If you have been subsisting on document review jobs, you probably have many fears. Chief among them: “can robots do my job instead?” and “how on earth can I make a living doing this?” The Second Circuit may have both good news and bad news for you.
The good news: you might be eligible for overtime. The bad news: the only way in which you might be eligible for overtime is by having the Second Circuit declare that document review isn’t actually legal work…which means you are pretty replaceable by a robot or a college graduate or a particularly precocious child.
Some background: Back in 2013, attorney David Lola was doing doc review for Skadden Arps. He made $25/hour and sometimes worked in excess of 40 hours/week.
Lola regarded his duties as clerical. According to him, all he did was scan for assigned search terms and click pre-set buttons when he found them. Lola decided that if he was going to do work that didn’t require a law degree, he wanted to be paid overtime when he put in more than 40 hours a week.
There was just one problem with that idea: legal work is considered professional work and is exempt from labor laws that govern overtime pay. Lola sued Skadden and the doc review staffing agency, saying his work was too rote to count as legal work and should therefore be paid as any other hourly job would be. Lola lost at the district court but appealed to the Second Circuit and court-watchers seem to think that Lola might have a shot at getting his OT. Hooray! However, this might be a classic example of winning the battle but losing the war.
[I]n the short term contract attorneys doing document review get a windfall but it may come at the expense of their long term prospects. When document review is not considered legal work then there may be little reason to have lawyers do said work.
Be careful what you wish for.
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