Thursday, February 16, 2012

The End of the the Contract Attorney Era: By Court Mandate

We have discussed Robo Lawyers in the past and how e-discovery conducted by computers will impact the market place for contract attorneys (a.k.a. document review attorneys).  It's my feeling and perhaps the general consensus that contract attorney jobs will dissipate gradually with the ebb and flow of the free market.  Attorneys in India are cheaper than our lawyers, who are heavily laden with the burden of student loan debt.  Then, once clients get the memo that much of contract monkey work can be done by computers, sans attorneys altogether, document review "opportunities" will eventually disappear altogether. However, although covered in 2011, the change did not seem imminent.  After all, it takes a long while for the legal market place to catch up to technology, or so I thought.

Welcome to tomorrow.    Judge Peck of the the Southern District of New York court mandated robo-attorneys for document review--because it's cheaper.  I have practiced in Federal Court and this type of "innovative" idea could catch like wildfire--and spread from one Judge's chambers to the other.  Let's determine how many jobs this type of case would have created.  Apparently, the issue in the case is as follows:
Whether Publicis Groupe compensated female employees less than similarly situated males via salary, bonuses, or perks; precluded or delayed the selection and promotion of females into higher level jobs held by male employees; and carried out terminations or reassignments when the company was reorganized in 2008 that disproportionately impacted female employees.
 I'm thinking this type of case would have provided work for 25 or so contract attorneys.  So, thanks for putting 25 young, starving and possibly homeless contract attorneys out of work, Judge Peck.  I know, it's not his responsibility to make sure that young attorneys are working.  But it's also not his responsibility to make watch the litigants' pockets.  Next he'll be looking at the attorney's bills and deciding whether the work is administrative or legal in nature before the check is cut.  Unless, of course, the legal fees are awarded to the Plaintiff---which could actually be the case here.  Then that does fall within his duties as a judge.  Whatever.  That's not the point.

Litigation is pricey and that is part of what makes the machinery of the legal system turn as it does. To usurp that premise by dictating methods of discovery is... should I say... reversible error?

Let's see what happens. Run, don't walk, away from contract work. It's no place to be when the ground splits open beneath your feet.

Moral of the Story: The government always finds a way to intervene, i.e. ruin, the free market.

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