Over the Thanksgiving holiday, an angry DC document reviewer posted the following ad to Craigslist, a popular source of information about upcoming document review projects. I’ve redacted the agency’s name from the text, as it is not important for the discussion – similar situations can exist with almost any agency.

To All Contract Attorneys,
I have just spent the past month trying to work with [Redacted], LLC. They contacted me for a job on October 27th, with the expected start date of that Thursday. Then, I did not hear anything from them for almost two weeks. Finally, they contact me and tell me that that project wasn’t going to start at all, but they had another due to start the next week. So, I went through the conflicts check for a second time. This time they did not contact me again for three weeks. Eventually, though they contacted me again with an offer for a third project. Naturally, I asked what had happened with the second project, and I was told that I was ineligible for it (despite having told me that I cleared conflicts). It turns out that I had been ineligible for both projects because I also represent clients in small matters in Virginia, a fact which they had known the entire time. In other words, they kept me waiting for a month to work on projects that they knew I was ineligible for.
They are incompetent and they will lie to you about the project start date and keep you waiting for weeks.
As a final thought, it is worth noting that these postings cost money ($35). Now, if you are thinking about working for [Redacted], ask yourself if you really want to work with a company that makes former employees angry enough to spend money to tell the world about how bad that company is.

As a neutral observer, I suspect the agency tried quite hard to get this individual placed on multiple matters, but something in either the outside representation or another factor caused the law firms making the final selection to decline. Many firms simply balk at not having exclusive access to a contract attorney’s time during the review project, generally because their in-house conflicts departments have no existing mechanism for handling someone who may be taking on new cases during the course of their project. Some project managers are unwilling to staff team members who will have an unusual schedule – attorneys maintaining a private practice are quite often in this group, with constant outside meetings, court appearances and the client-handling minutiae of an active practice invading on time that could otherwise be dedicated to their matter.

The long lead times for staffing some projects are often a direct result of clients with significant involvement in the staffing process. In some matters, the firm and end client trust the agency to make wise selections before reviewing and approving a well-curated group of reviewers. In others, there are multiple steps of approvals, resume reviews, conflict forms and other administrative tasks that must be completed before the ultimate team is assembled.

Many times, the specific decision-making criteria being used are unclear to the recruiter working to staff the project – what initially looks like a good prospect is struck for seemingly no reason and with little explanation. Some of the most common reasons for rejecting a candidate that I see, though, are poorly drafted resumes (either providing no relevant experience or, in the opposite direction, disclosing far too much client confidential information for a public document) or poorly-completed required forms. If the law firm requires a special form that lists every matter on which you’ve worked, they will often reject a candidate who fails to complete the information or simply references their resume. While, in an ideal world, the recruiter would contact a candidate and ask they correct these issues before submission, time constraints often limit the ability to do so.

Ultimately, when you’re unstaffed and are looking for a new project, a prepared contract attorney needs to be looking for projects in parallel; applying for multiple projects and waiting to see which best fits their individual needs once they solidify. Use sources like Craigslist and Posse List to follow new leads and regularly check in with your existing agencies. When not working, be constantly applying for new projects until you’re fully staffed. Then, keep your relationship with other agencies open, being clear about your expected availability.

Do not, however, gain a reputation for bailing on one project for another before the announced duration of your matter is reached. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending time training and getting someone up to speed only to have them bail when the first tranche of batches are finished. Communicate with the project management to get an idea of the workflow. Most will give you as much advance notice as possible when they’re able to predict a project’s end.

Cultivating a relationship with multiple agencies is critical. When I was working as a contact attorney, I primarily worked for one agency, but found great value in keeping a relationship with several others. Each Wednesday, I’d update all the recruiters on my availability for upcoming projects. More than one that weekly update helped secure additional work in the form of weekend, last-minute projects for an agency other than the one where I’d just completed a 40-hour week and would return on Monday. In other cases, a recruiter knew I would be available in two weeks, so when staffing his next matter he could include me in the submission and I’d be able to move from one matter to another with minimal downtime.

Don’t spend a month waiting for a single lead to mature. Keep hunting.