Mailroom mantra

Jill Rorem, Esq., is senior manager, legal staffing at Blackman Kallick (www.blackmanstaffing.com). Jill oversees the successful recruitment of attorneys, paralegals and contract legal professionals. Jill (and the Blackman team) staffs document reviews using qualified contract attorneys and thus, works with attorneys-in-transition daily. You can follow her at twitter.com/roremlegalstaff.

I’ve spent the last few entries discussing agency behavior and protocol and how contractors can take care of themselves when staffing agencies treat them unfairly. What about proper contract attorney behavior? The pendulum has to swing both ways for this system to work properly. Quality contractors with scrupulous morals, efficient review skills and a strong presentation will undoubtedly lead to improving the perception of this industry and could possibly lead to future, non-temporary opportunities. Many of the contractors who used to work for my firm as contractors are now the very same people working at big firms as staff attorneys or associates and are hiring our contractors for document review. Opportunity exists and reputations precede you so always treat each position as though it is an interview for a permanent position.

With that in mind, I suggest the following:

  • This should be obvious but, be on time to each project – especially to the training. If you are late, it may not only give the agency’s client a bad taste in their mouth, but the agency as well.  When given the choice between you and someone of your equal but who is always punctual, the agency may choose the punctual person for the next review instead of you.
  • Respect neighboring reviewers. This means, mind your personal habits. Shower and skip the heavy perfume. Eat, but don’t rattle the Cheetos bag and make crunching noises.  Sneeze, but cover your mouth. Take personal conversations and phone calls into the hallway. Make sure your music volume is low.
  • Even if your project is low paying, do your best work. This is a tough pill to swallow, I know. However, you can always turn down a project due to rate and I wouldn’t blame you based on things I hear! If you do decide to work for the proposed rate, then give it your all. It’s the honest and ethical thing to do.
  • Be honest with your agency about your schedule prior to accepting any project. When you don’t disclose a vacation or another obligation and the agency’s client has a tight deadline, you put your team in the position to pick up your slack and the agency in an embarrassing situation. That is not good for anyone. If you had disclosed it ahead of time, it’s likely that the agency could have gotten your time off approved in advance and then the agency’s client can plan around it during the review.
  • Do the best you can do each day. If you know that the expectation is for you to review 500 documents per day but you know you can accurately review 750, do the 750 even if it means cutting the project shorter because of it. You’ll look like a superstar and likely get picked up for other projects quickly.

I learned something important from the mailroom at ICM in Hollywood where you could go from pushing a mail cart to being a studio head in a year:  you never know who someone will turn out to be, so treat everyone as though they could one your next boss or client. We are not in Hollywood, but the world of document review and e-discovery is similarly small and since you never know who someone will turn out to be – always put your best foot forward. Remember – it’s these reviewers that could wind up with an opportunity to recommend you for a permanent position and your chances will be slim if you cough all over their keyboard.

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