Another 90 Hours Of Document Review Week And Still No Appreciation!

It’s Monday morning 04:00h. You just left the office after a 90+ hour week working on a document review project and you will be (expected to be) back in at 09:00 sharp. Fair enough, you made some sweet overtime money but you cannot stop feeling empty, disillusioned and somehow used.

Sound familiar? This can be the physical strain you put yourself under working those long hours over a longer period of time. But – from our own experience here at Contract Attorney Central – it is as likely the lack of appreciation for your hard work by your employer, project manager, firm or agency which makes you feel deflated.

This is a very common mental state of mind in the contract attorney industry. We are expected to put in very long hours. Basically put our whole social and family life on hold for the duration of the project, act professionally and of course create a good ‘work-product’ (probably) to be charged out to the client at a sweet premium. All this while (usually) not being given any indication of duration, headcount and general future developments of the project. Hence, the more cynical amongst us will refer to ourselves as ‘Paramonkeys’, ‘Cattle’ or just ‘Numbers’. You have most likely come across this pretty perfect image painted of contract attorneys on document reviews.

Apologies – that’s enough of status-quo analysis and complaints (another common contract attorney habit btw!). Rather, let’s dig into some tips and tricks CAC researched for you to help you deal with the lack of appreciation at your workplace. We have compiled a Top 4 of some more and some less obvious tips for contract attorneys on document reviews to stay sane, feel worthy AND make the big bucks on a busy project:


1. Ask for Feedback

Asking your project manager or the firm’s associate in charge for feedback has a two-fold advantage. Firstly you will actively push him to express some level of appreciation by giving you a feedback about your work-product and performance. Keep in mind the timing of your request and the approach you will take. Secondly it can give you a better feeling about your manager’s personality. It could simply be that he just doesn’t express appreciation to any of the contract attorneys on the document review. In that case, harden that skin of yours a little more and just continue doing a good job, while not taking the lack of appreciation for your efforts personally.

2. Socialize

Contract attorney and document review work is groupwork (rather then teamwork). That’s good as it gives you the opportunity to socialize with your co-workers. This will help you to take your mind off feeling unappreciated and will also offer you an outlet. Socializing with co-workers will also give you the opportunity to talk to and seek advice from people who probably experience the same lack of appreciation and hence sympathize with you.

3. Appreciate Yourself

This might sound weird but a great mental trick to deal with lack of workplace appreciation could be to treat yourself to something nice you always wanted (and are now able to afford!). Use your 30 min lunch-break on Monday following (yet another) crazy workweek and spontaneously buy the Swiss watch, Louboutins or iPad. Too much? Get the massage you’ve always been yearning for, which you haven’t ever needed quite as much as you do now.

4. Take Breaks Between Projects

Considering that we contract attorneys are paid on an hourly basis and, because hours = income, it is very tempting to work non-stop. Don’t move from one project to another, then immediately onto another project like a hamster in the all-so-common document review wheel. This will inevitably lead to you being burned out and, because of the nature of the document review beast, will likely lead to you feeling under-appreciated at some stage (perhaps even when it is not warranted). Nip this in the bud and consciously take a few days, weeks or months off between gigs. Permanent employees get holidays, why shouldn’t us hard working contract attorneys?

Have you experienced lack of appreciation working on a document review? How did you deal with it the situation? Do you have additional tips? Please share them by letting us know is the comment box below.

5 thoughts on “Another 90 Hours Of Document Review Week And Still No Appreciation!

  1. This same situation applies to independent consultants. We work odd hours and are always “on” 24/7 sending and replying to emails all hours of the night and usually doing at least some work every day. That’s what you sign on for when you do contract work, as an attorney or consultant. It’s difficult to take the break you recommend — like an actor, you’re always afraid that next part/project will never come along.

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    • Thanks for your comment Jeannette, much appreciated. We certainly agree with your point. It is indeed rather difficult to take a break in the line of contract/consulting work. The uncertainty as to whether one will secure another project is not helpful and planning ahead is pretty much impossible. Having said that – as things look at the moment at least in the UK and US document review market – new projects seem to pop up pretty regularly. Taking a reasonable break would hopefully not have too much of a negative impact on contract attorneys in terms of securing positions after a break. In other – more competitive – areas this might of course be more of a challenge.

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  2. I get the feeling that you think this is a “Contract Lawyer” problem. In truth, LOTS of employees and freelancers are putting in 90+ hour weeks these days with no appreciation. The difference is that contract lawyers are at least racking up billable hours. Try putting up with the hours and the lack of appreciation AND no ability to be paid for the extra time because you are paid for the final product, not for the amount of time you put into it. The clients make changes and you spend the entire weekend realigning everything to accommodate those changes with the knowledge that you will be paid nothing additional. No one will say “Thank You,” or even stop to consider that their whim has cost you the weekend. This is the NEW NORMAL! And if you don’t want to do the project, there are eight other people who would be happy to take over because they have no work at all. These are strange economic times and until things change (IF things change), this is life in the workplace.

    I do think that your four suggestions for staying sane are excellent and could apply to anyone. Particularly #4. All work and no play…. it’s a dangerous situation. Everybody needs a break once in a while.

    But as a contract lawyer, just be happy that you are “making the big bucks on a busy project” and can afford to “spontaneously buy the Swiss watch, Louboutins or iPad” you’ve been wanting, or get that “the massage you’ve been yearning for, which you haven’t ever needed quite as much as you do now.”

    Take a break and use that “break between projects” to read the Dr. Seuss book, “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?” It’s particularly appropriate this week since March 2nd is Dr. Seuss’ 108th birthday. Thank you, hardworking contract lawyers, for keeping us all legal. And Happy Birthday Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel for keeping our priorities in perspective.

    Kay in Hawaii

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    • Hi Kay – you’re absolutely right – indeed we are approaching this from a contract attorney position simply because of our professional experience and we hadn’t considered the experiences of contractors outside of the legal industry. However, I presume that we do share many issues and problems with freelancers and contractors working in other industries.
      I have to admit that, when I am working such heavy weeks, it does make the time pass more smoothly and agreeably with the knowledge that the simple equation of hours = cash will always help me financially, but it’s not always that easy of course. I appreciate the downside of being paid for a final product rather than for your time and that model on occasion requires some alternative thinking to permit the time to pass. Hopefully, you are in a market you are enthused about, and the projects can keep you excited (in spite of those lost weekends!).
      The market (generally, along with the economy) is changing and hopefully not just for the benefit of the big corporations. Here’s hoping it doesn’t get worse before it gets better. Our thoughts are that us contractors are in the more secure positions, as compared to permanent employees…
      Re Dr Seuss: thanks for the reminder – have you checked out The Lorax yet? We couldn’t agree more with its principles. Plus, it’s hilarious!
      Again, thanks for your comments and we hope your contracting starts to pick up soon!

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