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.


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:



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!


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.


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.