Contract Attorneys A to Z is a compilation of my most popular blog series. The white paper explores the ABC's of hiring, orienting and managing contract attorneys as well as best practices tips on designing review workflows and protocols.
I have managed more than 2000 contract attorneys in my career and have learned quite a few lessons regarding hiring, orienting, supervising and maximizing temporary support within large law firms. Here, I boil these lessons down to a succinct list of concepts and thoughts that seek to explore the character of the relationship between temporary attorneys and law firms. For this list, I assume that most contract attorneys are hired to assist with discovery-related projects.
Acclimate – If housed in your space, welcome and acclimate contract attorneys with a comprehensive tour of your office. Comfort with the work environment encourages concentration and focus.
Boundaries – Insurmountable boundaries (both physical and hierarchical) between contract attorneys and case teams may quickly destroy lines of communication and affect work product.
Co-employment – Contract attorneys who are sourced through staffing providers are employees of those agencies. Law firms and contract attorneys should always address issues regarding pay, hours, duration, workplace, etc. (all administrative issues) to the agency. It is critical to respect that employer/employee relationship and exploit the benefits of outsourcing.
Demonstrate – Technology and all required processes should be demonstrated during orientation. Never assume that a contract attorney has sufficient familiarity or experience with a review platform or a project-related process.
Experience – Successful experience as a contract attorney is usually the best indicator of success on your project. I have not found that law school, substantive practice experience, years of practice, etc. are compelling components of a review attorney’s credentials. Document review is a distinct skill and candidates should be screened for that expertise.
Fairness – Prior to hire, a plan should be developed for releasing attorneys based on objective criteria (workload, performance, aptitude, attitude, collegiality).
Goals – Project goals (hours, docs per hour, error rate) should be explicitly assigned and individual attorneys should be measured against them on a daily basis.
Holistic – Organizations should have a centralized, holistic process for screening, hiring and orienting contract attorneys. A centralized approach assures process consistency (billing, conflicts, hiring protocols, etc.) and it better positions an organization to negotiate competitive staffing rates across geographic markets.
Information - Contract attorneys are most effective when they are provided with as much case-related information as possible. Although some fear that “too much” information (pleadings, case strategy, etc.) may improperly empower and distract an attorney team, my experience has proven that supporting information provides context and direction.
Jurisdiction - The analytical work performed by contract attorneys requires that they be licensed in at least one jurisdiction and in some cases, in the jurisdiction which the work is performed (e.g. the District of Columbia).
Knowledge – During a document review, contract attorneys often become more knowledgeable regarding a client’s business than case teams. Case teams should exploit the factual expertise that contract attorneys acquire beyond tagged documents in a database.
Language – Foreign language reviews are increasing and attorneys with language skills are in high demand. When working with staffing providers, it is important to understand how agencies test for fluency (many use ALTA testing), whether candidates are native speakers and what their fluency score is. Native speakers are always preferred.
Memorialize – All substantive training, administrative guidelines, project expectations and any changes should be memorialized and distributed to contract attorneys. Clear instructions that outline an attorney’s work on your behalf are essential to delivering efficient, quality work product.
Jackson Palmer is a dynamic and creative eDiscovery attorney with 14 years experience working in large law firms managing the EDRM process. Jackson has extensive experience and interest in integrating technology and emerging eDiscovery jurisprudence/standards with organizational structure, process best practices and developing the human component of successful strategies for data management.