More Helpful Document Review Tips

Here’s more of Matt Ritter’s useful advice from the document review trenches. The following are useful things I have picked up from my few short months on various document review projects.

Picking a seat is for keeps

The best piece of advice I can give on a document review project is this: pick your seat carefully. Yes, I have given a bunch of other practical tips in previous articles, but this is numero uno.

I just got staffed on a two month long project. That’s 40 work days. 320 hours total, not including overtime. In around a 12×16 room, with two large windows and a door.

Come an hour early if you have to. Very early. This is the only day that matters. It’s like choosing the side of the bed with your significant other: you may not realize it at the time, but this decision is very permanent, you will not get to move from that spot. The best spot is by the door. For obvious reasons, doing document review can be long and tedious and you will want to take frequent breaks. You will also want to take lunch, you may have appointments, interviews for full time work or other freelance gigs, meetings, etc . . . outside of the office. You do not wanted to be noticed as the contract lawyer that is getting up constantly. I have seen people removed from projects simply because the project manager thought they were taking too many breaks.

If no exit seats, take a window

Rule number two: if you cant get an exit row seat, take a seat by the window. That is, if your room has a window. Sometimes they don’t, and it can get really stuffy and bleak in there. At least with a window seat, you can stare aimlessly into the distance at the skyline of whatever city you are in and dream of your alternative career ambitions. Caution: the window seats can get rather warm. If you find yourself with the opportunity to take a window, make sure they have blinds that you can close. If not, you will really regret this decision. I find the sun to be at it’s worst in the morning. This of course varies based on what direction you are facing. If you’re facing east, that sunrise can be very tough to deal with. Also, the whole window region is warm because the blinds have usually been open for hours before you arrive.

Keep your screen hidden

If you arrive late and there is a project manager, try to pick a seat where they can’t see your computer. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to sneak some web surfing time in while you’re overseer is behind you. But, limit your internet use, especially at the beginning of the project. You do not want to get singled out as the slacker of the group.

Take the early shift

If there is a time window to do your 8 hours, choose the early shift. After a few months of doing contract work, I have found the early shift to be much more tolerable. For some reason, the first few hours from 7 am go much quicker than those hours between 4 and 6 pm when all over your fellow contract attorneys have gone home for the day. Also, if you are in a city with traffic, there is a huge difference between driving in rush hour and beating in both ways. If you do a 7-3:30 shift, you are virtually assured of missing all traffic wherever you are coming from. Obviously, not everyone has the freedom or flexibility to choose that, and some people are just not morning people. I am not a morning person, but I have managed to turn myself into one for the sake of avoiding LA rush hour.

Save money on parking

Find the cheapest parking garage. The dollars add up. If you have the choice between the $9 dollar lot across the street and the $4 dollar one 5 blocks away, it should be a no brainer. You’re not making a lot of money doing document review, so save you’re money for your outside life. Also, you may find that those 5 blocks are all the exercise your getting while on these projects.

Make lunch

Make yourself lunch. You will save at least $5 a day, add that to the $5 you are saving by choosing the cheaper, distang garage, that’s $50 a week you saved to help take that alternative career jump . . . or if you don’t have one, then to pay down those darn loans!



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  • These are good tips for life in general.

  • Andy Mergendahl

    Sam, you’re right. I feel I need to add, though, that you need to bring your own bouquet of flowers to cling to while you gaze wistfully out the window, hating yourself for your cowardly refusal to pursue your dreams. Perhaps you can pick them while walking from the cheap but distant parking.

  • This is hysterical. The rules of doing time in document review prison. But you left out critical information – the unwritten laws of joining document review gangs, intimidating others into reviewing your documents for you, buying cigarettes from the project manager, protecting yourself in the rest rooms, how to hide a razor blade in a stack of post-it notes, getting conjugal visits with your partner, etc. This is more than a blog post. I see a novel. Perhaps a TV mini-series.

    • Eric, without giving too much away, we’ll just say that it’s in the works. Really.

  • There are also some online services available for personal legal review. Of course, with the vast majority of these services there comes a price. After all, who wants to review legal documents for free? Wanting to get paid for this service is perfectly understandable.