In the ABA Journal, an article about the life of the contract attorney (doc review):
I make $35 an hour for the first 40 hours and $52.50 for each hour thereafter. Averaging 60 hours per week, I make a pretty good living for reading e-mail. A contract attorney working those hours can earn $100,000 a year. But there are no new skills acquired and no career advancement. Still, small firms in the New York area offer starting salaries below $50,000. State clerkships pay in the lows 40s. So this is the only way for many attorneys to survive financially.
Contract positions often last less than a month. You register with staffing agencies; recruiters then place you in projects at major firms, accepting a generous portion of your check in exchange. The buzz around reviews is that a firm bills out an attorney at $180 an hour and pays the temp agency $60 per; the agency, in turn, pays the attorney $40. Ranking somewhere below paralegals and above the cleaning crew, thousands of contract attorneys are making ends meet in this subsection of the legal industry.
Today, like always, I read e-mails from the client’s computer network, then code each according to its relevance. Often the vast majority are in no way responsive to the discovery request. Substantive reviews or analyses of documents are discouraged—if not banned outright. The contract attorney’s role is clear: Review and “bucket” documents, bill the requisite number of hours, and otherwise fly under the radar.