The Doc Review-lution

16 October 2014 by Hitesh Chowdhry

Should you ever ask a lawyer what their biggest work-related gripes are, some combination of the following will be mentioned: excessive working hours, copious amounts of pressure, and the prioritisation of billable hours and business development over engagement in substantive legal analysis.

Lawyers, with Benefits

However, in recent years, an exception has emerged. There now exists a unique species of lawyer who relishes working late evenings and weekends, is removed from the front line pressure of legal practice, and spends their working hours purely on documentary analysis, rather than business development.

‘Doc reviewers’ are drafted in by firms to assist with large edisclosure projects. In basic terms, they are required to peruse all disclosable documents and categorise them appropriately. The urgent deadlines inherent in contentious matters mean that teams of reviewers are often needed at short notice, and required to work prolonged hours. However, given that they are paid on a per hour basis, with frequently significantly higher rates for evening and weekend work, reviewers often welcome the opportunity to spend as long as possible in the office. Furthermore, the work is detached from some of the most common sources of stress for lawyers – demanding clients and billable hours targets. And all the while, reviewers have the pleasure of working on high-profile (often cross-border) matters, with some of the City’s most illustrious firms.

The In-Betweeners

Who are these beneficiaries of London’s busy litigation market? During my adventures on the doc review circuit, I met an eclectic mix of lawyers ‘in between’ things, ranging from Antipodeans funding a period of travelling around Europe, to a former in-house IP lawyer who wanted to pursue his dream of being a rock star. Some were simply taking time away from permanent roles to consider their options, whilst others (like me) were pursuing post-graduate study.

Doc reviewers come from both arms of the profession - many barristers, often sick of being paid ‘less than baristas’ (as per the recent slogan of disaffected counsel) are attracted to the idea of a more regular and less-demanding income stream, which does not require cross-qualification. Further, lawyers can leverage foreign language skills to great effect, as higher rates are paid for reviewers assisting with non-English language documents.

A growing community has developed – with familiar faces appearing on different projects, and regular communication occurring on matters such as project availability, overtime rates, and most crucially of all – whether or not firms are providing complimentary coffee and biscuits.

Where Do I Sign?

There are some key drawbacks to becoming a career doc reviewer which you may want to hear before signing up.

The doc reviewer lifestyle comes with its own perils – the uncertainty of start and end dates of projects can make it difficult to plan almost anything. Also, the separation of doc reviewers from the other stages of case management means that their hard work can often go unrecognised, particularly as the case’s outcome may be many months after the review project has ended. Career development is also an issue – there is no recognisable career path, which means that reviewers can sometimes feel they are not moving towards a tangible goal.

These issues are unfortunate, particularly given that reviewers play increasingly pivotal roles in document-heavy proceedings. Parties to litigation and judges alike are becoming more conscious of how costs can be reduced; and Legal Process Outsourcers can offer more efficient solutions to voluminous disclosure exercises. The ability for firms to recruit experienced review teams at short notice can be invaluable.

The Review-lution

Kroll Ontrack is pioneering a new era in document review. Our extensive canvassing of feedback from reviewers has allowed us to recognise the frustrations that they often feel. Our new offering for these unsung heroes is an environment where reviewers are treated as associates, with state-of-the art facilities, complimentary career development training, and rewards for loyalty. Communication is fast and reliable – we understand how important it is for reviewers to be updated on developments as soon as possible. Above all, we foster a team environment, where reviewers feel that they are as integral to our services as any of our permanent staff.

Ultimately, the more motivated and comfortable our reviewers are, the higher the quality of service we can provide to our clients. The review-lution begins…

Document review lawyers interested in working at Kroll Ontrack can register their interest here: