Project schedules are always unpredictable. Populations and deadlines change, team members move faster or slower than expected, the database takes a nose dive on the Thursday before a production deadline or (my personal favorite) the day before you’re done, someone “finds” a population of data roughly the same size as what you just finished.
When I’m staffing a review, I tend to assume a conservative review pace and also account for some absences by rounding my estimates down. If the population is known at the outset, it’s rather easy to give a predicted duration. If not, though, sometimes the best one can do is guess with the information available. Generally, I try to err on the low side – it’s terrible to have a team come to a project expecting a month of work only to run out of docs ten days in.
Poor estimation, though, sometimes results in team members having conflicting commitments. If a team member has worked the amount of time initially estimated, I can’t find much room to criticize leaving a project before it’s done. Review Attorneys need to keep their dance card full – downtime gets expensive fast. Similarly, I’m thrilled to hear that members of my team have accepted full-time positions during any part of a project. In those situations, it’s easy to alert the project leadership that you’ll be leaving. Give as much notice as you can. The team leader may be planning to train new people or to make other changes; knowing your plans can help inform those decisions.
It’s less exciting to have team members leave a project within the duration outlined at the beginning of a project. The reasons people leave projects early are far too numerous to list. Some are clearly false, many are not, but some can make an attorney seem incredibly unreliable. The absolute worst are pre-planned, long-term vacations in the middle of a short project. If you’re not available, tell the recruiter in advance. Not all absences will prevent someone from participating in a project, but it’s far better to know about such things in advance.
When emergencies come up, try and provide an expectation about your availability. If your grandmother dies and you’re going to fly to Iowa, alert the appropriate person about the trip and when you plan to be back. If the project is ongoing, your team may likely want you to return. Don’t just show up a week later without approval to return, though (yes, it’s happened).
If a project is just not the right fit for you, it’s likely that honestly approaching your team leader about the issue will result in a far better resolution. Having someone leave with no explanation is confusing and frustrating. Sometimes the subject matter just doesn’t make sense, the platform is too hard to navigate or some administrative change doesn’t meet with your expectations or tolerances. Maybe it can be fixed, maybe not. At a minimum, though, the problem can be understood and any disappointment tempered.
Keep in mind that, even in a city like New York, the document review community is quite small. If you leave a project because you were “hit by a cab”, hearing from other team members that you were trying to get them to leave and join you on another project the next day can be infuriating. Similarly, the things you post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram might also be seen by your recruiter or staffing agency; it’s not good when it conflicts with what they’ve been told.
Often times, review attorneys fear sharing information about their plans, worrying that they’ll be immediately tossed from a project or not considered in the future. While this concern should be considered in some workplaces, I’ve generally found these concerns to be overblown. Most prudent project managers realize that it is best to make the best use of a person’s time while they can participate, particularly once they’ve been trained and understand the matter. Waiting until the last minute to announce an absence or departure that was known in advance, though, makes completing the project more difficult and can put your team in a bind.