Should You Take a Document Review Job?

Emiko Hayashi

Document-review work is not glamorous, but it is a common way to gain legal experience and provides valuable insight into the discovery process in many different areas of law. It is often done by solo practitioners looking for extra income or new law school graduates who have not yet secured permanent employment. So what is document-review work and could it be right for you?

Document-review attorneys are required in a variety of situations. Typically, parties in a lawsuit or officials in a regulatory investigation need several documents produced or received. Corporations also need document reviewers to organize their documents. For example, a document reviewer might screen a recently departed employee’s computer files or create legal abstracts for insertion into a master spreadsheet.

In addition to physically examining documents, document reviewers typically screen e-mails and other electronic documents for relevance, privilege, and confidentiality concerns. Document-review software, such as Relativity, Summation, and Introspect, helps accomplish this task. The reviewing attorney follows a detailed series of steps that are tailored to a specific organization’s needs. Although most assignments are strictly reviewing documents, some positions may include research tasks and attending staff meetings.

Most document review work is done at a law firm office. However, it can also be done at a recruiter’s office, at the site of a corporation, or at a third-party location.

Typically, document-review work is done in teams of two to twenty persons. Occasionally, a document reviewer may work alone. Document review teams are typically supervised by one or two attorneys from the organization and interact with IT personnel.

The best place to find a document review position is through a legal recruiter, but direct-hires do occur. The average pay in Michigan is $20 per hour, sometimes with various perks such as free parking and lunch. If you can read a foreign language you will earn about double the usual rate. Depending on the complexity of the case and the length of the assignment, the training can be anywhere from one hour to several days.

The job requirements almost always call for bar licensure, and previous experience with document reviewing is preferred but not required in most cases. A document-review assignment can last almost any duration of time, commonly two weeks to three months. Document reviewers must be able to start an assignment on short notice, sometimes even within one day. The end date is usually not known upfront, but employers do provide an estimate if possible.

Although most assignments are done with a looming discovery deadline, it is uncommon to work over forty hours a week. Best of all, document review assignments rarely involve weekend work. Some attorneys may find this schedule preferable to a demanding firm job. At minimum, document review work is a good way to get your feet wet and earn a steady paycheck.

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