June 2011

I was reading Above The Law and saw an interesting headline, Dancing The Pole.  I had to read it–it sounded so People magazine-ish.  You can read the article yourself, but here was the piece that got my attention:

My client’s concise estimate of her second year at a big law firm:

“Meh.”

For months, the “career” consisted of 1/3 idleness, 1/3 word-processing, and 1/3 pointless research. That morphed over time into “managing” doc review, which morphed into doing doc review, which translated into odious hours staring at odious documents on a computer and clicking “responsive/relevant” “privileged” or some euphemism for “embarrassing.” According to rumors at her firm, there’s juicy stuff squirreled away in electronic nooks and crannies – most notoriously, emails from execs hiring hookers. To date, my client’s experience of “doing doc review” has matched the edge of your seat excitement of watching drywall compound discharge moisture.

“There are days I want to scream, ‘Who are we fooling?!’” she remonstrated. (Granted, there wasn’t much use remonstrating with me, since I’m her therapist. Sometimes you just need to remonstrate – to demonstrate you can remonstrate.) “This isn’t a career – it isn’t even a job. It’s a joke. Every day I think about quitting.”

Where to begin with the implications.  One has to wonder how representative this person is of the others doing the document review.  Are half like this woman?  A quarter?  All?  Second, what is the impact on the quality of the review of having people like this (certainly she is not unique) doing the review?  Third, what kind of quality control is in place to overcome the extraordinary level of resentment reflected in the comments?

What’s the client paying for this review?  Having your 160K lawyers do a review is hardly cheap.

One conclusion is that no matter how law firms try to package their "document review" services, the quality has to be somewhat suspect if there are not protocols in place to deal with people who are more or less like the woman in the Pole Dancing story.  Do you know how this issue is dealt with?  Does your firm even acknowledge it?

 

When we opened Valorem on January 1, 2008, my partners and I began discussing who we needed to visit to get guidance and counseling on everything from operational issues to getting word out to the marketplace.  The person at the top of my list was Susan Hackett. We went to lunch.  Susan did not disappoint.  She showed herself in that meeting to be one the most thoughtful, forward-thinking and perceptive people I’ve encountered.  And that was just the beginning.

For those who have been living on a deserted island, Susan is the General Counsel of the Association of Corporate Counsel, a role she will relinquish on June 30 after 22 years.  She has been the heart and soul of the in-house world on so many issues, from ethics to value, from diversity to multi-jurisdictional practice, from attorney-client privilege to compliance issues, and so much more.  She writes extensively and is a sought-after speaker.  In the world of corporate legal practice, Susan Hackett is THE person to know.

After 22 years, Susan has decided to open a consultancy, Legal Executive Leadership.  She will in demand, to say the least.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work closely with Susan on the ACC’s Value Challenge and Value Index, and she has gone from "person I need to consult with" to "one of the smartest people I know" to "friend."  In my eyes, her move is like taking a show to Broadway.  I know Susan will be successful in her new endeavor.  More important for the profession, I know she will be able to use her new platform to continue her efforts to mold the profession into something more than it is. 

Best of luck, my friend.