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BigLaw's Contract Attorneys Don't do Quality Work: McDermott Suit

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on August 04, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

J-M Manufacturing Co., the plaintiff in the McDermott malpractice suit, amended its complaint last week, adding new allegations of professional negligence directed at the law firm's contract attorneys.

In addition to originally claiming that McDermott's attorneys failed to properly supervise its off-site staff attorneys, the lawsuit now alleges that the contract attorneys also "negligently performed their duties."

Their duties being document review.

The McDermott malpractice suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court back in June, stems from the firm's representation of J-M Manufacturing in a government investigation that was launched after a former employee filed a whistleblower suit.

McDermott gave prosecutors 250,000 documents, nearly 4,000 of which are privileged. These documents were then transferred from prosecutors to the whistleblower's attorneys, who refuse to destroy them.

Though attorney malpractice isn't anything new, the McDermott case really pinpoints the problem with contract attorneys, which seem to be the new norm in the legal field.

When you put dozens of people in an off-site office and ask them to sort through hundreds of thousands of documents without breaks and job security, you're not going to get quality product.

While a first year associate is trying to impress senior associates and partners, a contract attorney is just trying to make enough money on which to live. There's no incentive, besides amorphous ethical duties, to go the extra mile.

Plus, there's rarely any measure of success beyond productivity.

With this being the new norm, one can expect the McDermott malpractice suit to find some similar company soon.

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