Life At The Bottom: A Law Graduate’s Experience

It’s not a big secret that being a new lawyer right now sucks.  But even for those who do get a job, the problems have only begun.

Someone at the Something Awful forums decided to post an expose on what it’s like to be a doc review attorney.  Humorous as it is sad, as lawyers have a deep sense of morbidity.

Meet the coworkers (I’m a combination of 13, 22, and have been 24):

1. The First-timer: This person is starting out on their first project. They’re typically just out of school and fresh from getting their license. And now they’re going to be paid for their skills! They almost always overdress for the first day, and are always overly excited to find out about the case. (Wow, a contract dispute!) They are still full of hopes and dreams that will soon be crushed.

2. The Gunner: Even the world of doc review has its gunners. They too overdress for the first day, and attempt to regale any nearby person with tales of past projects. They always attempt to engage both the recruiters and outside counsel in personal conversation, and never miss a chance to remind other reviewers how this project is so simple compared to others they’ve worked. They also love to ask long, drawn-out question that are tangential at best to the case, to demonstrate their own perceived legal knowledge. Their ultimate goal? They want to “carry the clipboard” and become a team leader, in a desperate bid to show that though they’ve ended up here, they’re still better than you.

3. The Striver: This person deludes themselves into believing that standing out and achieving more on a project will result in something more than being out of a job. “Why, if the average is 50 docs per hour, and I code 80, why I’m sure the recruiters will give me a line on a real job. Maybe even outside counsel will recognize my effort and hire me on as a real attorney!” Hated by co-workers for pushing the average up and the project length down.

4. The Dreamer: Similar to the Striver, this person thinks they can “network” through doc review to an actual job, and not just another project. They can never be persuaded that one does not go from click monkey to associate. When doing an on-site review, the Dreamer hangs out in the regular employee’s break areas, attempting to engage the full-time attorneys in conversation, never realizing that a) they will never offer him a job, and b) they view him as a click monkey, not as an attorney, and certainly not as an equal.

5. The Old-Timer: “Why, in my day we reviewed documents in banker’s boxes, out in a warehouse, and we didn’t need any fancy computers to do it!” The Old-timer never shuts up with their stories of doc review’s past. Even more annoying, they manage to have computer trouble (which is almost always user error) every single day. “My login won’t work! My mouse won’t work! My computer is slow!” Hated by those unlucky enough to sit near them and IT personnel everywhere.

6. The Talker: This person never shuts up. Ever. Even if everyone has headphones in, the Talker will make sure every other reviewer knows about their kids, their car, their neighbors, their opinions on everything capable of being discussed, and every other facet of their life before the project ends.

7. The Slob: This person quite possibly sleeps in their own filth, and brings that same level of hygiene with them to the project. They’re constantly eating, smacking, slurping, and dropping trash all around their workspace. A true joy to sit near.

8. The Gossip: “I know everything about everyone on this project. And I’m going to make sure everyone knows.” Their ability to create drama is exceeded only by their ability to make everyone hate them.

9. The Insider: Related to the Gossip, this person acts like they know everything about every recruiter and every project in town, and are wrong more often than not. But hey, if it’s importance you seek in the eyes of fellow clickers, it’s a good way to go. Their greatest ability is to stir up drama with whispers of a project that pays $2 more per hour that they just heard about. The monkeys rush to their phones to email recruiters, only to be crushed by news that the project is merely “in the pipeline.”

10. The Professional: This person has accepted their fate — it’s doc review for life. Bossy team leader? Annoying outside counsel? Whatever — they’ve done it all before. They come in, get out, and move on. Their greatest fear is conflicting out of the next project.

11. The Hero: This person thinks they’ve “solved the case” every time they find something responsive. Every day they manage to find a “hot” document, which they eagerly show to their unamused neighbors, team leaders, and maybe even the outside counsel. They care about the case way too much, and generally fail to understand not only that outside counsel doesn’t care about their opinion, but also that all the really important stuff has probably already been reviewed, and not by them. Now stop checking “hot” already.

12. The Questioner: This person is mortified to make a responsive call without asking someone else’s opinion. To the annoyance of everyone else on the project, they can barely function without input from another person. At least they keep the daily average down.

13. The Solo: This person has their own practice, and will spend 75% of their time on the project out in the hallway on their phone. The rest of the time they’ll spend paying even less attention to their documents than the average reviewer, as their mind is solely on their own practice. Not that bad to sit near, until they start pressing you for business.

14. The Could-have-been: “I could have been working at a great firm, I was going to be prestigious, but I…” Ended up in doc review? This wasn’t supposed to happen to them, see? Yeah, they’ve always got an excuse, and they’ll love to talk to you about it. It wasn’t their fault, for one reason or another. A common fate of the Dreamer.

15. The Burnout: This jaded individual has accepted their fate, but hates the world for it. Can be recognized by their disheveled dress (even on the first day), their casual-at-best attitude regarding directions, their general lack of interest in anything other than turning in their hours, and their dislike of every other person on this list.

16. The Hill Billy
Male. This person comes from a small town maybe went to college and LS in 4th tier cities (think Syracuse or Cleveland) and now finds themselves for the first time in NYC. They rent an apt. quick paying 2k/month for a small studio on the upper east side. They have 150k in loans but a small town good attitude. They are looking for FT work but in the meantime they found out that you can go exempt while doing temp work! So while working 70 hrs. week they take home 2k a week because they dont pay taxes. This guy goes out drinking every night cause he is in the big time. At the end of the year he has made 80k but now also owes the IRS 15k!

17. The Job Hunter
Usually female. Everyone on the assignment knows she is looking for a FT attorney job. If you had a dollar for every time you heard the word JOB out of this person’s mouth you would be matching Buffet in two months.

18. The loafer
This person has a great personality but less of a work ethic. Usually lowest weekly billables on a project. This person is on the make not in billing as much as possible to make the most money as fast as possible but in doing as little as possible to make 1500 a week. They will be 15 mins. late in the morning. 15 mins. late from lunch.

19. The mad biller
This person is usually a geek that when he gets told he can come in at any time and leave at any time takes this LITERALLY. This perrson will come in at 7am and bill until midnight. This person is the exact opposite of the loafer in 18 above. He will bill 15 hrs. a day 6 days a week and come back on Sunday to bill 8 more hrs. He takes home $5k a week.

20. The Shyster
This person would usually be considered an 18 Loafer, but bills like a 19 Mad Biller. Comes in late to work, takes 3 hour lunches to go shopping, leaves early, but somehow bills 60 hours a week and no one calls them on it.

21. The Paranoiac
No matter how many projects this specimen has done, no matter how mindlessly routine the review, the Paranoiac will never make a coding call without asking his neighbor to confirm it. The Paranoiac’s neighbors rarely appear at work without headphones after the first day, and will never, ever, under any circumstances, make eye contact. Similar to #12, but also constantly worries aloud that the underlying case is bound to settle this afternoon. Often ##9 or 10 will convince the project lead quietly to remove the Paranoiac from the project, in order to prevent bloodshed.

22. The “I just don’t give a poo poo anymore” guy
This gentleman (or young lady) has been on multiple projects and just doesn’t care anymore. Possibly a hybrid of 10 & 15. Main focus is billing for money. Usually happy-go-lucky as opposed to burnout. Will read through documents and do okay in general. But when he doesn’t understand something, will avoid looking like 12 The questioner, and blindly code the doc. Relevant? Oh, why not. Privileged? Sure. Hit “save & continue” His biggest fear is being promoted to team lead and having actual responsibility.

23. The “stumbles rear end backwards in jobs” guy
This gentleman doesn’t even want to be on coding jobs but is on unemployment benefits and cannot reject a recruiter calling him up on risk of being cut off from unemployment benefits. Somewhat related to 22. Will intentionally screw up just so you will lay him off. However, defies the laws of nature and gets “promoted” to QC, Privilege Logging, and even team lead positions. (sort of like the movie office space.)

24. The Lush
This gentleman, almost always a gentleman, could rumple freshly-pressed clothes by walking past them. He smells of stale whiskey at 8am. After lunch, he smells of fresh whiskey.

25. The Angry Frat Boy Staff Attorney
Usually in his late 20s or early 30s, this staff attorney, if you can call him that, spends days doling out batches of docs to reviewers and sending emails about recurring computer problems. He probably comes from an upper middle class family, spent most of college partying, and only went to law school because it seemed better than going to work for his father’s company. He is perpetually disgruntled and spends a good portion of his day trying to catch the doc reviewers doing something wrong so that he can have them fired and actually feel good about himself for five minutes. He glares at the male reviewers who he views as “competition” and gives them that “I’m watching you” look made famous by Robert DeNiro in “Meet the Parents.” All of the female doc reviewers love the guy though, largely because they know that they’d never consider dating a guy like that, which means they can use him to safely hone their flirting skills.

Still, it’s not all bad…

After a juicy project like this one winds down, I go to South America or Southeast Asia or somewhere warm for a long spell to unwind. You can never depend on these projects lasting forever – sometimes they settle without trial, and coders are done with no notice.

It’s kind of analogous to those guys who work six months a year on oil rigs and then spend the other six living it up.  Only difference is, the pay is a lot less and the hours are less consistent because you’re doing a job that no one actually needs.

Read Next:  $200K Student Debt But No Job. Time To Skip The Country?

18 thoughts on “Life At The Bottom: A Law Graduate’s Experience”

  1. More disturbing is how rabid today’s young women are towards achieving this sad situation in lieu of the pleasures of children and ruling over their own humble hearth and home. Indeed, the protagonist for “The New Normal” is sacrificing her womb to gay men in exchange for a few shekels to attend law school, where she will emerge no doubt to make money crusading against injustice. What do you want, a newly minted lawyer with $200K debt or a 3rd world ForeignBride, as seen in “A Man Wants a Wife, Not a Co-Worker”?

  2. As an attorney and a fan of this blog (as well as Roosh’s original blog), I really do not have much sympathy for people that complain about working in doc review. I took a doc review gig in another state after I was laid off from my associate position a few years ago, took the bar exam in that state, started to pick clients on my own, and now have my own law practice. I am not saying that I enjoy doc review work (it is very tedious) and I agree that there are too many law school graduates, but there are still people who need attorneys; you just have to have to go out and make your own moves. Most of the descriptions above are accurate (and I would probably be #13), but it amazing that many of the people who I have worked doc review would just complain because they did not receive a $160,000 salary that they feel they are entitled to without doing anything on their own to enhance their professional skills.
    Since there are many posts about game on this blog, the analogy I would make is that guys who whine and moan about being stuck in a doc review position are just like the guys who are out of shape, never go out, never travel, never approach and complain that they cannot get a girl.

    1. Of course it is always possible to improve one’s position. Nonetheless don’t you find a lawyer’s bitching humorous?

      1. It is hilarious. And attorneys with some hustle are laughing all the way to the bank.
        It’s even more ridiculous when you compare their situation to a 26 year old sergeant who’s served a tour in Afghanistan and is stuggling to make ends meet back here.

  3. family friend is a prestigious lawyer back in New Olreans. i spent a day at his firm, seeing what a lawyer does. the ONLY thing appealing is it’s HIS firm and he’s promised me i’d partner in 10 years.
    but no thanks.
    when i talked to the “new lawyers”; it seemed like they hated life. “oh, yeah, i got a job though.”

  4. So a lot of laweryin’ jobs are unpleasant. But suppose you grit your teeth and stick with it. What can you reasonably expect after 10 years of paying your dues, if you’re not spectacularly talented, but you’re steady, reliable, always on time, and can get along well with almost everyone? I’m just curious.

  5. OlioOx,
    My perspective is probably different that most law school grads, because I worked in sales for a number of years and then went to law school at night, but the money is there if you hustle. If you look at it as a $150k loan to start a business, then it isn’t much different than someone receiving funding to open up a pizza shop, for example. Some people will lose their shirt, and others will be successful, but a least you have an advanced degree if you fail, whereas a small business owner who loses it all ends with nothing.

  6. #20 the shyster is doing blow, #18 the loafer is doing pot. $1500 a week for slacking, still being honest, and smoking like Bob Marley, seems pretty solid. They would probably join you on your trip to SE Asia if you can break them out of their ganja play it safe tendencies. Whether they would be good company, up to you.

  7. One of the best things I ever did after law school was write that shit off as a loss and a waste of time and get a job that had absolutely nothing to do with what I went to school for.

  8. “It’s not a big secret that being a new lawyer right now sucks.”
    Finally some good news in a long series of bad ones.

  9. A book called “Happy Hour is for Amatuers” expands upon these characters in great detail. Worth checking out.

  10. Never did doc review. I’d be # 16 if the small town was Los Angeles and worked in…Los Angeles.
    BooHoo for attys who hate their jobs – grow a pair or get out.
    Boohoo for those crying about student loans – While everyone else was having a fun fun time partying and getting laid in undergrad, I worked full-time and carried a full academic load at a state school – and loved it. Worked for two years at two jobs saving and prepping for law school. I graduated from a top 15 law school, worked for a few years – got an MBA at a top 20 school – never had a student loan and mommy and daddy did not pay a dime (as they were blue-collar and broke). When your expectation is below “people will give me stuff”…. then life is manageable…… Try doing back-breaking labor for some crappy low wage to feed your family —- and then compare it to the office job sitting on your ass and having to hear people’s problems, while you drink coffee in a shirt and tie. Really?

  11. @Californio
    umm… so you have a hard earned BA, JD and MBA? What do you do now?
    The above analogy to a small business loan is pretty poor. Pretty sure most startups don’t need to raise 150k and defer income for 3 years before putting any money into the actual business…

  12. I’m a mixture of 10, 15 and 18. I code more docs than most but I hate doc review, dislike most of my fellow coders and I usually bill the least.

  13. I used to be a lawyer, but it was too adversarial for me, so I volunteered for active duty with the army. Now I teach junior high math, and reminisce about the maturity and professionalism of newly minted knucklehead privates.
    It took some balls to leave the law – everybody looks at you sideways, like, why in the hell would anybody leave such a lucrative, fascinating and prestigious career? (I wondered what people must think lawyers do all day).
    But the whole point of my going to law school was to expand my array of options, not diminish it (and also to escape a clingy gf). No one who is otherwise inclined should feel obligated to remain in the legal profession simply because he has a license.

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