Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Big Squeeze

Steven Greenhouse, in a new book entitled "The Big Squeeze," reflects upon the tough issues facing American workers. In the past 20 years, corporate profits have soared and worker productivity grew apace, while wages have stagnated. In the economic expansion that began in November 2001, corporate profits have doubled, but average wages have increased by only 2 percent. As Greenhouse notes, "this may be the first time in American history that the typical working household goes through an economic expansion without any increase in income whatsoever."

As a result of the changes in both the public and private sectors, American workers today face a variety of threats. Aggressive managers desperate to trim costs use tactics reminiscent of the sweatshops of a century ago: locking workers inside shop floors or not allowing them to take bathroom breaks, harassing workers who attempt to unionize, refusing to pay overtime for additional hours or, even more egregiously, altering workers' time sheets. Then, of course, there is the threat that many jobs will be outsourced to countries like India or China, where companies can pay lower wages. There are companies that replace salaried workers with temps or contractors to avoid paying benefits.

The legal profession is no exception. Note the explosion of the temporary staffing industry and our stagnating wages, in red:


Anonymous said...

In the late 1990's, we were treated with respect. We were a helpful resource. Now contract attorneys are treated like scum. When you treat people like scum, eventually you start getting scummy workers.

Anonymous said...

Very well said, 3:29PM. I'm getting my MBA and occasionally use doc review work, and am often maligned here in D.C. by minority attorneys from toilet schools like Howard just for being a European- American.

Seems like workers should work, instead of making an effort to berate people, who are minding their own business, just because of their skin color. Not being from the area I researched this Howard law school and found that it was racist, excluding people who are not black, based solely on race. Pretty slimey kind of school to find in our nation's capitol, a law school that will take you only if you are black (with a few exceptions). Now I understand why there are "cliques" on DC doc review projects, with blacks self-segregating themselves and avoiding working with asian, hispanic, and caucasian attorneys.

Dr. King died while trying to influence people to reject racism. He'd be ashamed to see that there are people 40 years later who are still racist and segregationist.

Anonymous said...

Watch out for the nigerian contract attorneys. Right now, they are structuring an off-shore commodity financing scheme. Shouldn't they be clicking?

Anonymous said...

Yes, that's the current state of affairs - scummy workers. It's extremely difficult to maintain a professional attitude when you are treated like a sub-human retard. It's embarrassing to be a contract attorney these days. We all know what the conditions are like. Eventually, the quality people move on and find jobs, usually for less money. What's left are the otherwise unemployable dregs.

A document review position should be considered a decent, low stress job in which the contract attorneys assist the firms in a professional and collegial manner. We know we aren't associates and never will be. Instead, it's a mismanaged free for all under the rule of some inexperienced first year or other assoc. out of favor with the partner. I've seen it over and over again. No one cares about the mistakes, the fraudulent billing, the mistreatment and dishonesty. It's shitty life, but it doesn't have to be.

Here's to hoping our replacements in India get more humane treatment.

Anonymous said...

At least the nigerians have something to focus on.

The worst is getting involved with a bunch of busy bodies who are bored and have nothing better to do but butt into your business.

Anonymous said...

6:07 - focusing on a criminal enterprise/double billing is not an appropriate use of the firm's time.

Anonymous said...

But perhaps it's all moot.


Anonymous said...


"But North American lawyers who scoff at the notion they can be replaced by an Indian lawyer, do so at their peril. Big-name converts to legal outsourcing include Dell, American Express, Dupont, Puarolator Courier Inc., General Electric and Microsoft, as well as top law firms such as Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy and Millbank Tweed.

There has been mild interest in legal outsourcing by Canadian companies, and some law firms have had discussions with outsourcers. But Indian-based LPOs say that the Canadian market is not their priority - the focus is the U.S. and the U.K.

'Companies understand that it is definitely possible to outsource core competencies in areas of the legal industry,' says Lonnie Sapp, chief operating officer at Pangea3, one of a growing list of LPO firms.

There's no shortage of players looking to capitalize on the business opportunity. In addition to Mindcrest and Pangea3, Indian firms such as Quislex, Integreon Managed Solutions Inc. and Evalueserve, are all jockeying for local legal talent as they vie for a piece of the market. (Prismlegal.com tracks 111 vendors of legal outsourcing globally, the bulk of which are in India.)

Pangea3, a brash upstart created by two former general counsels, wants to be the biggest vendor by the end of the year, says Antony Alex, vice-president of legal services."

Anonymous said...

Your site would be a lot better if you bothered to moderate the comments section. As it is, it's mostly just racists or, more likely, people who are trying to drag your site down.

The squeeze is not just wages. It's also in the reallocation of risk- mortgage contracts, the cost of education, benefits (health insurance, retirement etc) and a high number of other items that we don't consider. It's death by a thousand small, seemingly, insignificant cuts.

Anonymous said...


Company: JuriStaff Legal Staffing


Juristaff Legal Staffing is assisting a well known international company identify Attorneys for a non traditional research, editing, and management opportunity for hire to work in India for at least one, possible two, years. This is a permanent in-house opportunity working for a very well respected financial services company. The position will focus on using your U.S. legal training to oversee and assist lawyers trained under Indian law on the development of a legal software for a well known product an international services company is developing.

The company has a very strong preference for Attorneys holding citizenship in both India and the U.S., however may be willing to consider candidates who have training and experience on U.S. litigation matters that are citizens of or are authorized to work in India.

We are seeking candidates with strong law firm experience as well as superior research and writing skills relating to litigation. Candidates with solid law firm experience working as a permanent associate with citizenship or authorization to work in India are ideal. Attorney candidates must have at least two years of litigation experience pracitcing in the U.S. or practicing U.S. litigation law, in a permanent associate position, not including document review, and be willing to relocate to India for up to two years.

Please send resumes in Word or Word Perfect to NYC IH Recruiter at [Click Here to Email Your Resumé] Please refer to: BNINDIAPERM9WKCB

Anonymous said...

The legal profession is being outsourced before our eyes. Goodbye America!

Anonymous said...

I think the biggest reason that We're not getting raises is because of outsourcing. They have the equivalent of law firms, with permanent staff, taking these projects in India and they are willing to work for less.

Once they have gutted the doc review and entry level legal market, of course they will demand more money over there, too. But at that point, they will have a large stable of lawyers trained and working in the American legal system. Joan King and her ilk continue to dump graduates onto this oversaturated market. Of course none of these people will step up and stop this, they're cashing their paychecks. When it gets really bad, she and the rest of these people will resign and change careers.

Once again, American business is selling out its citzens for short term profit. Will anyone ever do anything about it? I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Study N Work India
Helping Filipino Students and Workers go to India.

We need recent 1st Class law school graduates interested in performing DOCUMENT REVIEW services for our US Clients. You should have EXCELLENT ENGLISH verbal, reading and written communication skills also exceptional analytical skills.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, the workers in India are becoming too pricey. They now have to import the Filipinoes who are so poor that they eat out of garbage cans and live in tin Hoovervilles. Document Review to 10 cents an hour!

Anonymous said...

Rates are actually going DOWN. They are sending jobs overseas and cutting benefits, but are able to get away with it and cover it up by just printing more money. They say, "times may be tough, but we are all letting you keep your jobs at $X and $X an hour. Unemployment is still relatively low and inflation is in check."

But look at the price of oil! You can't even buy a loaf of bread. This country is in SERIOUS trouble, and it is all because of of the short-sighted greed of American companies, greed which the legal profession is just starting to emulate.

Anonymous said...

Seems they have a demand for workers, while we have too many attorneys seeking work....this is totally insance.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, Pakistan will nuke India sooner rather than later.....

Anonymous said...

I will laugh my ass off when a major class action case is lost because some Indian attorney didn't understand what privilege means. Just wait until they send a smoking gun memo from in house legal or outside counsel to plaintiffs that causes a hundred million dollar settlement. At least they saved 600k on legal costs!

Anyone who has worked on projects using white collar labor from India knows full well that their work product is awful.

Anonymous said...

Blue collar labor isn't much better either. Ever call tech support for a computer software problem? They don't actually train these people in electronics, they just have them read from a step by step manual that doesn't work. The first question that the tech guy from India asked me was "Is your computer on?"...I stared at the phone, then slowly hung up, curled into the fetal position, and prayed for the soul of our American economy.

Anonymous said...

It wouldn't be unreasonable to state the obvious. There are too many law schools, who have lowered admissions standards to line their own pockets. The licensing regulatory bodies have loosened Bar passage rates so that the law schools do not end up with hoards of irate graduates at their doors bc/they were unable to pass the bar, just not NYS's bar. No law school would want to then admit that 30% of their entering 1st year class possibly should not have been admitted, but for the pressure from the ABA to "conform" with the existing "P.C" philosophy going to minorities (many, not all, whose actual (vs. grade inflated) performance was not up to snuff based on classical standards. There is an obvious conspiracy of interests, or collusion, occuring between the ABA, the law schools, and the licensing regulatory bodies. Add to the equation the last 15 years of a large pool of money from private lenders and Sallie Mae. Heh - it was a big party for all of them, and those screwed were those now sitting around with student loans unable to find jobs that actually provide substantive training. The only way to try to beat it is to find a market where you might open up your own small office, or find a small law firm. Other than the obvious options, other than doc review, get the NYT's reporter who covers (or would be hungry enough to cover)topics related to our problem. Unless we embarass the principals involved in the silent conspiracy and collusion, nothing will change.

Anonymous said...

It's become an extremely stratified profession, to a greater degree than ever before. It's really a huge divide between the top law school grads and schools like Cooley and others that sell a false dream of biglaw riches to kids that have no business going to law school. For the latter group, it's just a humiliating experience and one that leaves them with huge debt and few decent legal career options besides document review. And that's being exported to India.

The ABA will never do anything for the rank and file attorneys. They exist only to condone the actions of biglaw and to advance their own political agenda. They wink as high paying e-discovery services jobs like doc review are exported so clients can save a few dollars. Why can't we export the ABA? I think they would find a warm reception in India, considering all of the work they are giving Indian attorneys. They do more for Indian workers than they have ever done for us.

Can't we get rid of the ABA? I think that law school should be scrapped too. Let people apprentice in law firms and work their way up like in regular business. The practice of law is just another business these days anyway, let's drop the artifice.

If we open up law to everyone, then it would really allow the disadvantaged a way into the profession without having to attend some law school full of browbeating jerks that teach you nothing and graduate with crippling debt so the law profs can live like rock starts.

It's got to end.

Anonymous said...


Law was once something that was difficult to understand because not everybody was educated. Now that we have state schools nearly giving away a 4 year degree, there is no need for law school. Anybody who got higher than a 3.0 in undergrad is plenty smart enough to "practice" law. If laypeople understood just how simple, vapid, and mundane the "practice" of law is, they'd be shocked that we spent 3 whole years in law school learning something that could be taught in 1 year, tops. Law schools aren't scams due to poor job prospects; they are scams because everybody, from students on up to professors, know that it does not take 3 years to learn how to practice law. Law schools are milking this archaic and outdated system for all its worth. And kids are lining up by the tens of thousands each year to enroll in law school.

I'm amazed that the 3 year law school scam doesn't get more mainstream attention. The only reason someone would need to spend 3 years "learning" law is if they want to be an academic.