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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rules to live by

Today featured LOTS of down time as we transition to the next phase of the project (basically some mop-up work, the last couple twitches of the swordfish's tail). They -- do we all understand now that when I say "They," I am referring to some kind of amorphous combination of the folks from the temp agency that are running the project and the lawyers from the client firm that think they are running the project? Good -- would post a bunch of batches of documents to be reviewed (all of this is done online) and then, five minutes later, come running around telling us everything was all fucked up and stop reviewing the batches so They could fix things. This happened three times today -- the fourth time the batches were actually ready, and we actually started reviewing documents. By then it was quite late in the day, so the CAs had plenty of time to pass.

Naturally, they did so in typical temp fashion. I heard yet another temp lament that she really needed to write a script about TempTown, "but I can't." Her fingers didn't look broken, so I'm not sure why she thinks she can't, but I believe this was explained in this blog's inaugural post. Look it up.

But the temps also began discussing the need for a Temp Handbook, based on some Deep Space Nine thing called "The Rules of Acquisition" by the Serengeti or whoever (sorry, not a Trek nerd). The feeling was strong that "someone" should put together a set of rules for CAs to live by. Suggestions were made, and, knowing that no one else would do anything about it,  I present some of them here:

Click slow, work long.

Remember, They're lying.

Everyday is the last day of the project. Corollary: Don't leave money on the table -- They might not put more up there.

Get used to being treated like a particulary unreliable first-grader.

Remember, They're still lying.

There were others, and I probably will share them in the fullness of time, meaning when I feel like it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

This is how we get time off

The project is definitely in the swordfish-on-the-deck phase. Still thrashing, people could still get hurt, but this sucker is dying soon. Last weekend, management was all "How much can you work this weekend?" Then, as we all know, they answered for us with a hearty, "Not as much as you hoped." So coming into the Memorial Day weekend, many of us hoped for more timely notice of what was going on. Usually at the end of a project, there is a big push to finish and hours frequently explode. The dueling rumors this time were "Get an air mattress" and "Get an airplane ticket." While we may have hoped for some timely information, we didn't expect it.

We weren't disappointed. The folks running things -- are they running things, or are they just running around after things? -- finally let us know, at 10 pm Friday night, that we would be off until Tuesday after Memorial Day. Ever so grateful for the dramatically reduced paychecks and the insufficient notice to actually get out of this dump town for the holiday weekend, we now are preparing to go back in Tuesday morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Or not. And that, kids, is how this industry makes time off seem like punishment. Not getting paid for it, and can't really do much with it. Maybe we can do a little with it, though -- this Bud's for you.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Actual Temp statement #2

Temp walks back into the review room from the internet lounge, a room where computers with internet access are set up. Temps have no access to the internet at the computers where they review documents. It might hurt production. Spending half of every hour in the internet lounge, of course, has no impact on production. Hmmmm. Anyway, he said:

CA1: Wasn't there an '80s rapper who wore a white suit a lot? Was it Hammer, maybe? Anyway, he's in the internet lounge.

Got my first comment, bitches!

OK, this clearly means I have arrived. Not only do I have a comment, it is thoughtful. Suck on that! Here it is, in its glorious entirety:


"This is an odd time for Temp Town. During the lean years I seldom encountered some of the more eccentric sorts, presumably b/c firms and agencies could afford to be more selective than they can right this minute. If I am only hearing about them second hand they make me smile, because that's a good sign that I wont be walking the metaphorical streets for long... "
 
So here is my comment on this comment. I hope this temp is right in being optimistic and finds real work soon. My take is, the worst of the worst are now on payrolls because things are busy. Unfortunately, I think they are busy for temps because real jobs are still scarce, and temps are filling the void. Firms are loathe to hire for real. Further, because agencies are hitting the bottom of the barrel, firms are seeing how bad the bottom of the temp barrel is, and might be reluctant to hire from the temp pool at all, just because of how bad the bottom of the barrel is. No way we see much beyond the kind of staff attorney jobs we've seen in the past, which come and go at firm whim.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Am I not merciful?

It was suggested to me today that I am being a touch harsh with some of the residents of TempTown. Naturally, I beat that person to a bloody pulp. TempTown is full of intelligent, likeable, capable lawyers who do good work. It is also full of people who in no way meet those criteria. It is not clear who is in the majority. If anything, I have pulled punches so far. Like it or not, Moby and the hobo set the bar for the image of TempTown. No matter how good many of us actually are, we can't make up for Moby and the hobo in the public relations war. Firms see them, and we all get painted with that brush, so don't expect me to take it easy on them. We would all be better off it we drove them from the industry. By the way, I think Moby and the Hoboes would be a great name for a rock band. But I digress.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

We have met the enemy, and he is us

The project I am on involves several law firms, each using different agencies, doing different aspects of the project for the client. The agency I work for is retained by one law firm, and we are handling one aspect for the client, while another agency and another law firm are handling another aspect for the client. Same project, different tasks. Left hand, right hand. This project also has a third law firm (again using their own agency) handling yet another aspect of the project, but we won't get into that because I don't know what to do with a middle hand. I like to think of us as the right hand, but I digress.

In any event, yesterday we (and by we, I mean the contract attorneys working for the agency, law firm and client that I am working for -- the right hand) were informed that the law firm handling the left hand's task wanted our help. The CA's of the right hand were called to a meeting to have the attorneys of the firm from the left hand explain to us what we needed to do. In this way, the left hand would know what the right hand was doing. Fuck the middle hand -- they aren't part of this.

So 200 CA's employed by the right hand gather to be instructed by the left hand. The sight is every bit as impressive as you might imagine if you have been paying attention here. The room is crowded, and half the CA's have no chair. Some are sitting on the floor. So far, no problem. But right up front, where the law firm attorney from the left hand is standing, ready to instruct us, are at least two reasons why he should run screaming from the room rather than trust us to handle this task. To his credit, he does not flee. At his feet, LYING ON THE FLOOR, is a very round -- I am talking SPHERICAL -- contract attorney. He makes no effort to sit up or otherwise appear human. He simply lies there. He looks like there should be a harpoon poking out of him and a man named Ahab standing over him.

Sitting on the floor right next to him -- at least he's upright -- is another CA who could sit on a park bench full of drunken homeless people and blend right in. Maybe the greasy hair, dirty clothes and fairly strong smell of alcohol are masking an Ivy League education and world-class intellect, but is that the way to bet?

Undeterred by the two fine legal minds on the floor in front of him, the attorney from the left hand began to lay out what they wanted us to help with. The task involved a little of This and That. The CA's working for the left-hand firm had done both This and That. Everyone was satisfied with how This was done, but wanted more work done on That. We, the right hand, were not to mess with This, working only to improve That.

The left-hand attorney distributed some instructional hand-outs, explained what to do with That, reiterated that we need not concern ourselves with This, and asked for questions. Fool. Most of the questions dealt with topics already covered in his presentation, including what to do about This, leading to the inescapable conclusion that the questioners weren't listening.

Oddly enough, today we were told that our assistance with That was no longer required. Go figure. I'm sure the impression made by Moby and the hobo had nothing to do with that decision.

Actual Temp Conversation #6

Someone on the project remarked that a drawer in the kitchen that previously had been full of plastic knives, forks and spoons had been emptied, apparently in a mass dump, not by attrition.

CA1: I was on a project where somebody went and took everything out of the medicine cabinet, aspirin, bandaids, everything except the Midol.

CA2: Was that here?

CA!: Oh, hell no -- we don't even have a medicine cabinet. If you cut yourself here you can just bleed.

CA3: We don't even have paper towels in the kitchen to slap on the cut, and I am not taking an open wound into that bathroom.

CA2: I'd rather take my chances on bleeding out.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Thought of the day

A document review project is like a swordfish on the hook. At first, it's running strong and fast, no end in sight. Soon, though, it starts to get tired, and it starts leaping out of the water, thrashing around in the air and generally getting chaotic. Then, out comes the gaff hook, and the swordfish is on the deck of the boat, almost done. There is still more thrashing around, more chaos, and with that sharp sword-like bill, somebody is bound to get hurt.

And then the damn thing is just dead.

Cooking with grease, bitches!

We have officially surged past 100 page views, which means that, since my family doesn't care, my immediate circle of friends has visited this blog several times each. Probably just a matter of days before I make that "Julie and Julia" chick look sad and pathetic.

Actual Temp Statement

I been clicking nonstop for months. My hands want to go to Tahiti.

Actual Temp Conversation #5

CA1 (listening to the radio through headphones): It's about time!

CA2: What?

CA1: The guy who wrote the song "You Light Up My Life" killed himself. I don't know what the delay was. You'd think he'd have done it the first time he heard it performed and realized what he'd done.

Actual Temp Conversation #4

CA1: Are monkeys actually funky, or do people only think that because it rhymes?

CA2: They do play with their poop. That's pretty funky. It's a different definition of funky, but it's funky.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Actual Temp conversation #3

CA1: Did you see this story? Some gang member in Mexico wanted to be posed at his wake standing up in his gang colors.

CA2: No. But I did see one about a guy in California who they put on his motorcyle at his wake.

CA3: My mother always said she wanted to be at her wake in her coffin sitting up, but we told her we couldn't do that because we couldn't close the coffin. So now she wants to know if she can be spring loaded, so she can pop up but still be pushed down flat.

CA4: I think I'd like to be posed with my right hand on the edge of the coffin, up on my left elbow like I'm getting out.

Actual Temp conversation #2

A temp at the front of the room had on head phones and was constantly breaking out into gales of laughter, slapping himself on the forehead and generally acting like he was at the best standup show EVAH. Conversation unbeknownst to him:

CA1: I wish I knew what he was listening to.

CA2: Maybe he just got a really good document.

CA3: Maybe he got the cartoons and porn documents.

Actual Temp conversation

Temp describing a project she was on in which the temps were instructed that pretty much everything, regardless of how stupid, was to be included as responsive.

CA1: Everything was responsive. The only thing we took out was cartoons and porn.

CA2: Why would you take out the porn?

CA!: So you could take it home with you.

Actual communication from management #2

Nothing like a continuing series, I always say. On a recent Friday on one project, the powers that be began circulating the question, would you be willing to work extra over the coming weekend. This soon escalated to HOW MUCH extra, and so on until it became clear that no matter how much you wanted to work over the weekend, you could. Most folks left work Friday evening believing the weekend would be an overtime smorgasbord. Maybe not so much.

At 1 a.m. Saturday, when most temps were either asleep or still out getting drunk, an email went out to MOST of the temps on the project that the hours for Saturday would be a mere 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. No smorgasbord, kids. Not everyone checked this email before trying to go in at the normal start time of 8 a.m., but most did. Of course, the project is being staffed by two different agencies. Most of the folks work for the agency that sent out the 1 a.m. email, but 25 percent of the project's attorneys work for the second agency and did not get that email. They got an email from their agency later, telling them not to show up at 8 am, but to wait until 3 p.m.

Of course, they got that email at 8:09 a.m. And yeah, many of them were at the project site at the time.

The saddest part? Not an unusual event. Communications R Us, baby.

Actual communication from management

At the beginning of a recent project, on the second day the project managers came out and informed the temps that they were expected to code 100 documents per hour. This might nor might not be a high number, depending upon the reviewing software and the complexity of the documents. This was the second day of the project, however, which is a touch early to make a decision like that, since no information on either of those factors is really available yet. Plus, quotas, especially high ones, tend to degrade quality. Nonetheless, when some foolish temps started to voice objections, the assistant project manager stated loudly and forcefully:

"Do you think you can't make that?!?!?!?! Do you want to stand out?"

To stand out in the rest of the world usually is a good thing. Not in Temp Town.

Friday, May 20, 2011

And you think YOU lack job security?

In the NFL, they talk about The Turk -- the assistant coach who knocks on a player's door at night during training camp and says, "Coach wants to see you. Bring your playbook." Temp Town has its own Turk, but usually he comes in the form of an email or a late-night phone call letting you know that your project is over. What they never tell you, of course, is that the project might not be over for everyone -- just you. And it sucks to be you.

CA's can be fired for any reason, including no reason. Plus, there is nothing written that says a CA has to be told why he's being fired. You're just fired. But like the NFL hopeful, they want your playbook back. At the beginning of every project, when the law firm is trying to explain what the case is about, the CA gets a binder put together by the firm, chock full of information that may or may not be helpful. When they can your ass, they want that binder back, I guess so you can't sell it to the other side. The result of this is that a seat with the binder removed is a seat where a CA has been dismissed. Coming in to work in the morning, there is no more sobering sight than to see that the desk next to you has no binder. Your neighbor is toast, and there but for the grace of God . . .

Naturally, as a man with a sick sense of humor, I have taken advantage of this. On a project in days gone by, the binder-gone seat was a fairly common sight. The firm was quick to fire, and lots of folks got the ax. Seeing the potential for fun, I got in early one morning and hid my neighbor's binder, as well as anything else she had at her desk. Clean as a whistle, kids. When she came in, she assumed a practical joke was in progress:

CA: Very funny, where's my stuff?

Me: Your stuff? I don't know. Maybe you should talk to the project manager.

CA: Why? I know you hid it.

Me: Maybe you were fired and there was an HR fuck up.

CA: Oh my god. That couldn't happen, right? You took my stuff, right?

At this point, I couldn't not laugh, and gave the game away.

As practical joke go, it wasn't bad, although she did not seem to think so. About a week later, though, I came in, and my neighbor's binder was gone, the rest of her stuff cleaned up. Knowing she'd been canned, I was bummed, but that is life in Temp Town. And then she walked in.

CA: Fine, funny, where's my stuff?

Me: I didn't do anything.

CA: Seriously, it isn't funny the second time.

Me: No, really. Maybe there was a windstorm.

At this point the assistant project manager walked up and spoke to my neighbor: "The project manager needs to talk to you."

Needless to say, the talk was not about the weather. Turns out there was an HR fuck up, she'd been canned but not told. She now thinks the incident is funny. She didn't then. I'd like to be righteously indignant about how awful that agency is, but I can't do it. Too common.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It's funny until you can't pay the rent

By Raised by Wolves
CA's – hey, it works if you put an apostrophe in there! – are in a constant state of flux, trying to find a project that will support them without burning bridges. And that's when the market is good. Back in the day – 2004, 2005, even 2006, 2007 and most of 2008 – we never sat at home for more than a day or two. There were always projects starting on Monday. Then, about June 2008, things started to dry up, and by the end of 2008 lots of CA's were thumbs-up, and I don't mean they were signaling how good things were. It has been a slow recovery since, although things are looking up. I think the point is, though, that a lot of CA's sat at home for a long time over the last three years. We're still, many of us, trying to recover from that.

Naturally, that means many CA's have no sense of humor about the business. That happens when survival is tough. To them I say, “Suck it and like it!'” This business is laugh-out-loud funny, and I intend to expose that. Anybody who doesn't like it can refer to the title of the blog.


Would I lie to you?

By Raised by Wolves

Still talking to myself mostly, I guess, but that is of no moment. The important thing is to tell the story. So where was I? Ah, yes, the life of a temp. I think the most important thing to grasp about the life of a temp is that a temp has no life. When times are “good,” the temp – let's call the temp CA, for contract attorney, since every time I try to make it plural and refer to contract attorneys, I get Cas – is working 80 hours a week and really has no idea what day it is, what other people are up to or what a normal existence looks like. The other end of the spectrum is a 40-hours-a-week gig, which is slow starvation, meaning the CA is desperately trying to find another gig and at the same time trying to find an excuse to leave the 40-hour project without pissing off the agency.

Naturally, this means the hiring agencies get lied to a lot. I think they know they are being lied to, but they are OK with it. If you tell the truth – “I'm leaving to go to a better project at another agency” – you will not work for the agency you say that to for a long, long time. On the other hand, if you say, “My grandmother died and I will be out of town for a week or so,” no one at the agency will say boo, no matter how long you are gone or how many times your grandmother has died. They will cheerfully pretend that they believe you. I think I've killed at least six grandmothers, plus two mothers-in-law, my mother twice and my dad. My father is still alive and my mother died years before I became a temp, but I don't think we should quibble. The truth is not important – appearances are. The agencies were satisfied, and so am I.

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's all about the clicking

By Raised by Wolves

I guess I should clear up something for the two contract attorneys out there who might be reading this.
If perchance anyone not a contract attorney happens to be reading, that's great. My game plan is to reach actual people, not just CA's. So, I begin by explaining to those with real lives, i.e., non-CAs, about Temp Town.

Having established in the first post what CA's are, I think I should explain what we do. Yes, I touched on this in the first post, but there are subtleties that were left out of that description. Seriously, people, how could someone who has never done this understand the inanity of what we do? So back off for another post or two. I promise to be more entertaining later.

Hilarity will ensue. Exhibit patience. Or, if you cannot, then refer to the title of this blog.

What we do is click. Sounds simple, I know, but it gets deeper than that. Basically, Exxon buys Mobil, the Department of Justice reviews the transaction and makes both companies give up a shitload of documents to prove that the merger won't be bad for you, me and the guy next door, or the party in the White House. Especially the party in the White House. So both companies hire big-time law firms, mostly in D.C., and tell them they have a shitload of documents that the DOJ wants to see. Those firms go gather the shitload of documents that the DOJ might want. This is actually a shitload plus, because the initial sweep pulls in any document that the DOJ could even possibly want to look at, based on the DOJ's document requests. These requests usually are so broad as to include documents relating to employees who are having affairs. With farm animals. That is a government problem, though, not a law firm problem.

Having gathered millions of documents (mostly electronic these days), the law firm representing Exxon has to figure out how to decide what should be given to the DOJ. Obviously, the emails about employees having affairs shouldn't go to the DOJ, even though the attorneys at the DOJ probably would rather read those than the emails about market share and the other shit that they actually asked for. Especially the ones about employees having affairs with farm animals.

Enter the contract attorney. The firm representing Exxon calls a temp agency and orders up 50, or 100, or 200 or whatever contract attorneys to review the documents the firm has gathered. The agency trolls through its lists and comes up with the requisite number of CA's. They show up at the appointed time and at the appointed place – or most of them do, anyway – and start to click.

First, of course, an associate or two, maybe even with a partner in tow, tells them what to click. This orientation session will tell the CA's what the DOJ is looking for – what documents are “responsive.” (Yeah, yeah, yeah, a lot of contract attorneys are now bored. Deal with it.) This is not what the associates really care about, however. If CA's click “responsive” for every document that even looks like it has anything to do with what the DOJ is asking for, the firm will be happy. Miss a privileged document, though, and the meaning of “death from above” will quickly become apparent to the CA responsible.

Privileged documents normally are those that involve a communication with an attorney, either requesting, providing or discussing legal advice. It gets broader than that, including emails gathering information needed to provide legal advice that has been requested, but you get the picture. I'm not even going to talk about work product privilege, since I'm doing a blog, not a fucking Evidence class. Suffice to say, there are at least 97 ways a document can be privileged, and the firm representing Exxon will jack you up if you miss one of them.

Because they would rather die than produce a privileged document – OK, realistically, they would rather a contract attorney die than the firm produce a privileged document – the firm runs computer searches for words that might appear in privileged documents. These words are highlighted in one color or another in the documents to be reviewed. Red is popular. Unfortunately, these search words often include things like some important lawyer's first name, so that every document including the name “Wayne” gets flagged as potentially privileged. Every God damn document that has anything to do with Fort Wayne, Indiana, gets flagged as potentially privilege.

This results in what we like to call “dummy priv.” Anything, and I mean anything, that could possibly be construed as privileged will be marked as such. No thought necessary. Missing privilege is a good way to get fired, so CA's are really careful about marking as privileged anything that could possibly be so. (OK, good ones are. A lot are not.) If an email sounds like an attorney was in the same time zone, a careful CA will mark it privileged. Nobody ever got fired for making too much stuff privileged. Unfortunately, with some CA's, this means the crap from Fort Wayne gets marked as privileged.

So what it all boils down to is a pair of yes/no decisions. Is it responsive? In our Exxon example, does it involve oil, gas or any petroleum byproduct in any way? OK, click. Is it privileged? Is there an attorney in the same hemisphere? OK, click. Boom, we're done. Next document please. It is a system designed to be idiot-proof. Alas, if you are not an idiot, the process is quite wearisome. All nuance is removed from decisions that, while they would never be confused with rocket science, do actually involve analysis. Firms are not paying for analysis from contract attorneys – in fact, they design the procedures to discourage analysis. This is because of a fundamental distrust – the garbage men can't really be trusted to understand nuance, can they?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Begin at the beginning

By Raised by Wolves

Welcome to the initial post of Eff You, It's My Blog. If you don't like it, please refer to the title of the blog.

At the risk of repelling all potential readers right at the start, this is going to be a blog about contract attorneys. Might as well tell you I'm writing a how-to on catching STDs. Way to drive the page views. But I think once people get over their natural hatred of all things attorney-related (I assume here that I will have actual people reading this, and not just contract attorneys hoping I used their real names), they will find that the world of contract attorneys is pretty interesting, if not one you would want to actually inhabit yourself.

I'm not doing this because so many of my fellow contract attorneys said, “Hey, you should do a blog about contract attorneys,” because they didn't. I'm doing it because I finally heard one too many contract attorneys say, “I'm going to write a screenplay about contract attorneys.” I probably hear that every other project. Fine, sometimes they say novel, not screenplay, but it's all the same, because they never do it. And it's not because contract attorney projects leave no time for such literary endeavors, as this particular would-be screenwriter claimed. It's because if contract attorneys had any real ambition to excel, they wouldn't still be contract attorneys. The truth hurts, but there you are.

And while you're there, I'm here, trying to figure out how to do this in a way that makes sense. Since everyone knows that all wisdom flows from “The Princess Bride,” I figure I should take to heart the words of Inigo Montoya – no, not the part about how you killed my father and should prepare to die. I'm talking about when he said, “Vezzini said go back to the beginning, so here I am.” So let's begin at the beginning.

That means I have to tell the uninitiated what a contract attorney is. We're not talking about an attorney who negotiates contracts. I have a lot of friends from law school who went into sports and entertainment law, thinking it was going to be Jerry McGuire with a law degree. To their unending horror, they found that it meant negotiating contracts for athletes or celebrities you almost never actually meet. And as everyone who ever sat through first-year contracts in law school knows, the only thing more boring than contracts is tax. There is no Cuba Gooding Jr. shouting “Show me the money!” There is only some pudgy, balding, middle-aged white guy across the table saying “The party of the first part . . . “ at which point you fall asleep. So we're not talking about that guy. Not the pudgy guy, and not the guy who fell asleep.

No, the guy we're talking about, the contract attorney, does piece work. The contract attorney is a legal temp, like an itinerant minstrel wandering from job to job. Any time there is a merger of major corporations, or a government investigation, or a major lawsuit between corporate giants, there are vast quantities of documents that must be reviewed to determine whether those documents are germane to the issue at hand and must be turned over to the other side.

This is every bit as thrilling and intellectually challenging as it sounds. Contract attorneys sit in front of a computer for 8, 10, 14 hours a day, reviewing documents that are stored on a server that probably is a) in Houston; and b) moving very slowly because it is overloaded. They make a yes/no decision – give it up, or not? – click a box, and move on to the next document. I went to law school for this?

Actually, yeah, apparently I did. Which brings us to the question, where do contract attorneys fit into the legal community? To answer this, it helps to envision the legal community as an actual community – call it Legal Town. (It is worth noting that Legal Town only exists in this form in certain large cities – Washington, New York, Chicago and LA. There are similar versions in almost every major city, but the big cities are the ones with substantial contract attorney industries. But I digress.) In Legal Town, the partners at the big firms are the politicians, the shakers and movers, the ones who are Born to Run Things. They fear no man and are ruler of all they survey – until their firm summarily cuts partners to reduce the number of people sharing the profits pie, or just goes belly-up like the law firm Howrey just did. But for our purposes here, they are akin to royalty.

One step down the hierarchy are the almost-partners, the attorneys who are of counsel, special counsel or whatever their particular firm decides to call this not-quite-partner position. These guys are like the government staffers of Legal Town rather than elected officials and captains of industry. They swing some stick, but not like a partner.

On the other hand, they swing more stick than the folks on the next rung down, the associates. Don't feel sorry for these guys – they're the middle class of Legal Town, and they are doing all right for themselves. Some aspire to be partners, most realize they probably never will be, at least not here. Like many members of the middle class with high aspirations, their opinions of themselves can be somewhat loftier than reality might dictate. Doesn't make them bad people, but it does make it fun to mock them behind their backs.

Still another rung down the ladder in Legal Town, we now get to the staff attorneys. These guys are the blue collar pukes, the ones who have no realistic chance to move up the ladder yet do much of the grunt work. Many used to be contract attorneys, which tends to make them either sympathetic to the plight of contract attorneys or genuinely eager to flaunt their superior status in the faces of their former colleagues. The former are rare and appreciated, the latter risk being fragged by the troops.

Lower still are the paralegals and legal secretaries, the staffers who do the back-room low-end white collar work. Oddly enough, their position in Legal Town is exactly the same as their position in real life. No analogies necessary. They usually have no contact with contract attorneys, but often are happy to look down upon C.A.s when they do cross paths. Gotta look down on somebody.

Finally, we reach the basement, or whatever level is below the bottom rung on the ladder: the contract attorneys. In Legal Town, these guys are the garbage men. They are absolutely necessary for Legal Town to work, but that doesn't mean the rest of Legal Town wants to invite them into their living rooms. I mean, they're garbage men, right? So what to do with the garbage men?

Naturally, we set up a neighborhood, a slum for them to work in: Temp Town. Like any other slum, it's in the city, but most of the city's residents don't go there and try to pretend it doesn't exist. The temp agencies that provide the contract attorneys for the law firm's big document projects run review spaces, big rooms jammed with contract attorneys clicking away, thus sparing the law firms the need to rub elbows with the great unwashed. Sometimes the firms have to bring contract attorneys to the firm office, but they try to stick the contractors in the basement, on floors that haven't been built out yet, or in rooms that used to be storage rooms – or sometimes still are. In other words, they create a slum. Instant Temp Town. Welcome to our world.