This is in response to a recent important article by Kate Battle about how predictive coding software is threatening to replace the document reviewers. There is no doubt in my mind, the document reviewers will be replaced. The only question is how many years away are we from that? If it’s 10 years away, then presumably all of my fellow document reviewers are not going to scramble to plan their next career move. But if the trend starts happening in the next year or two, this could cause major upheaval. So what should you do?
Plan for the Worst Case Scenario
I was recently on a job, and our staff attorney was openly pushing for replacing us with software, even though she knew that would put us all out on the streets. Nobody at the firm is looking out for you. Sure, the legal staffing agency interests somewhat aligned with contract attorneys but they have very little power. If a firm decides they’re gonna outsource to India or use a computer, then that’s what they are gonna do. So first of all, work under the assumption that this change is happening soon. It sounds crazy, but it’s not. So start saving as much money as you can.
Dont Take Time Off Between Gigs
Many document reviewers take a gig for a few months, then take a few months off to pursue their alternative career ambitions, like I do. Some just do it as a breather because of how awful these gigs are. However, you always do it under the assumption that there is another gig right around the corner. What if there isn’t? Would you still take a month off between gigs? Probably not. So maybe it’s time to scrap the in between gig downtime.
Network During Your Document Review
Surely if you are on site at a large firm, you will run into lawyers during the course of the day, so network with them. Even if it’s just at the coffee machine, introduce yourself. Their guard is down, it’s not a formal interview, it’s just two people chitchatting. Slolwy build that rapport for the length of time you are on that gig. It could be 2 weeks, or that project could last two years. It’s rare, but it’s not unheard of for a document reviewer to be made staff attorney. Also, they might just have a lead for you somewhere.
Learn how to do more in depth, second level review.
Dont be the guy that stick with the basic first level coding for responsiveness. Be proactive and learn how to do a privilege log or 2nd level “QC” quality control review of the first round work. Make your self more valuable. Make yourself invaluable. If the firm starts by cutting down on document reviewers or choose a mix of software and a few document reviewers, make sure you’re a keeper.
Or, you could always try to destroy the machines before they rise up against us, like they do in Terminator.