by Garrett Oppenheim
WITH KINGS AND
Bartleby the Doc Reviewer
QUESTION: How many doc review at-
torneys does it take to change a light bulb?
ANSWER: One, but he earns the undy-
ing enmity of the other 30 in the room
who were hoping the project might last
one more week.
Document review is with- outquestionanimportant stage in any major litiga- tion. Both plaintiffs and efendants have all sorts of documentation related to a case, and the rules
of evidence say they must turn over everything relevant that is not privileged or confidential. Depending on the scope of the case
— not to mention the depth of the clients’
pockets — reviews can range from a handful of documents to servers full of millions of
pages. Obviously, when the latter is the case,
partners and associates do not have the time
to review everything. Even with IT staff culling the full universe of documents down to a
fraction of the total via sophisticated search
algorithms, too many non-relevant documents remain and there is too great a chance
of privileged material slipping through to
just hand over what the computers find.
And that is why at any given time here in
Washington state and all across the country,
thousands of our fellow lawyers sit glued to
computer screens, shuffling through digital
documents, diligently reviewing them for
responsiveness, privilege, and confidentiality, and occasionally having to redact them.
Some reviewers work in basements; others get a view of the city. Many work for as
little as $20 an hour; those who stick with it
long enough can earn double that if they’re
lucky. Generally, doc reviewers work without benefits such as health insurance and
paid sick leave, which are taken for granted
by full-time permanent employees at almost
any reputable firm. Some reviewers work a
standard 40-hour week, but frequently there
is subtle (and not-so-subtle) encouragement
to work 60 or more hours, often seven days a
week, until the project ends and they go back
on unemployment until another project begins, a period that can range from a day to
weeks. It is long, hard work without promotions or bonuses to look forward to.