How much is my time worth?

Angie Robertson graduated from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 2010. She has experience with public interest law, family law, legal document review and sales.  When she is not reading or writing about law, she enjoys live music, exploring Chicago, watching roller-derby, and spending time with her husband and her dog.

Last week, the document review project I had been working on all summer ended abruptly.  In this industry, that just happens and there is really no one to blame. Such is the nature of temp work.

Those of us who find ourselves doing document review out of economic necessity take jobs based on a rather simple cost/benefit analysis:

  • Are reviewers treated as an important part of the litigation process?
  • Are directions clear, and are questions about the review addressed consistently?
  • Is the review in a convenient location?
  • Can we listen to podcasts or music while we work?
  • Is the office comfortable?
  • Are the hours flexible so we can go to interviews or appointments if we have them?
  • How much do we get paid?

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the last factor trumps all of the rest. Having been offered contracts as low as fifteen to twenty dollars an hour for document review, I’ve asked myself several times, “Isn’t my time worth more?”  What is a recent grad to do during downtime between projects that will maintain their value as a legal professional?

My strategy is threefold, but purely experimental. First, take some time to tailor resumes and cover letters for jobs you really want. In my experience, it is important to dedicate either one day a week or a few hours per day twice a week to this task. I found that spending more time than that made my job search too broad and created unneeded additional stress. I was applying for jobs I did not really want or that I was not a good fit for and I was overwhelmed with waiting to hear back from any of the places I applied.

Next, I try to do something fun that doesn’t cost a lot of money. Who knows when you might get another chance to play video games all day, make homemade ice cream or read library books without interruption?  Someone is going to have to pay me good money pull you away from doing things you really love all day long, as well they should.

Finally, and this is something that I have to admit I have done less than I should, take the time to get coffee or beer with an old law school classmate or fellow document reviewer who is going through underemployment. Not only is it good to know that you are not alone, but it can also be helpful to bounce career ideas off of each other. You are going to meet some people through temping with really incredible backgrounds and experiences to share. You will also meet some weirdoes, but such is life.

As of yesterday, I have another document review contract starting next week, and this one pays more than any of my previous ones. Whether this is due to coincidence, strategy or the fact that I’m getting more experienced, I have no idea. But I do have peanut-butter-cup ice cream in the freezer with my name written all over it.


One response to “How much is my time worth?

  1. Angie, this is a great piece. As a fellow contract attorney I understand how difficult it can be to focus on doing things that you like – especially when you’re in between projects. When I’m in between projects I try to remind myself that there is always one right around the corner. It’s difficult but well worth a try.

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