Although the market for legal jobs has vastly improved since the Great Recession ten years ago, it is hardly a robust one for recent law school graduates. One popular job-of-last-resort is document review—a job that many of my coaching clients assert is “mind-numbing.” And, of course, it does not pay particularly well; usually around $20-30 per hour.

The more frustrated job seekers become, the more likely they will seriously consider accepting document reviewing jobs. And I am frequently asked, either before or after the fact:

How damaging is a document review job on a resume when the goal is to have a more traditional job in the legal profession?

The answer is the same one many attorneys give to their clients: “It depends.” Here’s what it depends on.

Why You Should Do It

If you need the money to keep a roof over your head or feed your family, it’s a no-brainer: you do it. It beats working at Starbucks or Target.

What’s more, there’s a potential silver lining in taking the work. If you stick with it long enough, there may be higher-paying management opportunities in the eDiscovery field that become available to you. Some of those jobs can pay reasonably well and are not necessarily “mind-numbing.” And since most of those opportunities are filled only by lawyers, you won’t go to sleep at night wondering if the expense and time of law school was a complete waste.

Why You Shouldn’t

Besides being mind-numbing, a document review job will have a negative impact on your job search for a more traditional legal job in two ways.

  • First, assuming you review documents for 35-40 hours per week, that is a lot of time that is being taken away from your job search. It’s pretty likely the doc review work will delay your ability to land a more desirable job.
  • Second, the longer you perform document review, the more difficult it will be to explain away during interviews why you reviewed documents for so long and didn’t find a more traditional job. Many prospective employers will excuse a few months of this type of work. But a few years? Not so much.

Considering Document Review? Weigh the Risks First!

If you’re considering taking a document review job, I’m sorry to say there is no right, wrong or simple answer to guide you to your choice. What is most important is that you weigh your risks carefully: the risk of a financial setback versus the risk of short-term career damage. Only once you determine the right balance for your situation can you make a choice that works best for you.

Categories: Job Search