Tuesday, May 29, 2012

More trouble in the Big Law community

Those of you who drank yourselves insensate over the holiday weekend, or who ate so much hot dogs, hamburgers and potato salad that you found yourself unable to partake of any news, may not have known that Dewey & LaBoe was in trouble. Well, Reuters (among others) reports that Dewey filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Monday night. This means no reorganization, they're just going bye-bye.

The implications for Temp Town should be obvious and boil down to: we got trouble, yes trouble, right here in River City. Those troubles take several forms. First, there obviously will be one less firm to work for, and Dewey was a big one. According to Reuters:

The result of a 2007 merger between Dewey Ballantine and LeBoeuf, Lamb, Green & MacRae, Dewey & LeBoeuf had about 1,450 attorneys at its peak, according to The National Law Journal.
I don't care how you count it, 1,450 lawyers is big. That made them one of the largest in the world. If those guys can fail, we need to start wondering, who can't? Why'd they go away? Again, from Reuters:

But the firm was eventually undone by a combination of the economic downturn, excessive compensation and governance problems, according to former partners and others in the industry. In particular, Dewey's management promised millions in packages to about 100 partners, according to the court filing, leaving it strapped for cash when revenues fell during the recession.
Oh, killed by the recession, just a one-off, no real long-term problems for Temp Town here, right? Dream on, Aerosmith. If one of the largest and most successful firms in the world has "excessive compensation and governance problems," do you think these kinds of issues might be more widespread than many realize? Most lawyers are not business gurus, and law firms are run by lawyers. Besides, it's not like Dewey is the first -- in the last year or so,
Coudert Brothers, Heller Ehrman and our beloved Howrey all went down, and those are just the big ones.

In addition to a potential source of work for temps disappearing, the demise of Dewey will inevitably dump at least a few associates into Temp Town, even if only temporarily. Big Law firms are not hiring associates the way they used to -- they cost too damn much.

Face it, Big Law's business model is changing, and Temp Town inevitably will be affected. We're already seeing a lot more use of predictive coding, ediscovery firms that use their own staff or a minimum of temps, and don't forget the growing popularity of direct hiring. Sure, it pays more, but it is a lot more work for temps to keep up with dozens of law firms than to maintain ties to a half-dozen or so agencies. (Yeah, yeah, most temps are registered with more than that, but they can't keep them all straight and they generally only actually do work for a few. That is changing, too, of course.)

What does all this mean? Hell if I know, but I suspect it resembles Woody Hayes' misgivings about the forward pass: only three things can happen, and two of them are bad.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Can't believe I missed this

The one-year anniversary of this blog passed unnoticed two weeks ago. The first post, Begin at the Beginning, set out the basic premise of this blog, which is, primarily, to tell the story of contract attorneys. I do that mostly through my own experience, because I really can't do it any other way. Sure, I include stuff that is passed along to me, but when people don't pass shit along, I can't share it. The obvious solution, if we hope to improve how well this blog cover contract attorneys, is for you lazy sacks to send me ideas of posts, descriptions of things that have happened to you and the like. You won't do that, got no room to complain.

Memorial Day

 This is a picture of the cemetery at Colleville sur Mer, in Normandy, where a number of soldiers from the 2nd Ranger Battalion are buried. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, 225 Rangers went ashore at Pointe du Hoc, climbed 100-foot cliffs in the face of relentless German fire and took the gun emplacements at the top of the cliffs, sparing the landings on Omaha Beach from flanking fire. More than half were killed or wounded in the assault that day, yet they held the ground they took against counterattacks. Two days after the landing, only 90 men could still bear arms. And you think being a contract attorney is tough? Visit a cemetery this weekend to give your thanks to those who gave everything, or quit reading this blog, 'cause I got no use for you.

Interesting trifecta

Picked up our first visitor from Thailand, plus our first return visits from Ecuador and Colombia, home of the Secret Service's favorite Hooters girls. Not bad for a slow day.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Is this industry dying?

Sure, recently I've posted a little bit about stuff that has nothing to do with the world of contract attorneys. I never promised I wouldn't do that, so I have no problem on that front. If you have a problem with this, please refer to the title of the blog.

Right now, though, I feel the need to discuss whether the industry in DC even remains viable. There are a lot of reasons to think the answer is no. Let me explain.

A few years back, we were worried that overseas review sites would take document review business away from DC. The truth is, it did -- a lot of projects went to India or the Phillipines, and still do. Nonetheless, that didn't kill the local market. Didn't help, but we hung in there.

Other, cheaper states as sites for projects were the next threat. Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina were going to take all of our business because they could offer the same benefits as overseas sites with better oversight -- U.S. JD lawyers and lower rates than the DC-New York markets. For clients with a reluctance to trust overseas attorneys (even though all of them would be barred in the U.S.) hiring attorneys in Ohio, North Carolina or West Virginia seemed like a better alternative to hiring attorneys in India. 

While we seem to have survived that trend, as well -- sure, projects are going to cheaper states, but we seem to get enough projects to get by -- it is not at all clear that we will survive the next trend: DC projects with cost-reduction. This is the one that will kill us.

Clients are driving the latest trend, as opposed to document review firms -- or e-discovery firms, as they prefer to call themselves -- and that is not good. When the agencies were driving the cost-cutting, it still meant they were trying to keep the business. Now, the cost-cutting seems to be driven by the clients, the companies buying the service. Because these companies see no benefit in overtime pay (paid by them), they are big-time in favor of more bodies, shorter projects and no overtime. The problem for contract attorneys, of course, is if we can't get overtime, we can't survive. How long will it take for this to blow up in everybody's face?

Just doing my part

Welcome to "Everybody blog about Brett Kimberlin Day." Brett is a convicted felon better known in another day as the Speedway Bomber. Nowadays he spends his time attempting to harass, intimidate and sue bloggers into remaining silent about his criminal past. Remember, you can go to  Film Ladd, Ace,  and Michelle and read the details for yourself, with lots of details at the multitudinous links there. So, Happy "Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day," and I hope Brett enjoys the Streisand Effect.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Speaking of Memorial Day

This weekend, take the time to go to a cemetery and thank a veteran with a wreath, some flowers, or even just a quiet thank you. They can hear you, and Lord knows they deserve our thanks.

That was quick

Wow. After last week's gig met a premature demise (at least from my perspective), I figured I was toast. The staff attorneys said they wanted to roll me to another project. Taking into account rule number one, I assumed they were lying. As it turned out, I did get rolled to an existing project, started Tuesday. OK, always good to be working, right? Well, I wouldn't know. We got the email today (I hate it when they break up with you by email) letting us know that when we finished the batch we were working on, we were done, project over, bye bye, don't let the screen door slap you in the ass on the way out. Didn't even get pizza. Of course, we did get ice cream, but that's because the building management company held an ice cream social in the lobby as a Memorial Day kind of thing. I don't think they did it because they knew we were about to get shitcanned.

Working that Persian Gulf vibe

Got our first visitor from the United Arab Emirates. Now, how about tossing some of those petrodollars this way via the tip jar? Baby needs new shoes, and Daddy spends a lot on beer. Pay up, sucka.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Solidarity, baby

Apparently there's this guy out there named Brett Kimberlin who 34 years ago was convicted of being the Speedway Bomber, the dude who set eight bombs around Speedway, Indiana in a mini reign of terror. One of his bombs blew off a dude's leg, and the guy was so upset about that he killed himself. Kimberlin got sentenced to  a lot of years in prison but is inexplicably out now and has entered the world of politics (I will let you guess on which side). He apparently doesn't like it when people reveal his past, which admittedly sounds a lot like he was some kind of domestic terrorist, and so he files lawsuits and such against people who reveal his bomb-setting past.

While this is sort of off topic, I'm not a big fan of assholes using frivolous legal actions to silence truthful speech. A lot has been written about this guy, so you can judge for yourself by going to Film Ladd, Ace,  and Michelle and read the details for yourself. There are lots of links there if you care to follow that will fill you in more completely. Anyway, the reason I am posting this is because Lee Stranahan has suggested that Friday be "Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day." I figured I would get ahead of the curve and help contribute to the Streisand Effect. I figure Brett will be really disappointed.

Congratulations to Donald

Just a quick pop culture note here - congratulations to Donald Driver for winning Dancing with the Stars, one of the most inappropriately named shows on television. The other two finalists were a Mexican television actor and a Welsh opera singer. They are, perhaps, stars somewhere, but it is no surprise that Green Bay Packers fans phoned in and voted Donald into the top spot. He's been a Packer ever since he decided to forego the 2000 Olympics (Donald was a world-class high jumper in college as well as a football star) after being taken by the Packers in the seventh round, and he has since etched his name into the Packers' record books. He is by all accounts a great guy, and I really hope we bring him back for next season (yes, I can say "we," because I own shares in the Packers). Donald is one of the most beloved Packers in recent years, and we are all happy to see him win the Mirror Ball, and we hope to see him in green and gold again soon.

I must be getting old

I have no idea -- is this my first visitor from Egypt? I think so. This could mean The Arab Spring is going really well there (odds, people?) or it could mean that people in Egypt who own computers are seeking new careers overseas before the Islamists win the presidential election. Or they hope to download some porn before the Islamists win the presidential election, in which case the poor guy was sorely disappointed in having stumbled upon this site. I understand that's a common reaction. Please refer to the title of the blog.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Jesus loves me?

The same firm that just boned me apparently feels bad about it and wants me to come back Monday for a different project. OK, there's no fucking way they feel bad about it. There are a couple possible explanations: 1) They think I am magnificent and don't want to let me go (this is totally understandable and innumerable women have felt the same way); 2) they feel bad about fucking me (about as likely as a Buddy Holly and the Crickets reunion tour) or; 3) they needed a warm body and I happened to be standing there when the need arose (Vanna, tell the people what they've won).

It's not his fault, it's the breed

A friend of mine emailed me today to suggest a blog post topic. He suggested that "you need to add the story of the 400lb guy behind me who breathes louder than a bulldog." I don't actually know who the guy is, but I know the type. The contract attorney world is, at its essence, all about the person you don't want to sit next to. Unfortunately, there are far too many stereotypical contract attorneys that you don't want to sit next to. The majority of contract attorneys are decent people of reasonable intelligence and not overtly offensive in any way. The problem, of course, is the significant minority (and, let's face it, that could be up to 49.9%) who are not decent, or of reasonable intelligence, or who are overtly offensive in some way. In light of those standards, I guess a really fat guy who breathes like a bulldog (and anyone who knows anything about bulldogs knows that they have respiratory problems, and that those problems generally are noisy) is pretty low on the scale. Seriously, it could be worse -- he could be a farter.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

This is getting old

OK, so the last project, which sucked, ended on a Thursday with the promise that we would be back Monday. Clearly, they lied, as I sat home the next week. This project just ended on a Thursday, only four days in, after we were repeatedly told it would go 2-3 weeks. Not only did they lie, we got no goodbye food. This swordfish is offically dead. Unfortunately, I'm detecting a pattern here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

OK, this is kind of weird

When you work at the firm, you see all kinds of strange things. Some are strange-legal. This one is just strange. The men's room at this firm (at least the one on the floor contract attorneys are restricted to -- think of it as the ghetto) has a sign on the wall proclaiming it a "Green Restroom." To me, this means they simply don't bother to clean the mold off the grout, but to building management, it apparently means something else.

Beneath the large-type banner proclaiming the restroom's greenness (greenity? greenousity? greeneronomousness? Fuck if I know.) are two sentences describing the  greenness (greenity? greenousity? greeneronomousness? Fuck if I know. But I repeat myself.) of this particular restroom. Both sentences are problematic, in my opinion.

The first sentence reads: "This waterless urinal will save 40,000 gallons of water per year as compared to a conventional urinal." OK, fine. At one gallon per flush (pretty standard for urinals that still use water) 40,000 gallons equates to nearly 110 flushes per day, 365 days a year. Well, I guess that's possible for a communal restroom like this, but is it realistic for this one? There are, at this point, about 100 contract attorneys working at this firm, on this floor, using this restroom. Except roughly half of them are female. So now we have 50 dudes who need to flush this toilet 110 times per day. No problem there, right? In a workday that potentially lasts from 8 am to 8 pm, no question a dude will pee at least twice, so we easily hit 110 flushes per day.

But wait. There are four toilets in that restroom. Two are waterless urinals, two are, shall we say, floor models. All get some action. Assuming nobody pees in a floor model (come on -- really?) but instead everyone always stands around waiting for one of those cool waterless urinals to be vacant, now each guy has to pee more than four times per day to keep up the water-saving pace.

But wait. At this firm, contract attorneys don't work weekends. That means it isn't 110 flushes per day per toilet, it's 154. Now each dude has to pee more than 6 times per day to meet that water-saving goal. I don't give a fuck how environmentally conscious you are, most guys aren't hitting that mark.

Nonetheless, I am willing to accept the first sentence as a legitimate claim. I don't know how much it matters, but I accept it. The second sentence, however, is more problematic. It reads: "Please help maintain its reliability by refraining from adding water as the damages the liquid and odor seal."

Adding water to the toilet damages the liquid and odor seal? Really? Then what does pissing in it do? Can the liquid and odor seal tell the difference?

Have I gone on here at inordinate length about urinals? Yes? Why is that? Because this project is so fucking boring, even relative to other projects, that this is the most interesting thing there is to say about it. Man, how hard does that suck?

Now we're cooking with grease!

In a wok, no less. Got my first visitor from China and, since no one is ever alone in China, I actually got two. Maybe there was a special.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The whistling door whistles no more.

I am on a new project, and I am disappointed to find that the whistling door is now silent. Apparently that was a winter thing. No longer can I play "Ode to Joy" by messing with the bathroom door. Oh, well. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you have two choices: hit the link up there, or remain blissfully ignorant).

In any event, we are back in the land of no cell phone reception, internet so crappy and slow we might as well not have it (yes, this is intentional on the part of the firm) and only 40 hours a week. The firm shall remain nameless, unless they really piss me off. On the plus side at this point, they are letting us do 40 hours in four days. So we've got that going for us. And yes, this is a revival of a project I already left twice because it sucks. Here I am, back (inadvertently) for a third time. Nobody told me what the project was before I decided that working was better than not. Seriously, there should be a buyer's remorse out, like with cars.

I should pay more attention

Sometime over the weekend, we passed 8,000 hits. Not exactly earth-shaking as blogs go, but thanks anyway to whoever the fuck is clicking here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Some things are just counterintuitive

You would think that being at home with no gig would lead me to post more. Unfortunately, I have nothing to say and spend way too much time loading and unloading my gun. As Foghorn Leghorn used to say, "Son, I say I say, son, that's a joke."

I need to take up robbing liquor stores

Seriously, this is a shitty way to make a living. Still sitting at home because I was late to the party on a pair of short-notice projects. Got my submission in, but I was way down the list in priority, so I missed out on both. I guess this is what happens when you don't sit in front of your email all day and you don't have an Iphone. So, still looking for a project. Got one submission pending. I guess that means that, at least briefly, I had three pending. Naturally, all the agencies ask you to swear your submission with them is the only one you have pending. I am tempted to make them swear they'll make sure I get the gig if I say it is. Obviously not a two-way street. Yet another area where agencies, knowing they are lying to you, want you to lie to them. "Hey, I would never submit to more than one project at a time." Unless I wanted to get a job. Alas.

Monday, May 7, 2012

And not a minute too soon

Looks like we got our first visitor from Portugal, right before that country goes down the drain and no one there can afford internet service any more. Perhaps I would get more visitors like this if I used words like bestiality and naked. Maybe not. (Hey, a guy's got to try and drive traffic.)

Friday, May 4, 2012

New milestone

Yeah, we're closing in on another milestone, page-views wise. Should be in the next couple days, unless shit falls off a cliff.

Bend over, kids

Yeah, we just got the phone call that says, "Hi, you're fucked, we're telling you late on a Friday afternoon that you aren't working Monday. Or Tuesday, or maybe ever on this project again."

Thanks, assholes. Could have told us Thursday that we weren't coming back Monday. Instead, we get the word at 5:30 PM Thursday that there is no work Friday, don't worry, come in Monday. A classic case of pissing down our backs and telling us it's raining.

While I am used to being lied to -- in fact, Rule No. One is, "They're lying" -- this one was pretty egregious. I am debating identifying the firm and letting people know that they cannot be trusted. Let me ruminate.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What, no pizza?

This project might be toast. We're out of stuff, no one knows whether we're coming in tomorrow, or maybe even ever again. Conference call with the other side tomorrow (for the firm, not us -- what kind of moron would include temps on a conference call?) that has the potential to kill this thing dead, pizza or not. I feel like I should have been kissed first.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Etiquette tip

Remember, if a contract attorney walks into the bathroom talking on a cell phone, you are required to flush twice.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tough choice

Temp 1: So which is worse, the fact that we apparently only have enough documents for about three more days, or the likelihood that the firm has so much we aren't seeing that we'll probably be doing this all fucking summer?

Temp 2: I'm going to go find some rope.

Einstein was right -- time really is relative

Seven minutes before quitting time yesterday, I realized this was going to be the longest seven minutes of my life, leading me to announce:

"If a doctor ever tells me I have six months to live, I am immediately going to find myself a six-month document review project. It will make six months feel like forever, and when the time is up, I'll be happy to die."