming down, cuts would have to be made.

This type of mass staff up and mass layoff is endemic to poorly managed document reviews. The layoff was poorly managed by Hudson; it sounds like McCarter is not doing a good job planning out their document productions (and has not since the case started); there have been apparently a lot of computer problems with both the older Zantaz system and the newer FTI Ringtail system; and of course the client Astra-Zeneca does not seem to have a cohesive document management system or policy, and thus are delaying the production by scrambling around trying to find everything.

AS for Hudson's part, here's the email one person got from Hudson:
Good morning, we hope all is well.

We at Hudson are writing to you in reference to your contract position with McCarter &

English. We have received word that McCarter & English is making significant cuts in
staffing on the Seroquel project in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and New York City. If you have received this email, your participation on the Seroquel project for AstraZeneca has ended.
Due to the volume of those whom we need to contact this morning, we are emailing you
rather than calling you, but we hope to speak with you in person early in the coming week.

Please respond back to this email with a short note today to let us know you have received

this message.

We hope that the project has been rewarding for you, and we very much appreciate all of

your hard and terrific work and dedication to the project.

If you would please forward a copy of your updated resume to us at ---------@hudson.com,

we would be very pleased to contact you regarding upcoming projects for which you qualify.
We have been quite busy and will hopefully have new opportunities for you in the near
future.

Again, we appreciate all of your hard work and look forward to a continued relationship.

With our best regards,

The Hudson Placement Team


It was sent by the recruiters, not the team leads as some people have noted. From what I have heard thus far the Philly site lost between 100 and 125 contractors. Newark lost from 300-500. The last in were the first out, but there may have been a few underperformers or troublemakers that have been around awhile were let go as well. Some of those who were kept on received calls or e-mails from their leads to let them know that they were safe.

For all those laid off, make sure you contact the unemployment office immediately. Hudson will get hit with a bunch of unemployment claims at one time, and they will want to try to minimize that damage and find new placements for you. Also send your resume to every other contract agency in town and give them all follow up calls the next day. If you have enough money to sit tight for awhile, then do all of these things, but be selective and try to find something that will give you a career path and that you like. Play the game, and forget about the idiots with the poor business plan.

I will be posting the list of Doc Review jobs in the city that I am aware of within a week, but I do not have a great deal of new information about what is out there, so I will need your help in adding to it. I am also going to be attempting to post about the Philadelphia Magazine article and another post on unions soon.

Sincerely,
The Black Sheep

Monday, March 24, 2008

Big Drug Cases Evaporate Next Fall??

I have been wanting to post this for about 2 weeks now, but I have kept putting off researching the cases myself. I finally said screw it, I will just post it the way it is. So please excuse any misreading of the cases as I am summing up some of the numerous news stories that I have heard on the topic.

A couple of recent cases and one on the way before the Supreme Court may end pharmaceutical products liability, or for that matter, it may eliminate most or all cases against drug makers for any unwarranted health effects of medications. This spring the Supreme Court in its “infinite wisdom” decided 2 cases: Riegel v. Medtronic and Warner-Lambert v. Kent. The decisions in these cases indicate that the Supreme Court is going down a road that the approval of a drug by the FDA preempts any tortuous action based on the taking of that drug. How did I come to this conclusion? Why does this matter? How does it affect you?

First the conclusion—
Riegel v. Medtronic was a 8-1 decision by the Supreme Court which I believe was written by J. Scalia was delivered on Wednesday, February 20, 2008. The lone dissenter was J. Ginsberg.
The decision made medical device makers immune from personal injuries liability if the Food and Drug Administration has approved a device before it is marketed. This decision preempts state law under the authority of the Medical Device Amendments of 1976 to (I believe) the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938. These amendments apparently did have some preemptory language which the Supreme Court extended to cover any medical device that met the requirements.
It is yet to be seen exactly how many additional medical device cases this new preemption net will catch, though apparently there are several that were active that will be immediately affected. The case also apparently does not prevent suits for negligent manufacture. However, if a medical device is made in accord with FDA regulations, then it apparently falls under this preemption protection and any remedies are only under Federal law.

Warner-Lambert v. Kent was a 4-4 decision by the Supreme Court with C.J. Roberts abstaining because he held 5,000-50,000 shares of stock in Warner-Lambert’s Parent company. The decision was delivered on Monday, March 3, 2008.
The tie vote automatically affirms the lower court’s judgment. Here a federal appeals court had rejected the company’s argument that Supreme Court precedent barred personal injury suits that are based on a claim that a drug manufacturer obtained FDA approval through fraud. As a side note, this case in itself might have been distinguished from other cases in any case, because it seems to have been based on a relatively unusual state statute.
The affirmation obviously holds little or no precedential value, but C.J. Roberts was the one who sat out the decision. Would he have voted, based on the Medtronic case, he would have been in favor of a preemption of individual damage suits.

Wyeth v. Levine will come before the Supreme Court in the next term. The full court will be asked to decide whether FDA approval will preempt personal injury suits where the label failed to include adequate warnings. Such warnings could include things like that Vioxx could increase the risk of heart attacks or that atypical antipsychotics (like Zyprexa or Seroquel) could increase the risk of weight gain and diabetes.

This Matters Because—
All these recent designer drug cases might evaporate this fall in the midst of a ruling for the Pharmaceutical companies. This is bad for lawyers in this region of the country in general. And specifically lawyers in the Philadelphia Area, as there are several Pharmaceutical companies located in the Philly area. Plaintiffs firms out here will not be able to take the leads in some of these class action suits anymore, as they will be gone. The Defense firms will be able to make cutbacks in their health effects departments because there are not going to be nearly so many cases. AND…

More immediate to all of you, contract work on these cases will dry up. For the last 3-5 years, Pharmaceutical cases have been a bigger and bigger part of contract legal work in Philly. The Vioxx project alone had about 200 or so attorneys on it. There are several projects that are currently on-going in the city dealing with other drugs. They could end.

Philadelphia while still an attractive market for some firms because of the lower pay rates then NYC or DC, could suddenly find itself flooded with many contract attorneys out on the street scrounging for work both contract and otherwise, and without a clear market to fill the void.

How Does This Affect You—
If working on a drug case you could be put out of work. If looking for a job, you will have a lot more competition. There will no longer be as large of a net of contract work at least for awhile.

Advice—
Get off a drug case in favor of another gig, find a new job before the decision comes down. Keep your head down, hold on tight, and prey your job doesn’t end because of this.

Here are some links that you can use to look into the situation further on your own:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E04E3D8153AF932A15751C0A96E9C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1

http://pharmexec.findpharma.com/pharmexec/News/Supreme-Court-Splits-on-Warner-Lambert-Preemption-/ArticleStandard/Article/detail/500187?contextCategoryId=43753

http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2007/2007_06_179/

http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2007/2007_06_1498/

http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2008/2008_06_1249/

http://www.supremecourtus.gov/

Here is a blog by an attorney at Dechert and one from Jones Day on this type of law:
http://druganddevicelaw.blogspot.com/

Please comment. I would like to hear ideas and other interpretations. The sky is not falling yet, but it could very soon.

--The Black Sheep

Friday, March 7, 2008

Vision Award??

Hello All,

I recently received the following e-mail. I would like to get your opinions. I have enlarged and bolded the line that the writer takes the most offense to (bottom of the e-mail), and I have removed the address of the event from the e-mail.
__________________________________________________________________

This is utterly ridiculous. I received an email today from the Philly Bar Associaton about their annual Young Lawyer Division meeting where they're giving out awards. Naturally the awards are to BigLaw associates, but curiously, one award the "YLD Vision Award" is being giving to Dechert. This is infuriating since so many young lawyers were treated like slaves and dirt and then laid off immediately during the 2007 Vioxx implosion/settlement. The criteria for this award are not found anywhere online, and I wonder how shitting on so many young lawyers is the equivalent of "Vision."

Young Lawyers Division
Annual Meeting and Reception
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

$35.00
Includes open bar and heavy hors d’oeuvres
Welcoming Incoming Chair
Scott P. Sigman
Bochetto & Lentz
Presenting the
F. Sean Peretta Service Award to Maria Feeley, Pepper Hamilton, LLP
Craig M. Perry Community Service Award to DaQuana Carter, Pepper Hamilton, LLP
And the YLD Vision Award to Dechert
________________________________________________

I have my own opinions on the matter, but I will leave this one for your comments.

Please keep reading as there are 2 other recent posts. One on Libel and one on Paralegal jobs.

--The Black Sheep



Paralegals, and other non-lawyers do matter.

Hey everyone,

My website does focus on the contract attorney, but today I am taking a slight departure for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, we are not the only ones that work on many of these projects. In fact, a lot of Paralegals are hired as contractors on many of these projects. There is also the technical staff as well as at times legal secretaries and other administrative staff. Many of them have to work under the same conditions that we do, and might get comparatively the same treatment from associates on these projects.

Second, there are many law school graduates that either delay in taking the bar or do not pass it the first time around. Technically, these graduates are not yet attorneys, and though some reviews do not require a license to practice, many will not hire unless you are licensed in some state. These graduates often need to find work somewhere.

Third, I have had a few requests such as this one:

"Can anybody please provide information regarding
which document review projects in the Philly area
use any paralegals on their projects and which
agencies handle staffing on those projects?"
--William X

So, I thought we could try to use this post to help paralegals, non-licensed grads, and other administrative staffers. Are there jobs out there for people in these types of positions? Where should they look?

Keep reading below for a posting relating to libel issues.

--The Black Sheep

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Libel, Free Expression, Performance Evaluation??

Sorry I haven't posted in a couple of weeks, but I have been debating how to best deal with the e-mail described in this post. I have decided that this post will probably be enough of a response to the person that sent the e-mail.

I was recently contacted by an attorney that works for a major firm. This attorney (staff or associate) was clearly one who was upset by a characterization of him/her on this website. S/He felt that the use of full names accompanied by a negative review constitutes “libel.” S/He felt that I should remove the names of any Associate or Staff Attorney in the comments section of the blog because s/he felt that “dragging their names through the mud” in a public forum is wrong and could harm their reputations. This attorney goes on to threaten that further action will be taken if such “libelous” behavior continues. While asking me to do this, this attorney also stated that s/he respects the rights of everyone to express their own opinions. I would like to post the entire e-mail, however, the attorney did not give me permission to do that. If the person writes in again to give me that permission, I would be more than happy to do this so that his/her full message can be clearly heard on this blog.

I realize that libel issues have been discussed extensively on other blogs, though this will be the first time here. So please, indulge me.

My sense is that all of the comments that have been made have been opinions that are based the commenter’s experiences, and therefore not libel under most legal uses of that term. Unless I am mistaken the First Amendment protects our rights to freely express ourselves and our opinions. Opinions in and of themselves are not false or incorrect; therefore I believe that no libel has been committed. Please provide your own analyses as you see fit.

Incidentally this brings up another issue for contractors. Even if you love contracting, there is no system to complain about the job that your supervisors are doing. Your Staff Attorneys and Associates are evaluated for further work based on their production, and their relationship with the associates and partners with whom they work, not on their relationship with some of the people that they work with most extensively, the contract attorneys. What this has led to at some firms (and it can clearly be seen in NYC) is that the Associates and Staff Attorneys treat the contractors like 5 year olds or like they are nothing.

Many law firms have review procedures for their associates and partners, it is what helps them to determine who should move up the partnership ladder, and who they will have to let go. Any mid or upper level associate or partner can tell you that they are evaluated from both above and below, and usually by anonymous evaluations. Some firms even go so far as to solicit the opinions of paralegals, secretaries, and other administrative staff as to how an attorney is doing. Contractors, however, do not get a say in the evaluation of Staff Attorneys and Associates, and these are the people that Staff Attorneys and some younger associates spend the most time with.

So, to the Staff Attorney/Associate that wrote me this e-mail, consider comments that you do not like as informal performance evaluations from your subordinates. Yes, you will always get a few people who are disgruntled, but with some of the rules that I have put in place, I am hoping for some fairer assessments.

There are a couple of more posts that I am planning to do in the next couple of days. I will be reaching into the mailbag for some topics, and I hope to get a post up about what the Supreme Court has been doing lately (Drug and Medical Device cases) which might reduce the need for contractor work. I also hope to get another union post up soon.

Until then fellow contractors and sheep,
Yours,
The Black Sheep

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Happy President’s Day to the Philly Doc Review Crowd!

Hello everyone.

If you are like most Doc Reviewers, you worked today, even if the firm that you are working for was “officially” closed. Why? It probably wasn’t dedication to the project or the firm, rather likely it was because of money issues. Most contract firms do not give a President’s day off (some like Hudson have cut Paid Holidays in recent years). I know what some might say, “many associates were working today.” But associates are getting paid a high salary to get their work done regardless of their hours. Associates can also sometimes work from home, there is no such luxury for most doc reviewers. In addition junior associates will get the benefit of their bosses viewing them as workhorses if they put in more hours. A doc reviewer will not even appear on a Partner’s or Senior Associate’s map for working on a day the firm has off.

SO, who worked today for a firm that was “officially” closed?

Let’s face it, if you are like many doc reviewers, you got into this line of work as a hold over until you found something better, but What? Where? The economy is getting worse, most of the legal community knows that you learn few if any skills that add to your legal career on a doc review, and each year new law grads are graduating that are willing to take the entry level positions. If you have been working doc review for about 6 months and started fresh out of law school, it is time to buckle down and start your “real” legal career someplace. If you have been working a doc review for longer then that, it is time to start getting creative. If you look around, and determine that it is best that you stay where you are for now, then you should think about what would make your situation better. Think about whether your quality of life, and/or wallet would be better off with paid holidays off, and think about how you can get them either now or on your next job. The only way that I can see is be lucky, or unionize. I would love some other suggestions.


I have a few updates for the site today. I have added the following websites to the links:

http://stateofbeasley.blogspot.com/--a contract attorney with some definite opinions about the worth of legal education in the current market.

and

http://jdunderground.blogspot.com--this reader focuses on the exploitation of young attorneys by people who are supposedly experienced attorneys (including partners, law schools, and attorney organizations).

The original blog the writer pulls from is http://www.jdunderground.com.


I will have a jpg salary chart soon, though I have scant updates to some of the previously published information.

Here are a couple of links that have appeared on a number of other blogsites recently, what do you think:

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2008/02/15/sound-of-the-first-year-workin-on-the-doc-review-gang/

http://www.vault.com/articles/Temping-as-an-Attorney-22656398.html


Yours truly,

--The Black Sheep


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine’s Day!!


Okay, here is the deal. This is a holiday where we send flowers and good wishes to those we love, so is there anyone out there in Philly’s contract attorney land that you love?

Who do you think is the best? Who would you most like to send flowers?

The Best Law Firm to contract for

The Best Staff/Project Attorney

The Best Contract Agency

The Best Recruiter

Please tell us who you think is the Best and if possible tell us why you think so.

Talking about the best I think it is also a good time to talk about the worst. Now I know that Tom the Temp recently raised this question, and 2 of our local recruiters received plenty of jeers. So I want to know if that is the consensus.

Who is the worst? Who would you most like to send a dead fish or horse head?

The Worst Law Firm to contract for

The Worst Staff/Project Attorney

The Worst Contract Agency

The Worst Recruiter

Again, a few words as to why would be great.

I also have a gift. Below is a .jpg of some black sheep cards. They are about the size of a standard business card. You can probably tell that I personally prefer one of the two designs on the top, but I also want to give you guys the option of one of the other cards. Click on the cards, open them in a separate window, and make sure that the view is at 100% before printing. Feel free to express your opinions about the images, and at some point in the future I will put out a .jpg of the top vote getter.

Get as many of these cards out to fellow coders as you can because if we can all get on the same page regarding rates, PTO, work environment, etc. then we (the black sheep of the legal profession) can become a greater voice for change in the industry.

Finally, I have another request. Actually, two.

First, I want to ask all of you out there to share any information with us that you feel should be shared with other contractors. To that end, I have heard about a number of recent potential jobs, but I am hesitant to publish information that I cannot verify. For example I have heard allusions to a top secret document review in or near Liberty Place run by Hudson, but I have very little other information on it. Information on this review might be important to someone who is considering a position on it, or to establishing pay rates in the industry, or to work environment comparisons, etc.

Second, I know that some of you that have contributed in the comment strings, or for that matter some of you readers, have strong viewpoints and voices of your own. I want those voices to be heard. So if you want to post, in this space. If you want to be the “Black Sheep” for a post; then send me what you want posted via e-mail to phillycontractlawyer@gmail.com with please post this. I will post removing whatever name that you send it to me under and will even post under whatever alias you request. It will be in confidence, and I will only post what I feel will not identify you to the contract firms, law firms, or the general public.

Anyway, Have a Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Sincerely,

The Black Sheep


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

From the Front—updates on the McCarter AZ project

  1. Familiar faces

It has been confirmed by at least 3 sources David Leone formerly on Dechert’s Vioxx project is now on the McCarter project. Love him or hate him he is working there on behalf of Dechert. One of my sources (published with express permission) wrote a week or so ago:

OMG, he IS here. Leone is here, this is going to suck. I guess I better be ready for unclear directions, weird rules, and multiple “special projects.”

Another source (published with permission) said:

Leone is on the project, but has only been in a couple of times. He must be working off site, looks like he is still working with Liesl and Matt Tate.

I am opening the floor a little on this one and trusting you guys not to be too severe without reason. What are your opinions of this crew?

  1. Newark site and Tom the Temp

The Newark, New Jersey AZ site is up and Running. For those of you who follow TomTheTemp’s blog, he has covered the opening of this site which occurred in mid-January at the same time that the Philly site began staffing up. I gather from the postings on that site there are several people up there that are working the project grudgingly. Some are actually happy to be traveling from NYC to Newark to work for a rate lower then the normal NYC rates (though higher than the Philly rates).

The Tom the Temp’s site can be found at: http://temporaryattorney.blogspot.com/

For the AZ posts look at the January 16, 19, 21, and 22 posts. It appears there was a good deal of talk about a possible strike or other concerted activity in favor of getting back the MLK day. Check it out.

  1. Bye Bye MLK Day, What’s Next Labor Day?

It has also been confirmed that Hudson has stripped away a Paid Holiday from all contractors. In the last few years Hudson has provided its contractors with 6 paid holidays. A few years ago that list included Memorial Day. Either last year or the year before Hudson changed from Memorial Day to Martin Luther King Day. This year, announced a bare 2 weeks prior to MLK day, Hudson will now only pay 5 paid Holidays. This means a loss of one day’s pay at straight time, and more importantly for those who have families, either the loss of any pay for that day, or finding someone willing to baby-sit on that day. Many of the contractors on the AZ project were understandably upset about this announcement, but the loss of this holiday was paid little heed primarily because the announcement was combined with new rules regarding the claiming of Paid days off which are earned every 400 hours. It seems that at the end of major operations on the Vioxx review, Hudson got hit with hefty requests by people for paid days which they had been stockpiling. Unfortunately the new rules are such that you can only use 2 paid days in any given pay period. This does suck for those people who bank these days to use for vacations, or when they have an actual day they need to take off, but my opinion on this is that you should claim them when they are earned anyway because the money in your pocket can earn interest for you. If they hold it, then they can earn interest.

Interestingly, this has provoked some real talk about a potential strike, walk out, sick out, and unionization. I support all of these ideas, but I some of them are impractical and dangerous especially without union support. A one day sick out is the most likely to be effective at this stage without a union, but two things would be required. First enough participation, and second a clear voice. If there is some support I will further discuss the specifics of how I think such concerted activity should proceed.

The great thing about a sick out would also be that with enough participation the firms would be afraid (with good reason) of Unionization. In addition, it also puts people in a position to believe that a union is possible.

  1. New Pay Structure

Another update that came in this the first week of February is that there is now a new pay structure on Hudson’s AZ review (and an incentive). I believe it is as follows (feel free to correct me if I am off, as this is recent information and has not been fully confirmed):

30/hr (or 33 or 35 depending on seniority) for the first 45 (remains the same)

1.5 time for 45-55 hours/week (remains the same)

1.75 time for 55-70 hours/week

Double time for 70+ hours/week

The top 10% or so of people who earn more then 70+ hours/week will be entered into a

drawing for a flat screen TV.

My belief is that they have 3 major issues that this is attempting to address. First, they have discovery deadlines coming up so they want people to put in more hours to meet those deadlines. Second, any time that there is a deadline it opens up the ability to negotiate either to get a deal done before the deadline so that new issues are not opened, or after the deadline (whether it was met or not adds a dimension to negotiations). Meanwhile, the law firm will try to bill all of the hours it can around these times because at any time it might wrap up. Third the potential discontent that has been raised on blogs like this one and Tom the Temp’s can be somewhat alleviated by making some of the contractors more happy with their circumstances and the hope that they can make a lot more money.

In truth this pay structure will likely only affect those attorneys that are on the cusps, and provide no major incentive to most.

One More Thing

There is a great report available at: www.jdwired.com/thenewlawyer. You should all check it out.

Later,

The Black Sheep

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Unions Part 1, Why should we form one?—Finally…

Hello readers and contributors.

I am sorry I have not written much lately. Part of the reason is I have been trying to decide how to tackle the union issue that I promised to talk about. Yes, I am finally delivering on it, at least in part.

Here is the deal, I have delayed posting on unions because I want to figure out the right way to go about it. I also have delayed because I think that I am a little afraid of the possible results of unionization. First off, I have never seen myself as a union worker; much less someone that is trying to convince others it might be a good idea. Second, predicting changes in how an employer views its employees after unionization is difficult at best. At worst the employer could go decide to find different workers (searching in a different city, different area of the country, or even off-shoring). However, more and more I have become convinced that what the legal contracting industry needs is a union. There are other ideas and other options out there, but in my opinion, while some of them have been pursued they have not been and will not be effective. In truth unionization might not be either.

In any case, because I have spent a lot of my spare time looking at union issues, I have neglected posting on other issues. SO, what I am going to do is post today on why contract attorneys should unionize, and I will continue to talk about unions through the coming weeks interspersing some of the posting ideas that I have neglected. I hope to have this union issue parsed out by the end of February, and I will continue on regular postings thereafter.

Unions generally provide their members with:

  • Better Wages
  • Better Hours
  • Better Benefits
  • Better Work Environments
  • Advancement Opportunities
  • More Job Security
  • More Paid Time Off
  • A greater say (or at least knowledge) about how the work proceeds
  • Grievance Procedures

These are some of the common issues that I frequently have heard people in the legal contract industry complain about. When complaints on any particular job become loud enough and common enough, they are finally listened to and addressed. This usually comes just in time to dump more work and stress on the contractor.

I personally have had complaints in all of the areas listed above at one point or another as a contractor, and I still do. Why you may ask have I not always raised these issues with my employer? I have been afraid that I might lose my job. I have been afraid that I would be labeled a troublemaker. I have been afraid that my one little voice would be drowned out by the silence of all the other contractors.

Why have I not tried to unionize a jobsite under my real name? There are several reasons. One of which is that I did not know my rights or the extent of them. A second is that I was afraid that I would lose my job (not because of my unionizing, but for some other perfunctory reason that the employer comes up with). Another is that I still believe that not enough other people really want a union, even with all of the benefit that it could bring to them. Also, I think other contractors largely believe that it is impossible. I wish that I could prove conclusively that it is possible, but that will not happen until a union develops. I can only show you here that technically forming a union is possible.

For those of you who thought like I did that professionals don’t unionize, you may be interested in these facts from the AFL-CIO, Department for Professional employees:

  • The union movement is now 51 percent white collar.
  • In the professional and related occupations, 17.7 percent of workers are union members, a higher proportion than the workforce in general.
  • Employment in the professional and related occupations is growing faster and adding more workers than any other major occupational category. While total U.S. employment is projected to grow 13 percent between 2004 and 2014, the growth for professional and technical workers is projected to be 21.2 percent, or 6 million jobs.
  • Three-tenths of the growth in professional and related occupations is expected to take place in the health care and social assistance section, one-fifth in government, and one-seventh in professional, scientific, and technical services.
  • Some 24 percent of all jobs in 2004 required a bachelor's degree or higher. Over the projected period of 2004-2014, 36 percent of the 18.9 million new jobs are expected to be filled by those with a bachelor's degree or higher.

Source: Analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures by the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees; BLS, January 2007.

Clearly, contract attorneys would not be leading professionals in unionizing, and it is not that uncommon. We should start talking about this idea seriously. Whether you wish that you were making a few more bucks an hour, that you get a couple more paid days off per year, that your office bathroom didn’t feel like a sewage plant, that you want to someday work your way up the “corporate ladder,” that you want medical coverage for yourself or your family or that you want all of the above; a union might be the solution to your issues.

In the coming weeks, look for posts on how to form a union, my own assessment of the chances of forming a union, an assessment of the benefits and responses from the industry. The next post goes out to those people working on the McCarter English project and other Hudson contractors.

And I leave you with a nice little term of art, PROTECTED CONCERTED ACTIVITY, please look it up, and send the term and definition along to your fellow contractors (and of course a link to this site). I will discuss it more in the next union post.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Its coming soon. A few minor issues and the FLSA.

First off, watch the unsolicited advertisements. I got a little concerned there when someone posted a job announcement with full contact information. I decided to leave it because if nothing else, I hope that someone finds a position in which they are Happy or Happier. I don't mind so much if other bloggers post links to their blogs, especially when they are related issues to my own, but watch the ads. See Rule 5.

Second, there have been many requests for me to publish a chart for contract jobs in Philadelphia. I may attempt to do this at some point in the near future. However, the limits of the blogspot being what they are, it will likely be published in JPEG format. For this chart I will have to also create a rating and annotation system. Further, not every contractor values the same thing in a job site. Some prefer the quiet of their own cube or office, while others (especially older contractors) seem to prefer a conference table type of job where they are free to talk. No rating system will satisfy everyone.

Third, the issue was raised briefly in the last string of what the markup for contractors was. This varies widely depending on the contract. Further, with some jobs there are 2 markups, with others there is only one. These markups are:

Contractor Pay---> Contract Firm charges for Contractors--->Law Firm charges for Contractors--->What the Law Firm Client actually pays for Contractors.

Contractor Pay---> Contract Firm charges for Contractors-->What the Law Firm Client actually pays for Contractors.

Notice in the second model the law firm (ie Dechert) is not paying for the contractors, rather their client is doing so directly. This model has become popular for companies on larger document reviews lately because it saves them money, and they have gotten smart about what they will and will not pay.

Someone did communicate to me what their markup actually was. The person found out through a slip up by an HR person at the contract firm. This was a couple of years ago, and this person was with a plaintiff's law firm known to negotiate really low rates, so the markup may not be representative of the industry. The employee was receiving $25/hour. The Contract firm was receiving $39/hour. The Law Firm was "billing" $225/hour against the settlement. The client did not end up paying $225 as the Law Firm might be faced with a client unwilling to pay that much, and would knock down the price when the client balked. Also, when there is a Class Settlement, the law firms use that figure to try to negotiate a larger share of the attorneys fees. Attorneys fees in class actions are often subject to the approval of the court, and so usually end up being more reasonable. However, courts used to frequently overlook the fact that contractors are being billed as associates even when doing Doc Review.

Fourth, some comments have been made about how much better being a 1099 employee is. It can be better and worse, it all depends on your business/tax savvy. Keep in mind that 1099 employees are essentially double taxed because they must pay self employment taxes. I believe that the person above told me that he would need to make more then $32/hour just to overcome the tax consequences of being a 1099 employee. Ironically the firm started its 1099 employees at $30/hour. Also, despite the meager benefits that a contract firm may provide, 1099 employees get nothing for benefits. If you are further interested in being a 1099, run the numbers against the income tax forms for 2008. There is also a hassle being 1099 in that you are required to pay taxes quarterly, and save up for them on your own. There are potential benefits, but like I said before, you need to be savvy about how you set yourself up. Okay, enough of that for now.

Finally, the double edged sword of the FLSA.

Most contract attorney jobs are considered exempt by the law firms and the contract firms under the professional employee exemption. This means that the protections of the FLSA does not extend to us contractors. The FLSA essentially says that any position which requires advanced education (like law school) as an essential part of the job duties and qualifications is exempt. The argument that is used to justify this position is that they require us to have a J.D. and sometimes to have to passed the Bar. They justify these requirements because we must code for Confidentiality, Relevancy (Legal) and Privilege. These terms have a legal meaning and non-legal meanings. Theoretically, we learned the legal meanings of these terms in law school, and the Bar was a test of our knowledge of these terms.

My argument is that the rules that are used for Confidentiality, Relevance and Privilege bear little resemblance to those that we learned in law school. They have already been hammered out through negotiation between the lead counsel on the case, and sometimes let through information that would normally be considered to fall under one of these titles. Further, I have heard many cases where the defendants took an overly broad view of Privilege and essentially required everything to be coded as privileged. This means that the actual knowledge that we gained in law school is not being used as a part of our duties. We are retaught what these words mean for each case we work. Also, coding is a repetitive task (necessarily so) that does not allow us to use any discretion under these rules. What this means is that we should not be exempted under the professional definition of the FLSA.

The double edged sword that some have pointed out to me in the past, is that if the education and license is not actually required to do the work, then college students could just as easily do the work. In fact anyone who is intelligent enough to follow the directions at the document review site and speaks English could do it. This opens the door to non-attorneys reviewing the documents and a drop in the salaries of document reviewers. It also opens the door to the off shoring of document reviews. If the license and education is required to do the work, then you lose the protections of the FLSA.

ALL of that being said, qualification under the FLSA has nothing to do with whether you can unionize, or for that matter with what the union can argue for on your behalf. That is for the next post.

Later,
The Black Sheep