An Attorney's Survival Guide to Document Review

By Andrew Lu on October 03, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

So you didn't get that dream law firm job coming out of law school.

Your Plan B involved responding to a Craigslist ad for an attorney doc review project, and you ended up getting the job. Congratulations. Or are condolences in order?

At first blush, the money seems great and you're technically employed.

But you just spent 8.25 hours your first day intently reading documents and using everything you learned in law school to determine if an email is "responsive" or not. And now you are wondering just how you're going to survive the entire length of the project. 

That's where our doc review survival guide comes in.

  1. Never stick out. You'll want to aim for middle of the pack. Don't play super lawyer and raise Constitutional issues on every paragraph. Only go to your supervisor if something truly important comes up (it won't). The job is pretty simple, just click the mouse. Only make sure you click your mouse more times than the lowest producing guy.
  2. Have reading materials. Have a copy of The New York Times handy and definitely bring your iPhone/iPad charger. Many doc review projects turn off your Internet access so you have nothing to do but work, work, work. So you'll want something to do besides stare at your computer screen all day. On particularly large doc review projects where you can hide yourself, you might even want to bring a DVD or three.
  3. Get along with people. Doc review projects can take on a life of its own like high school or prison. A pecking order will develop and clicks and hookups will too. You'll hear rumors about an ex-Stanford grad who has fallen on hard times and the guy who has an inside track on the permanent job at the firm. These are all lies. But coming up with these rumors (and responding to them) sure is fun.
  4. Don't sexually harass. Doc reviews can be a free for all. Generally, as long as you don't make waves, you'll survive. In fact, some daring doc reviewers have even disappeared for hours if not days at a time and still collected their paychecks. (If you're not there, you won't stick out). But if you start making people uncomfortable, you'll be out on the handsy butt in no time.
  5. Have fun. Don't take yourself too seriously. Everyone there is a lawyer, so you're nothing special. Just be light and positive and have fun with your colleagues.

Document review positions can be life-draining. Hopefully, these tips for survival can help you through your first attorney doc review project.

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