Now that hireback season is over, articling students who didn’t get hired back as first-year associates are planning their next move. If that’s your situation, why not consider document review?
We know you might be worried that taking on doc-review work will hurt your résumé. You’re thinking it’s low-skilled work and that firm recruiters will never hire you, because you’re obviously not cut out for a “real” law job.
But this line of thought is all wrong. The truth is, doc review will not only earn you good money — anywhere from $20 to $45 an hour — but it will also buy you time as you search for full-time work. It eases the stress of your job search, and could even open doors to your dream job.
WHAT FIRM RECRUITERS THINK
Firms know that law grads are facing a crummy job market. So working in doc review will, in fact, show them that you’re making an effort to stay engaged in the profession. “Working in document review shows you’re keeping your lawyering skills sharp,” says Bishu Solomon, director of Toronto-based document review-company Epiq. “Recruiters appreciate that.”
OPPORTUNITIES FOR NEW LAWYERS
Historically, doc review was a lucrative part of the law-firm business model. Junior associates would pore over mounds of documents in search of evidence that would help a client’s case — and their billable hours funded both their salaries and the profits of the firm.
But in the post-recession economy, that’s all changed. Many firms, under pressure to cut costs from savvy corporate clients, now outsource this work, sending bucket loads of business to doc review companies.
This shift has led, in recent years, to more law grads taking up contract work in doc review. Many even stick with it. That’s because companies like Deloitte, Epiq System and LexLocom have a steady stream of work flowing in, explains Solomon. Plus, if you can master a company’s e-discovery software, then you become more valuable to outsourcers. All of this means that doc review is a growing employment area for young lawyers.
THE PROS AND CONS
Though many lawyers see doc review as grunt work, it does prepare you, in part, for legal practice. “The skills you pick up are applicable to any area of law that deals with large amounts of documents, like litigation,” says Jennifer Lau, director of career services at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia. It takes critical thinking to assess whether a piece of information is relevant to your case. “You’re doing the work of a lawyer.”
Another upside of doc review is flexibility. Because it’s often contract work, employers understand that you will also be looking for a permanent job. “You have the flexibility to look for other work,” explains Veronica Manski, an associate at Ambrosino Law Group in Toronto. After graduating from law school at UBC, she moved to Toronto to start her legal career. She took on temporary doc review work at Deloitte for a few months to help pay the bills before she landed her current job.
So what’s the drawback? Well, the flipside of flexibility is instability. Working contract jobs means there’s never a guarantee that you’ll have work in the future. And you won’t have a benefits package, either.
HOW TO LAND A GIG
If you’re pumped to take up doc review, the most obvious path is to apply directly to a doc review company’s website.
“The biggest thing is to be aware of them,” says Manski. Most doc review companies are based in Toronto. But some, like LexLocom, also have offices in other major cities like Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. They post positions on their websites or LinkedIn, as well as Indeed.ca.
Another way to figure out who’s hiring is to ask the lawyers at the firm where you articled. Does the firm outsource their doc review work to doc review companies? If yes, find out their names, and start your search there.
Overall, doc review is a great stop-gap as you look for a permanent job. If you spot an opportunity to work in doc review, you should go for it. You never know where it could take you to next.