For contract attorneys, the legal industry is as equal a threat as Voldemort was to Harry Potter
3 February 2014 – LegalTech NYC starts tomorrow and runs for 3-days. It’s at the New York Hilton. It is the largest legal technology trade show/event of the year. It’s the place for hands-on practical information on all sorts of technology. For more information, click here. Until end of the day today, you can get a free pass that gives you access to the Exhibit Hall, the Keynote Speeches, the Plenary Sessions, the Super Sessions, some training preview, and the Emerging Technology Sessions. It’s all you need to see/do. You’ll see a “registration” button via the link above. After today, the cost is $50 and covers all 3 days.
If you have the time, go. Why? We’ve beat this drum before. We are beating it again:
1. The last few years have seen a “new world of legal work”. Nobody has done a better job of covering it than Jordan Furlong and Ron Friedmann. In fact they both just posted excellent reports on their blogs and you should read them. Click on their names to get their posts.
2. As both state, the permanent full-time salaried employee is a vanishing specimen across all industries and workplaces. Law is one of the later markets to experience the rise of temporary, contract, outsourced, and flex-time workforces.
3. Technology, firm layoffs, partner de-equitizations, and hiring shutdowns have upended the system.
4. Contract attorneys see it even worse than most. And bear the brunt of it more than most. As we know … and as “Above the Law“ has also well reported … stories abound of experienced lawyers and lawyers just-out-of-school reduced to carrying out document review for less than $30 per hour. In many cases full-time new lawyer jobs pay around $30,000 – 40,000 annually. As Jordon says in his piece this is the ugly side of a labor market in transition that benefits only the few, those at the top of the pyramid.
5. There are solutions in law platforms like Berwin Leighton Paisner, and Axiom Law, and Potomac Law. And even us, The Posse List (we’ve revamped our job lists, 18 more staffing agencies have subscribed to post jobs, 97 more corporations have subscribed to post jobs, and we just hit 82,000 members world-wide … with an additional 3,000+ members over the last two weeks alone thanks to an “Above the Law” profile piece last week. But more on all that next week).
6. For contract attorneys the real Voldemort is technology. The “industrial revolution of data” with vast amounts of digital information being created, stored and analyzed has given rise to a demand for tools and people that can both analyze and visualize the information. And our take-away from the past year’s technology events is we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.
7. In document review alone the technology is faster, better, cheaper. And this strikes me as a logical life cycle in America: humans always striving to make their existence less and less laborious. And cheaper. That is the great disruptor in the e-discovery market, especially the contract attorney sector. Not that physical jobs are disappearing into India. In fact, many reviews are coming BACK to the U.S. because of lower cost. It is the technology, not India, driving the change.
8. And the drivers will be a mix of the “usual suspects” plus some up-and-comers. In fact THE up-and-comer is a company called Logikcull. Ediscovery on an iPad, and all sorts of other technology. For a review click here. They’ll be at LegalTech.
9. Yes, yes, yes. Predictive coding, technology assisted review, computer assisted review. For this post, we’ll use CAR. You have all heard of it, and many of you have seen, and more and more are using it. It has shortened document review time, and wiped out most of those heavy OT jobs we have come to depend on.
10. Last year probably marked the turning point. And last WEEK put the change in high gear. Last year in D.C. staff attorneys told us (we have a treasure of sources) about a regular client. Two years that client had a review with X amount of gigabytes to review. It called for 100+ contract attorneys, and took 3 months. Last fall, same client, an even larger document review: done with 25 attorneys, done in 4 weeks. Why? They used CAR. Why do you think law firms are closing down those massive doc review centers?
11. Last week, even worse. The DOJ … and the FTC … have been testing various CAR software being used by law firms in doc reviews for Hart-Scott-Rodino second requests. Last week in two different reviews … two different cities … the DOJ ordered that linear review be stopped and that CAR be used. It liked the results. In each case it wiped out at least 2-3 weeks of review work for the contract attorneys on the projects … roughly 50 on each case. I have simplified the facts (more details in an upcoming post) but you get the drift.
12. And many law firms, and staffing agencies, and even corporate clients refuse to be flat-footed. They are expanding the use of temporary, highly-qualified review teams to handle the “new order”. What has caused more and more companies to bring these matters in-house and outsource directly to vendors, to “untether” from their outside counsel? The technology makes it fast, and cheap. Make no mistake. Outside counsel still plays a key role. But the cost factor is paramount.
13. And yes, yes, yes. We all see this software day-to-day in review rooms and we often find it deficient despite the sales pitch at such venues as LegalTech. Last December in D.C., at a major law firm’s document review, we saw a “state-of-the-art” document review software “crash and burn” due to a myriad of tech failures … not scalable, suffering from “lock-in” (poor integration of different pieces of an enterprise software that do not function well together) coupled with poor supervision by the firm’s staff attorneys whereby the review was summarily dismissed while the law firm “rethought” its options.
NOTE: we do not post every job out there, but it is fair to say a Posse List member is on every job out there and scores of you report back to us on The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
14. Which after a loooooooooooooooooooooog introduction we say to you: go to LegalTech, meet/see the vendors. Get as much info as you can. Yes, they are there to sell, to make money. Duh. But they also want to get their product “out there”. Collect what brochures you can, what white papers you can. See if they’ll let you in on a demo of their software (all the vendors are listed on the LegalTech website linked above, and you’ll receive a paper guide when you get to the event). Our guess is they really do not want to pack up all the stuff they bring and ship it home. Most vendors at these events are very amenable. Learn about CAR, and legal holds and early case assessment and text analytics and data visualization and whatever else you can learn. Work your way through the vendor book which explains what all these companies do. Go to the presentations available to Exhibit Pass holders.
15. Because the goal … if you are sticking in this industry … is to be in that group in point #12 above.
16. And work your way through the Sedona Conference E-Discovery Glossary and The Grossman-Cormack Glossary of Technology Assisted Review. And peruse the excellent website that Rob Robinson’s has built, Complex Discovery. A fountain of knowledge.
Try to make the show. And our “State of the Contract Attorney Market” coming soon.
Gregory P. Bufithis is the Founder & Chairman of The Posse List. He has over 25 years of experience in intellectual property law and digital media in the U.S. and Europe.