25 June 2014 – We have discussed the Quinn Emanuel contract attorney case … and the rash of attorney FLSA lawsuits where the claim is “I was only doing clerical work” theory … in the past. The seemingly never-ending Quinn Emanuel case concerns whether the plaintiff (William Henig, a contract attorney) did/did not perform “attorney work.” In this regard, the plaintiff only worked there for six weeks, performing document review work in 2012. The firm claims that the documents prove Henig conducted himself as a lawyer.
Henig was seeking information relating to every applicant for the document review project, as well as the names of the interviewers of all applicants and all the papers concerning the firm’s decision to use the staffing agency (Providus) to find contract attorneys. This demand was based on a Magistrate’s Order that the firm contends went well beyond the limitations imposed by a prior Order; in his recent decision, the Magistrate had determined that interrogatories and requests aimed at the “document review project overall” that Henig participated in, with other reviewers, is appropriate. Thus, the plaintiff claimed the work histories of these other reviewers are fair game.
The court had permitted Henig access to more information concerning the person who had interviewed him for his temporary position, but denied him from securing information about other applicants. The law firm then sent a letter to the court, advising that it had turned over every document relating to the practice of law by Henig in the month and half he was there and urged that more data, of which there were thousands of pages, was irrelevant.
The court then determined that the information was relevant and ordered its production. Then, in another loopy turn of events in this saga, the court concluded that “the qualifications of other individuals working on the project — and the qualifications of individuals who applied but were not selected to work on the project — have little, if any, probative value, and the burden of producing this information ‘outweighs its likely benefit.'”
Mark Tabakman of Fox Rothschild has jumped into this (as an analyst) and says this is a solid defeat for the plaintiff and one that he believes was anticipated and, on the law/merits, eminently correct. The law firm had argued that the magistrate judge had exceeded the parameters of an earlier Court Order and they were vindicated in that position. Allowing this production of thousands of documents would have led to infinitely more questions and disputes and would have undeniably been used as a leveraging tool in any settlement discussions or demands that the plaintiffs would have made or be making.
“This bodes well for the defendants. I believe all of these cases should be dismissed, because the individuals are in fact exercising the kind of knowledge and discretion that they went to law school for in the first place, even though it may not be in the context they idealized when they wanted to become lawyers.”
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.