Your case has entered the discovery phase and you are faced with the daunting task of reviewing millions of pages with a tight deadline for production to your adversary. Your firm does not have the resources to get through all of these materials in a timely manner. What are you going to do?
Whether you use a temporary attorney staffing agency to provide a pool of contract attorneys or hire directly, the same tips for hiring will apply. With a soft legal job market, there are plenty of bright, ambitious attorneys who will want to work on your project. The trick is learning how to select them.
For many attorneys, contract work provides a flexible work environment so that they can pursue other interests between jobs or in the evenings (e.g., writers, actors, entrepreneurs). Others may be trying to launch a solo practice, or may be new parents who don’t want the big-firm grind. Some may have felt the sting of discrimination, and seek a way to enter the legal workplace.
Still others may have recently relocated or may not be admitted to practice in the state. Others simply may prefer a job that pays well that they don’t have to take home with them at night.
Understanding these motivations can help you evaluate candidates. And their resumes can provide vital clues to help you select a successful review team.
First, fight the urge to favor pedigree as an indicator of quality. While you want bright people, it also takes a certain temperament and work ethic to competently review and analyze documents 10 hours a day.
Positive signs to look for in a resume include:
- Working for the same law firm(s) on multiple occasions.
- Repeated placement by the same agency or agencies.
- Second review, quality control and privilege review experience.
- Experience with multiple online review platforms.
- Placement on both short-term and long-term assignments.
- Lack of second review, quality control or privilege review experience for experienced reviewers.
- Large, unexplained gaps in the resume.
- Candidates who lump all of their reviews under one heading so that you cannot ascertain how long they were on a project and/or the type and level of work performed.
- Listing “solo practitioner” as their current job description. Be wary of hiring solo practitioners if their practice requirements could lead to frequent absenteeism (e.g., due to court appearances, real estate closings). They might be great for a night shift, but unreliable in a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. slot.
- Candidates should arrive on time, be professionally dressed and properly groomed.
- Be cautious of candidates who cannot cogently discuss any of the reviews on which they have worked.
- If you use a staffing agency, insist that the agency rank the candidates it submits to you.
This will force the staffing manager to truly reflect on the candidates who will best fit your firm’s personality and will help you prioritize interviews.
- What is the approximate duration of project?
- Does it pay a flat rate or does it pay overtime?
- Is there an opportunity for weekend work, and, if so, is it required?
- Are there any caps or minimum hours required?
- Is there flexibility to work from home?
- Is there an opportunity for a raise or completion bonus for long-term projects?
- Cramped rooms or basement spaces are notorious in the industry and obviously disfavored.
- Provide desks or open tables in one large room to facilitate interaction between contract attorneys and supervisors. This will lead to a more consistent review.
- Bathrooms should be cleaned frequently and well-stocked.
- A break-out room where attorneys can take a call is also helpful.
- There should be plenty of coffee and beverages available for reviewers.
- Make sure that your site has offices for the site supervisor and associates.
- Be sure your site has as a high-speed printer, photocopier and office supplies.
Red flags include:
Don’t hire without an in-person interview. Some candidates look great on paper, but you will be only able to tell if they are an appropriate candidate if you meet them in person.
Brief 15-minute interviews of candidates will not only help you screen, but can help set a tone that communicates that you are invested in the reviewers as contributing members of your legal team.
Some interview tips:
You should expect to be asked the following questions:
You should make your offers quickly and try to avoid startup delays to avoid losing the best candidates to other projects.
Always pay attorneys who are performing the same task at the same rate. Managers may make slightly more, but make sure their role includes tasks other than strictly document review.
Staffing agencies will typically offer you “free” space for a large review.
However, while the agencies don’t charge you directly for the room, they typically will bill you an additional $3 to $5 per hour, per attorney.
However, this may be well worth considering if your firm is small, or has no extra space — because it will relieve you of the burden and costs of finding and maintaining space.
Be sure that your firm provides a pleasant and productive work environment:
It is very important to take the necessary time to present your attorneys with an overview of the case — and follow that up with weekly meetings to respond to their questions and to provide feedback.
Do not undervalue the intelligence of your attorneys. Their understanding of the bigger picture enables them to think about the documents instead of mindlessly coding and makes them feel part of a team. The rewards are innumerable.
Imagine a partner asking you to write a memo, but refusing to tell you what the case is about or what you are trying to achieve.
Using contract attorneys can be an effective way to tackle a large-scale review.
You will find that your best contract attorneys will respect you and will want to work with you on future matters, and will tell their colleagues who are looking for work.
And referrals from quality workers are almost always your best hiring bet!
Rahul D. Yodh is a Principal of Link Legal Search Group, a boutique legal search & staffing firm that provides lateral attorney recruitment and contract attorney services to organizations nationwide. For more information on Link Legal Search Group, please visitwww.linklegalsearch.com