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Usually very highly paid and with a seemingly low entry criteria, Document Review roles are becoming an increasingly common way for legal professionals to make a living of late, but what does the role really entail? What are employers looking for from a potential candidate? And what are the pros and cons of these highly popular positions.
What is document review? The roles, as you would expect are hugely varied, encompassing everything from assessing huge volumes of audio, hard copy or electronic files and screening for relevance, privilege or confidentiality concerns.
What does the ideal candidate look like? Who can apply to do it? The recurring themes in this area of recruitment are a degree of existing knowledge of the law (ideally LLB or GDL and LPC as a minimum requirement), candidates with immediate availability, some existing experience in a City firm and additional languages are usually a huge bonus too.
Subject to these requirements, there are usually three points during a person’s legal career where they are likely to undertake Document Review. Firstly, candidates who are qualified in another jurisdiction, who wish to make the move to London, gain experience as a Paralegal from a top firm and make some good money in the meantime, whilst making use of any language skills. Candidates who are UK qualified, have gained several years experience and wish to work more flexibly, perhaps at a month at a time with the option to pick and choose each project. And finally, recent graduates, who have completed their LPC and are looking to gain experience within large City firms before undertaking training contracts. As with all roles, there are positives and negatives, these are definitely worth consideration before undertaking a document review role.
Some of the benefits of Document Review work include, being able to add the names of some of the best US, Magic and Silver Circle firms on your CV, great remuneration available, with rates anywhere from £13.00 to £22.00 per hour for non qualified positions and all the way up to £45 per hour for qualified litigators. Not to mention the overtime available, which often goes up to one and half or double the standard hourly rate if available. On top of this, even without previous experience, these roles are usually require no interviews, and can last anywhere from a day to a year and with the rise of document review centres roles of this kind are becoming increasingly easy to find.
However, as with any role, there are also some less than desirable elements of this kind of work too. Firstly, many firms have very strict conflict or competition requirements, most commonly exposure to Foreign Exchange (FX) or Libor matters, (once you have worked on an FX or Libor matter, you are conflicted and cannot work on any Document Review of the same topic again, even if you only worked in a team with people who work in the area or only worked within the area for an hour!) so ensure that if you undertake a review which will conflict you it’s a longer term role, otherwise a week’s work might end up disqualifying you from a one year contract! Next, although Doc Review is a great way to earn money, if you work in the area for too many years there is a risk that candidates can become pigeon-holed and might find it more difficult to secure a fee earning role later down the line, although this is usually only true of candidates who have worked in the area for 5+ years, which few candidates can stomach due to the repetitive and not particularly glamourous nature of the work.
Overall, the option to work as a Document Review Paralegal can provide good exposure to some of London’s top International and City firms, but the work can be extremely unstimulating and despite being well paid often doesn’t provide much job security. In the eyes if most, it can provide great earning potential for a short time, but isn’t everyone’s chosen long term career.