Monday, January 18, 2010

Gangs of Doc Review

Coding. Litigation support. Document review. These are all terms for the same thing --- the same miserable, soul-crushing, Sisyphian task undertaken by a motley crew of failed attorneys both young and old. Most are here because of bad decisions, unfortunate events, or some combination of the two. Like in Scorcese's "Gangs of New York," where the Big Apple of the 19th Century was inhabited by a collection of tribal "gangs," each sporting members of a common background or with common goals, the doc review industry is also a patchwork quilt of several different types of attorneys, who, while emanating from disparate origins, all bear the yoke of the coder.

The Young'Uns: A large plurality of document reviewers probably fall under this category. Between the ages of 25 and 35, these folks graduated from law school within the past 5 years and are slowly watching their dreams die a slow and agonizing death. The Young'Uns made their first mistake when, upon entering college and preparing to major in something practical, like finance, some idiot told them to "follow their bliss" and go for that PhD in some field or other that sounded cool, like political science, philosophy, or my personal favorite, psychology. Perhaps it was a dynamic limited to my generation, but I seem to recall that being a "psych major" was all the rage when I was in undergrad. At pretty much each and every frat party that I went to, I struck up a conversation with a bubbly 20-year old with ample breasts that went something like this:

Flounder: So what's your name?
Bubbly 20-year old: I'm Beth!
Flounder: What? Sorry, I was too busy looking you up and down to pay attention. So what's your major?
Beth: I'm a psych major!
Flounder: Oh, that's going to come in handy somewhere down the line. Psych majors are in high demand at every Fortune 500 company.
Beth: What's a company?
Flounder: That's not important. What IS important is that you have another beer.

Unfortunately, as both Beth and all the editors of this blog discovered upon graduation, there were in fact no jobs for those of us who followed our bliss. Those Fortune 500 companies most certainly did NOT want psych majors! It was all a ruse, hoisted upon an unsuspecting generation by aging hippies from the '60s who should all be dragged out into the street and run over multiple times by the mid-'90s, high-mileage cars that we are now forced to drive because who can afford anything else? Armed with our worthless college degrees, we were forced to get a worthless graduate degree, infusing a once noble profession with tons of young attorneys who went to law school simply because they didn't know what else to do. Do you really think these people were going to out-gun the gunners and get the big law jobs? Of course not! They either left law school unemployed or got some crappy small firm job that ditched them in a year. And now they code.

The Geriatrics: These are generally attorneys who are too old to do anything useful but have not yet reached Death's doorstep. Given their complete lack of utility to the legal profession, not to mention society in general, yet given our poorly evolved species' cultural fetish for caring for our elders, these folks are given a seat at the document review table until Social Security kicks in. Often resentful and rebellious, the Geriatrics can be surprisingly wily and should often be handled with caution.

The Screw-Ups: Ever wonder what happens to attorneys who sleep with opposing counsel, their client, the adverse party, and the judge's wife all at the same time? They end up in the world of document review! That's right, if you've been disbarred, disciplined, or if you've generally been a lousy attorney, it's a coder's life for you! And no one will ever know, especially if you perpetually talk about your plans to "open up your own office" or "go out on your own." Any document reviewer that says such things has almost certainly been disciplined on multiple occasions by his or her state bar.

The JDs: We all know the type. They went to law school, graduated, and after spending 200,000 dollars on a legal education, decided that the whole "getting licensed to practice law" thing wasn't for them. Now, most of them have taken the bar. Some of them have taken it multiple times, in multiple jurisdictions, only to be told by each jurisdiction that they shouldn't have ditched those plans to go to med school. Meanwhile, a few have never taken any state bar, and have no plans to do so. Some even work out complex moral and philosophical arguments as to why they shouldn't take the bar. But ultimately, it all comes down to the same thing: they spent three years in law school to be a non-attorney.

The Inepts: We all know these guys and gals. They're the ones who everyone sort of realizes never should have gone to law school, and who would fold like the proverbial house of cards if they ever set foot inside a court room. In fact, if any of the Inepts did manage to actually get a client, the judge, the opposing counsel, and the adverse party would collectively drag this attorney out into the parking lot and take turns giving him or her wedgies for denigrating the profession of law by entering it. The Inepts largely never wanted to practice law and are always preparing to pursue an alternative career, such as a matchmaking service or starting a collection agency.

The Suckers: Anyone who has ever reviewed documents has run into someone like this. A Sucker is an attorney for whom the world was her oyster. She had a successful law practice, a vibrant personal life, and the sky was the limit. Then, just like on those episodes of VH1's Behind the Music, tragedy struck. A family member got sick, a fiance got a job halfway across the country, or someone dropped dead. Whatever it was, our young heroine was whisked from her life in Elysium to the salt mines of document review. It would make a great Dickens novel.

As such, like the gangs of New York, or perhaps like the prisoners in the Shawshank Redemption, attorneys from each of the aforementioned groups have been cast into the sea of document review. And like the character Sisyphus in Greek mythology, whose lot in life was to push a boulder up a hill but never reach the top, they are forced to perpetually review documents with no end in sight.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Coding A-Team

Several years ago, three fledgling attorneys found themselves unemployed because of an economy they didn't create. These law grads promptly escaped from unemployment to the contract attorney underground. Today still looking for real jobs they survive as coders of fortune. If you're a law firm, if you have documents to review, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire...



Flounder Gambini, a jolly fellow from the west with a checkered past, who came to the east coast in a car full of dreams, and who may or may not be of Italian descent (but who certainly likes the food, as well as most other types of food). The first in his family to attain a higher education, Flounder graduated from law school in 2006 and became licensed to practice law in 2007. Shortly thereafter, his hopes and dreams were crushed, much like the crushed red pepper that he puts on his pizza. Now in his fourth year of doing document review, Flounder is perpetually hatching quixotic schemes in order to escape from a life of coding, and from his creditors, including writing a hit screenplay or faking his own death.

Bubbles McCoy, with a love for sports and a heart of gold, hails from the deep south and never really wanted to be an attorney. Initially planning to go to medical school, her goals were thwarted after a day of volunteering in the delivery ward, where she quickly discovered that blood, guts and naked women spread eagle were not her bag. In a hurried effort to keep her parents from shutting down the trust fund, Bubbles took the LSAT and applied to law school. Six years later, Bubbles realizes that going to law school was the biggest f#<•ing mistake of her life, especially considering that ex-cons with felony records have a higher employment rate than JDs. She subsequently entered the high-stakes world of document review, where she goes from project to project hoping to find her sought-after dream job with the federal government, which will transport her to the progressive paradise of Northern Virginia, where dreams are a reality and reality, a dream.

Tsunami Woods, whose personality is as tempestuous as her name suggests. Emanating from the hinterlands of the north, in a region forgotten by man and God, Tsunami has stormed her way into the document review market through sheer force of will. She takes it upon herself to keep Flounder in line while they busily code documents at an undisclosed document review facility.