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“Attorney at Blah”

typers.jpgCourtesy of Above the Law, we find an interesting article in in the Washington City Paper called, as this entry’s title suggests, Attorney at Blah”. The article is about the life of a contract attorney (temp work for lawyers), something more and more law school graduates are having to do as the market becomes inundated with new lawyers. The author, Arin Greenwood, sums up the life pretty succinctly:

For more and more law school graduates, this is the legal life: On a given day, they may plow through a few hundred documents—e-mails, PowerPoint presentations, memos, and anything else on a hard drive. Each document appears on their computer screen. They read it, then click one of the buttons on the screen that says “relevant” or “not relevant,” and then they look at the next document.

I’ve done a smattering of contract work (and thankfully, only a smattering), and it’s absolutely that droll and mind-numbing (although I will say that it served my other life as a TV critic well, as I was able to watch quite a bit of downloaded shows while clicking away on documents). However, it’s not all downside. It’s low key, and you pretty much never have to take your work home with you. Plus, the pay for contract attorneys isn’t bad, by any stretch — the going rate in Boston floats around $30 an hour, while in NYC and D.C. that number gets closer to $40 an hour, and some jobs offer overtime (sometimes even copious overtime). But there’s an absolute lack of job security and very little chance of meaningful promotion (although I have known folks to land full-time firm gigs from contract work). And I suspect your brain slowly rots over time. Also, it’s worth noting that Greenwood is wrong in suggesting that there’s never health insurance, as many of the agencies that place contract attorneys offer folks a health insurance plan that’s not much more in cost than what they’d pay at working at a firm, and certainly less than purchasing health insurance entirely on their own.

Greenwood also notes that temp attorneys “live for e-mails that have some spark of humanity in them, even if they are banal.” That’s definitely true — the highlight of my little time as a temp attorney was absolutely the day I discovered a long string of e-mails between a husband and wife who got in to an absolutely preposterous argument about some ridiculous thing that I can’t remember, and which ended with the wife bullying the husband into an apology and a promise of flowers and a fancy dinner. Typical woman! (Send your hate mail to misogynistpig@quizlaw.com.)

Anyway, the article is an interesting read, and if you’re thinking about going to law school, you would do well to check it out.

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I also enjoy reading the occasional secret and salacious hanky panky liaisons from some of these emails. Note to self - never use corporate email for personal reasons because they may one day be subpoenaed and reviewed by contract attorneys!