Healthy Tips for Document Review Attorneys

Last week, Tyler White wrote a fantastic article on why attorneys should avoid document review jobs, and I wholeheartedly agree with him. Unfortunately, if you are an unemployed attorney, you may have to accept one of these jobs temporarily to pay bills. After all, in the words of my fellow writer, a document review job “pays straight cash, homey.”


On the other hand, document review jobs have the potential to wreak havoc on your mental and physical health, while derailing your attempts to find “a real job.” For those attorneys who have not worked in document review, let me paint you a picture: You wake up around 6:00 a.m., get dressed, fill your coffee mug, and arrive to your “pod” around 7:30 a.m., where you find a handful of other attorneys sitting in front of computer screens. If you aren’t plugged into your iPod, you spend the vast majority of the day, listening to yourself and fellow attorneys click away at their computer mice. Click, click, click.

In most cases, you cannot have a cell phone in the room, and talking is kept to a minimum. You might have a quality control leader in your room but you can’t even talk to her. Instead, you email the “QCer” if you have any questions. Facebook, Twitter, GChat and other websites are disabled on your computer to minimize distractions. So, it’s just you, a bunch of documents, and clicks for at least 8 hours every day. To say the least, this job is boring.

What makes the job worse, however, is the fact that you are completely cut off from human interaction for at least eight hours each day. You get a quick email from a friend about dinner plans? Someone calls you about that job you want? Michael Ian Black just tweeted another hilarious quip that would have put a smile on your face? You won’t know unless you take a break, leave your work space and find a place to check your email. Unfortunately, you are paid hourly and you get just 15 minutes of break time for every four hours that you work. So, every minute counts…and you are desperate to get off work early because THIS JOB IS SUCKING YOUR SOUL.

Soul-sucking or not, this job is paying your bills, so you better make the most of it. Here are a few tips on how to survive life as a doc review attorney:

Get comfortable. It may sound silly, but computer work has been proven to cause serious injuries, including carpal tunnel, tendonitis, and even permanent nerve damage. Be sure to adjust your chair and computer screen for optimum comfort, and don’t be afraid to bring your own wrist support or chair cushion. Check out Microsoft’s Healthy Computing Guide for details on how to organize your work space to present strain and injury.

Stand up. Every 30-45 minutes, stand up and stretch. Prolonged sitting has been linked to premature death and cardiovascular disease. Even just a quick walk to the restroom and back will make you feel more alert. Make the most of your mini break by doing a few stretches to limit injury to you head, wrists, neck and back.

Drink more water and less coffee. After spending a few hours in front of your computer, you might catch yourself yawning and inspired to head straight for the coffee maker. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, but coffee can’t cure dehydration. While the jolt of caffeine may give you a temporary boost, try to avoid the urge to inject a steady stream of caffeine into your system all day. Instead, bring your water bottle to work and keep sipping throughout the day. Plus, by avoiding caffeine, you will get a better night’s rest and you will feel more refreshed for tomorrow’s not-so-exciting round of documents.

Opt for a healthy diet. Avoid processed, refined, white carbohydrates, such as chips, cakes, crackers and soda. Instead, eat frequent, smaller meals composed of nutrient-dense foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and unsaturated fats. These foods will provide you with a longer energy fix while boosting your metabolism. They won’t make your work any less boring, but at least you won’t fall asleep at your desk.

Unchain yourself from the clock. It is tempting to power through doc review so you can leave the office earlier, but 8 solid hours each day with no real breaks or human interaction will leave you exhausted and feeling a bit like a robot. Instead of clocking out early, go ahead and take a full hour each day to chat over lunch with another person, check and respond to emails, and make important phone calls. In addition, don’t be afraid to accept an interview during the day. Many doc reviewers front load their hours to avoid losing income if the project ends early, but if you choose doc review over other opportunities, you could lose even more than just hourly wages in the long-run. It is important to remind yourself that your doc review job is a temporary fix but it should not take priority over bigger goals in your life.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/yuan2003/130559143/)

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  • Ha! This does paint a picture of the very worst of the document review agencies though, and some aren’t nearly as bad (full internet, free stuff to help you live, firms giving you an office and food). Can’t stress diet and post-work exercise enough though.

  • Those are some good tips for just about any desk job or even law students spending many hours each day studying!

  • Angela A. Jones

    I am a document reviewer currently and my projects have not been nearly so bad as described above. My agencies have, in fact, been very human friendly. I suspect some agencies are better to their temporary staff than others. On balance, as long as projects continually come up, which is the most aggrevating aspect of this kind of work, document review projects are an excellent form of temporary employment.

  • I agree with you Angela. Not all doc review jobs are quite that bad, but they also should not be a replacement for something better. Even a job that allows internet and offers perks will involve really mind-numbing and tedious tasks that can bring you down both physically and mentally, and without any substantive work, you could find yourself losing touch with “real” legal practice. It’s important to find ways to stay motivated and keep your eyes on the prize, be that finding a great new job, building your own practice, saving up for your Eat Pray Love experience or getting ready for something else in your life/career.

    Thanks for reading, everyone!