Still Stuck On The Same Gig And Starting To Forget What It’s Like To Be Between Projects

Contract attorney work, particularly when it only involves document review can be mind numbingly boring sometimes. If I didn’t pride myself on having several extra curricular and non contract attorney related ventures on the side, I think I’d go crazy. It really is the same thing day in and day out.

But yes, I’ve been lucky to have remained on the same project for so long – my current assignment has truly been the never ending project. I’ve had to continuously put off long vacations until the project’s over since well, in this line of work, you never really know when or how long your next gig will be. When the end date will arrive is anyone’s guess as I have given up trying to speculate on when that will be. This project has really exceeded my durational expectations so anything more is just bonus gravy at this point. I’m justing taking it week by week.

Despite My Occasional Appreciation Of The Profession’s Flexibility, It’s Been Nice Having More Than Half A Year Of Occupational Stability

It’s been such a long contract attorney gig that I’m actually starting to forget what it was like not being on a project, and having to periodically scramble ever so often to find assignments. Having this semblance of stability for more than 6 months now is starting to make me feel like I’m working a permanent job – but of course, in reality the ride can end at any time. Unforeseen and unexpected occurrences like the client company being bought out or other settlement type activity can easily halt the project on the spot and send us contract attorneys packing for home. I guess I’m just getting lulled into a perceived but illusory sense of financial continuity. But this has got to be the most laid back, least stressful project I’ve ever been on before. The associates are incredibly lax about production numbers and the off site location allows everyone to maintain a very collegial and relaxed working environment.

I almost long for something different to happen. I feel like Tom Hank in the movie Cast Away. Yes I have co-workers but most of the time I just come in, sit at my desk, put on my headphones, and listen to talk radio while I click away. Some of the other contract attorneys talk but I guess I’m one of the more quieter ones, preferring to only look up when someone wants to talk about the Express paper crossword puzzle or when people want to quiz each other from questions pulled from the communal Trivia Pursuit box. Clearly, it’s been pretty humdrum around here. Previously the project was much larger with more people to interact with but since a few months ago, the project has been significantly downsized with only about a quarter of us left. Strangely the end is still seemingly nowhere in sight and after speaking to the associates, it seems like none of the partners are in any particular rush to impose urgent deadlines to the case. Even the associates don’t seem to be particularly stressed or busy with work as I frequently find a few of them reading authoritative news sources like The Onion or doing online clothing shopping.

Since I’m a contract attorney doing document review, I’m in the back end when it comes to being in the know about the progress and status of the case. I basically just click until someone tells me to stop. For such a cushy job, the wage rate is remarkably high, but it’s starting to fall behind in terms of keeping up with inflation and wage increases in other sectors.

17 Responses to “Still Stuck On The Same Gig And Starting To Forget What It’s Like To Be Between Projects”

  1. DC CA Atty Says:

    I’ve been doing doc review for some time now…More than “starting to forget what it’s like to be between projects”, I feel as though I’m starting to forget what it’s like to practice law as an attorney. Don’t get me wrong, doc review has been great for me, but sometimes I think I’m losing all the knowledge I gained during law school, studying for the bar, and practicing as an attorney.

    Sometimes I ask myself, “did I go through law school to do doc review?” I originally pursued law school with the desire to use my education and skills to help others…but that dream quickly came to an end when I realized that I wasn’t making much money in the public sector and was barely getting by. And later on, when I worked at a firm, the stress level there was too much for me to handle. Doc review has helped me to do well financially and to deal with minimal stress. But I am still left with the nagging feeling that…I should be doing more for others and using my law degree in other ways than just clicking my life away…

    Anyone else feel the same out there…?

  2. Chi Atty Says:

    I feel the same way. I graduated and was admitted to the bar in 2006, and have only been able to find contract attorney work. In the almost 2 years out of law school, I have just about forgotten everything I learned about the law. Someone asked me an actual legal question the other day, and for the life of me I couldn’t remember the answer.

    At least you remember practicing, I’ve not had that luxury. I studied real estate law, but since the housing bubble burst, there are no jobs out there for anyone, let alone an entry level attorney. It struck me a couple of weeks back that nothing was ever to come through and that I was going to be stuck reading emails and clicking boxes for the rest of my life. I felt rather depressed.

  3. DC CA Atty Says:

    Chi Atty,

    I hear ya – just the other day, someone asked me a question about evidence, and I didn’t remember a thing about the topic. I think it was some question about hearsay, or about some exception to the hearsay rule. Instead of trying to search my brain for the answer, my brain was in utter shock that the topic had become so foreign to me, as though I never studied the subject…And last month, someone mentioned some terms about basic property stuff, and I drew a blank then too. I mean, I graduated from law school, passed the bar, worked for a firm, but I have nothing to show for the fact that I actually retained anything from it.

    The sad thing is, people come up to me all the time, asking me questions about the legal field. Non-attorneys are under the misconception that all attorneys know everything about the law, but that’s not true. A neighbor of mine asked me to help her draft/amend a simple contract between her and a contractor. So, without getting too detailed in the contract as she requested, I tried to simplify the contract, while making sure to include all the points she wanted me to. I was a bit rusty with drafting contracts, so it took some time. After I completed the contract, my neighbor asked me sarcastically and quite rudely, “Are you really an attorney??” I was baffled and deeply insulted by the comment…

  4. Miss B Says:

    I have been practicing full time for about 7 years now. What intrigues me is why aren’t more firms offering reduced hours or job-sharing, which would be a great alternative to contract work. Personally, I am trying to find a job that will allow me to work about 30 hours per week. It may end up being a contract job, which at this point sounds pretty good.

  5. m Says:

    hi, do you still blog

  6. Steve Says:

    post again!

  7. attorney guy Says:

    did I go through law school to do doc review?” I originally pursued law school with the desire to use my education and skills to help others

  8. Lyn Says:

    I’m a new JD here in DC, and looking for temp work. until I get a permanent gig. I found this post interesting because one of my temp firms called last week and said they have a job coming up that will last up to 8 months. I’m afraid to take it because it seems wrong to quit if I find the permanent job I want. And how do you interview and pursue other leads when you are expected to work 40-60-80 hours a week? Any advice would be welcomed.

  9. Alex Says:

    I am a potential contractor “newbie” just recently laid off in the onslaught. I found a new “in house” job with bloomberg but the situation is completely intolerable. Essentially, my supervisor is a micro-managing, hyper OCD, nutcase with severe personality disorder and its making me crazy. However, I’m reluctant to give up my “full-time” job to enter into the temp world. Am I crazy to give up the perks of permanence for the life of a temp? thanks.

  10. Hale Says:

    I don’t want to say, “Don’t Complain.” But honestly, the market is SO SLOW, that I know people that are even having a hard time getting a contract gig. Be thankful. But yeah, it can be demeaning, but be thankful.

  11. David Says:

    Where does someone find a contract attorney to review and put together a contract for small business, that will not cost a fortune in NY?

  12. Dottie Says:

    This is a very interesting article. Doing contract work can help keep one employed while they are looking for a firm to join. Thanks for sharing!

  13. publius Says:

    What is “document review”? What are you folks doing when you review docs? Not an attorney, not a law student, just curious.

  14. Sara Says:

    as most if not all of the contractors on jobs were once associates at law firms or for non-profit agencies or for the government, I think it is safe to say that an associate position is no more stable than contract work.

  15. Sara Says:

    I made close to 6 figures in the last several years without having to bring my work home with me and without any major exposure to my license. contract attorneys on the one hand seem to act like it’s someone else’ fault they are doing this type of work, that they are owed more by those providing the opportunity, and that they are at the bottom of the totem pole. but its just discovery work.

  16. Sara Says:

    though i think there should be a union equivalent, that there should be a minimum hourly rate and that time and a half should be mandatory, federal holidays and benefits likewise after you hit a certain number of hours on 1 job or with the same agency carried over year to year.

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