Rant. I Hate Document Review Part 1.

Remember when Gregor, in Kafka’s Metamorphosis, is inexplicably transformed into a cockroach? Remember how absurd it was? Here was this mild-mannered traveling salesman who, even though middle-aged, still lives with his parents. One day he’s just an average dude eeking out his living and paying off his father’s debts. The next morning – bam – he’s crawling up walls, antenna wiggling, hairy legs and all that. Or so it seems. I like to think that Gregor was really turned into a cockaroach. It is much more satisfying.Anyhow, my point is that, the whole thing was absurd. You know what else is patently absurd? Legal document review projects. I’m not going to describe how utterly demoralizing the work is. That’s a complaint for another day. I’m just going to describe how absurd it is.

First, if you don’t know what document review is, I wish I was you. But generally, during litigation, there is a phase called discovery. As the name implies, discovery is when parties to a lawsuit gather evidence from each other to prove or disprove their case. For example, the plaintiffs will send the defendants a whole slew of requests for production of evidence. Since we are in the future, but not quite entirely so because we are talking about lawyers here, the defendants will respond to the requests by dumping a hard drive full of emails and other documents on the plaintiffs. But wait, the defendants, if they aren’t stupid, will have already gone through those documents and taken out the stuff they don’t want the other side to see.

Okay so who gets the lucky task of shifting through a terabyte of garbage? Well first, probably a computer application. That will eliminate some of the bullshit. What’s left over will be deposited into another program called a review platform. Then about a billion crappy, low caste, attorneys like me will get to shift through the dregs. We’re tasked with “analyzing,” realistically quickly eyeballing for specific words, topics, or email addresses, and sorting the documents into categories. Is something relevant? It goes into this pile. Did an attorney write that email? It goes into that pile. Anyhow, it’s generally crap work.

But you know what? It’s work. It’s basic. It’s useful at the end of the day. So, it wouldn’t be too bad where it not for the absurd legal hierarchy that surrounds it.

Somewhere along the way, some big shot fucker decided, as they usually do, that he wanted a legal fiefdom. Legal fiefdoms are like the main business structure of law. You get a partner – the landowner – who brings in the cases; the associate – the tenant farmer – who works the cases; and the paralegal – the mule – who really does all the work.

But what happens when the big shot can’t build his fiefdom in a law firm? Well he builds it elsewhere. Like at a document review center. There he can lord his magnificence around, while still paying homage to the real attorneys who deem to give him work.

Anyhow, it’s an infuriatingly stupid system that is never going to change. Today was a prime example of how absurd this shit is. So last week, I got a recruitment email for a one week gig. I can do one week without gauging my eyes out, so I agreed to join the project.

So I get to the review center and I’m ushered into a moderately sized room. I really don’t have the mind for guessing at dimensions, which is why I’m a crap lawyer, so you’re going to have to trust me when I say moderately sized. Use your imagination.

The room is arranged in an open office, bench style setup. So it’s already cheap real estate trick hell.  There are six tables and 10 people to a table, five on one side and five on the other. Computer displays are set up at each workstation, but really lawyers are crammed in together like sardines. I take my seat. I’m not the largest person in the world, but every time someone walks behind me, they hit my chair. There’s not much room to maneuver.

For the first hour and a half, we read the materials given to us by the big muckity muck attorneys who are paying our shekels. We are told that the biggest king – the partner – will make an appearance and he may even be nice to us. Dare to dream.

It happens, the big partner type attorney shows up and starts to train us. The case is stupid. The partner thinks the case is stupid. It is a stupid case. The partner tells us that he just doesn’t care about the documents. Nevertheless, the fucking gunner ducks, or something, of the place – in a document review context we are lower than paralegals, we are itinerant workers, going from plot of land to plot of land as the harvest requires – so I guess ducks isn’t right. Anyhow, there are some real bootlickers in there and they keep peppering the partner with questions about the review – what if we see a document like this? What if there is a key document that will blow up the entire case?

Damnit fuckers, the partner just said that he didn’t care about the documents. He just explained the posture of the case, where we are in discovery, what he’s trying to do in producing this garbage. Why are you still acting like these questions are super important?

Fine, so after like three hours of that, I figure we are ready to start. But no. The documents aren’t loaded. So someone smartly asks how many documents there are. Crickets.  No one knows. The review manager doesn’t know. The partner doesn’t know. Luckily, the partner assures us that they delivered a big hard drive to the review center the week before.

What the fuck does that mean? A big hard drive? You get that they don’t just cram a bunch of paper in there and weigh it? You get that data comes in bits and bytes and megabytes and terabytes and that a “big hard drive” means nothing. I have a tiny solid state drive that can hold a gig of data. You have no clue. You all just hired sixty suckers to possibly only go through five documents. How’s that even…what is that?

Oh, but we are assured that they may expand the group to eighty reviewers. Why? You don’t even know how many documents we are supposed to look at. Moreover, you just told us that your fancy ass computers are going to cull down the documents to the most likely to be relevant. Why am I fucking here?

I hate document review.

Royal Caribbean Bored As Fuck Drinking Challenge

The Challenge: I am deathly bored on a Royal Caribbean cruise of the Western Caribbean. But I sprung for the unlimited drinks package. So now I am going to booze my way through this damn shop. I will try to sample every cocktail on this big ass ship. Stinky, my long suffering husband, will be along for the ride.

The Prize: hopefully not pancreatitis.

And now…the bars –

1. R Bar > Menu

1a. R Bar > “Lets Get Fizzical”

a. Looks: Golden

b. Smells: like tea

c. Tastes: like Lipton Iced Tea

d. Stinky says: it is not so much that it tastes like tea; it has a very lemony taste with too much sugar; reminiscent of Lipton bottled tea products.

e. Verdict: Gross

Some Book Reviews

Vox (Hardcover)
by Christina Dalcher

This book was obviously published to ride the coattails of Hulu’s rendition of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”  This is fine, but this book isn’t very good.  It reads more like a generic thriller, than a true examination of how life would be for a woman who is limited to only 100 (or whatever) words per day.

The lack of knowledge, even underlying, of the historical and current treatment of women is what limited my enjoyment of this book.  The book takes a very superficial look at the implications of this sort world.  It, weirdly, ignores the fact that women have historically suffered as second-class citizens in just about every society.  Moreover, women are still normatively treated as “lesser” humans in several countries and by most ideologies and religions.

Why does this matter? Because, if I remember correctly, the protagonist doesn’t seem to realize this.  Even though she’s well-educated and accomplished, she’s also vapid.  Her husband is dumb as a rock too.  I don’t know why they are even married.  They seem limited by lack of curiosity and introspection.  That’s really a shame.

I read it while lounging in my pool.  It was a fast read and entertaining.  It just not particularly profound.  Anyhow, the book is okay for what it is – a generic medical thriller

 

The Ultimate Solution (Mass Market Paperback)
by Eric Norden

 

The Ultimate Solution, by Eric Norden, was written and published in the 1970s.  It is currently out of print.  Last I checked, a used copy can be had from Amazon for about $35.

 

The reason this book is out of print, and will, lamentably remain so, is because it is an absolutely haunting and brutal portrayal of life in New York if the Nazi’s had won World War II.  Norden succinctly – it is really very short – describes a world devoid of compassion, empathy, and kindness.  Most of the scenes are incredibly graphic and hard to read, but they are necessary to show the sheer madness of a world that contains no check on the baser instincts of humanity.

 

This book is police procedural.  The protagonist is a detective who has been born and raised in a world where Jews no longer exist.  They have been exterminated.  Moreover, humans of African descent have been either exterminated or lobotomized; Slavs are enslaved; children are placed in sexual slavery; and no one bats an eye.  The detective is tasked with finding a Jew who has inexplicably appeared in New York.

 

The great thing about this novel is its sheer unadulterated brutality.  There’s no relief, because Norden creates a world that is foreign and ugly.  But it’s a world that should be recognized as a possibility, because we’ve been there before.

 

Anyhow, if you’re very queasy or easily upset by graphic and nonchalant portrayals of violence and meanness, don’t read this book.  Otherwise, I highly recommend it.

 

Frozen Earth (Audible Audio)
by Jasper T. Scott

 

Frozen Earth, by Jasper T. Scott, is absolutely, unabashedly, exhilaratingly nuts. This is your basic book about a middle-aged family man who, while coming to terms with his wife’s infidelity, is thrust into a madcap adventure involving Nibiru, an ice age, a Mars colony, artificial ocean habitats, and Spanish speaking robots.

This book is not particularly coherent.  Our hero, Logan Willis, is a fickle guy who second guesses himself at every turn.  Yet! Yet! Logan is incredibly dutiful.  For example, Logan loses his job on or about the time the world is told that Nibiru is coming. Instead of running for the hills like any competent survivalist or floundering in a morass of self-pity, Logan spends months searching for a new job.  Similarly, he is bound and determined to keep is family together.  Regardless, Logan can’t seem to wrap his head about the fact that he is, in fact, in a disaster scenario.  Nope, he just keeps plugging along, family in tow.

This book is really very fun.  Recommended for the sheer nonsensical hilarity of it.

Day 45 – Into a Dark Corridor

No escape.Had to abandon escape route two week ago. Now somehow, I have muddled into a dark corridor. Salt on all sides. Behind me, the light is fading.

Intermittently, I hear a sound – click, click, click. A perfunctory and hollow sound, made somehow more ominous with each step I take into the corridor. Is someone following me? Too late, I realize the sound, the terrible click, is emanating from my very self.

Even so I continue on. I’m lost in a haze of uncertainty. It seems to me that the path behind me has closed. So I can’t go back. I can’t choose to undue choices I made earlier in my journey. Now, the path, which was once as expansive as the ocean and open on all sides, has narrowed considerably.

The best course of action may be to stop and take stock of my decisions. Possibly, I should re-evaluate my course. Perhaps other paths, options, magic portals, etc, are available. Or most likely, what I see before me – the narrow dark deep that lies beyond – is all the course I have regardless of rationalization.

Brutal Week on the Job Search Front

I was rejected for four jobs in the past two weeks.  This is good thing, because at least recruiters are seeing my resume and giving me calls.  This is bad thing, because it is so demoralizing.  But you know, my previous job was frustrating, stressful, and demoralizing too.  So what can you do?

Look, I am basically not qualified to work anywhere at this point.  I’m over-educated in the wrong disciplines.  I have too much experience in the wrong jobs.  I have too little experience.  I am not an expert in this particular software. I hate lawyers, generally.  I hate the legal field in a macro sense.  Furthermore, my hygiene is atrocious. My fingernails are bite weary. I am frumpy.  I’m fat.  I’m toasty brown.  I come from the dry lands of West Texas.  I’m flippant.  I’m badly, badly polished. Badly polished. Like I’m so socially awkward, inelegant and unrefined that I’m practically gauche.  Gauche y’all! I will not do.

I am planning to move on.  I just want to bitch about the application process for the position I was just rejected for.   It was a temporary position as a eDiscovery Attorney.  The listed duties included leading a team of document reviewers, conducting quality control of said reviewer’s documents, and groveling beneath the shining intelligence of the real attorney, i.e. some dewy skinned first year right out of Southern Methodist University Law School (the Harvard Law School of Texas.)**

The position was advertised as scheduled to last three to six months.  I took that to mean that it would last, at most, four months, but only if you were good.  I didn’t think I perfectly qualified, but I am getting bored staying at home all day, so I applied any ways.  In retrospect, I probably didn’t qualify at all, since I’m bitter, brilliant, and bulbous, but like you never know, right?  Truth is I figured, I could do it.  I suffer from an extraordinary case of “that job isn’t rocket science, quit treating it like it is, you insufferable person”-itis.”

So after I submitted the application, a recruiter contacted me via email to set up a call.

Wonderful.

On the day of the call, I was actually working on a temporary document review, so I had to go outside to take the call.  I chatted the recruiter.  He was very nice and understanding, even though we were conducting the call surrounded by the noises of careening traffic and an impending thunderstorm.  Anyhow, I was sort of honest, I did lead a team of document reviewers once.

Decent.

The next day, I had a skype call with the recruiter.  It also went well.  At the end, my new best guy friend basically said I would be submitted for the job.   This induced me to agree to 1. fill out a long ass application, 2. submit my details for a background search, and 3. contact my references.   Also, he told me the hourly rate, which was more than fair.

Yay!

Hold on, backing up here…

Read I didn’t think I was going actually GET THE JOB.  I thought I was filling out reams of paperwork, allowing strangers to search through my credit and criminal reports, and bothering my references, in order the chance – the mere, fucking chance – to get an interview for a three month contract position!  Think about that.  Let that fucking sink in.  This took another day.  For a 3 month temporary position as a glorified document review attorney!

But, because I’m an optimistic dumbass, I I figured I was a lock on interviewing with the client.  I mean he told me I would be submitted! Again, what kind of dumbass am I that I actually believe a recruiter?  Am I 20 years old? Am I sitting in a meeting with other dumbasses hoping to sell Cut-Co knives door to door? Am I?! Well, that was me, but that’s not me anymore because I’m fucking almost 40 years old.

Today, he calls me and says something like*, “Nope…we are totally not going to submit your sorry ass, because we literally found other people who are way more qualified than you.  Also you’re a complete fucktard for filling out the paperwork, the background check, and allowing us to bother your references.  Also, for your information honey, did you actually contact your references?  Because they really think you’re a retard.  And really, even though it’s 2018 and we’ve collectively agreed as a progressive society to stop calling people retarded in polite society, I’ve got to say that I tend to agree that you, my dear, are a retard.  Have a nice day.”

 

*Not verbatim; my blog, my liberties with reality.

** Not really a thing, no.

#StayAtHomeDogMom My Dogs. My Dogs. My Kingdom for My Dogs.

IMG_0689In my many meaningless meanderings I often muse about mutts in my midst.  Much has been written about dogs lately, as the fertility rates of Americans fall, rates of ownership of canines rise.  If I were some sort of fundamentalist I would, no doubt, rue this consequence of wealth, feminism, and birth control.  Alas I am no fundamentalist, rather, I’m a lady approaching middle age who often wonders why has no one, not one person, written about my dogs?  What’s up with that?

Let’s rectify that.  I have three dogs.  First let’s talk about Pachuco.   Pachuco (“Chuco”) is a merle chihuahua.  He weighs 8.6 lbs.  He is nine years old.  It took Chuco a good seven years to garner the courage to leave the cozy confines of his domicile and venture into the great outdoors.

Like any chihuahua worth his salt, Chuco relishes a good fight.  He is always spoiling to go paw to paw with the hapless and howling canine enemies behind countless fences.  Chuco particularly enjoys his almost daily forays near, what my husband has deemed, “The Gauntlet.”.’

The Gaunlet comprises of a series of about four backyards that abut the trail across from my house.  Each yard houses one or two dogs of various makes and sizes.  I’ve never actually met any of the dogs.   I’ve only ever heard them.

Each early evening, most likely after dinner, they muster outside near their respective wooden fences and wait.  They wait for the tiny patter of tiny paws.  They sniff the air in anticipation of meeting their doom.  The doom that will be surely dealt to them by the vicious Pachuco!  And this is why they bark and growl.  This is why they wallow in horror and yelp in fear as Chuco high steps toward the Gauntlet.

They are lucky, really, that their masters and mistresses have seen fit to equip their territories with fences.  The fences are not to keep them in, no!  They are too keep them protected from the Pachuco.  Small and ferocious is he.  He with the brown spots.  He with the upturned and straight tail.  Chuco the greatest Chihuahua in Texas! Or even, the world!

What Does a Document Review Attorney Do?    

A common refrain among attorneys and other legal professionals is that if there is something like the dregs of legal work, it is document review.  In the past, say thirty years ago, most business was conducted on paper.  I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect, that paper was fairly expensive.  I suspect this because paper is created from trees and while trees are ostensibly a renewable resource, they are not particularly easy to grow. Moreover, the Western world didn’t get an abundance of paper until, probably, the early to mid 20th Century.  Then, during the 60s and 70s, people became very much aware about the decimation of forests by lumber companies in order to produce, among other things, paper and, well, paper stayed expensive.  I’m talking in relative terms. Obviously, I haven’t conducted any research on this this subject.  I’m speculating.

Mostly, I came up with the above speculation in order to make one point – namely, the cost of paper was a natural buttress against the proliferation of data.  However, since most business is no longer conducted on paper, there is no longer any natural buttress against the overwhelming creation of data.  This is a good thing on a macro level.

On a legal level, the constant creation of data, be it via email, or word-processing, or databases, or any other myriad of places, means that the work that was once solely relegated to a few first-year associates must now be parceled out to dozens of underemployed attorneys.  And it must be parceled out cheaply.

The legal world is very hierarchical.  Everyone has their place, and in this world, document review attorneys (aka contract attorneys) occupy the lowest rung.

What do document review attorneys do?  They review data.

They look at contracts, emails, text messages, and other errata for eight to twelve hours a day.  They sit, let’s say ten to a row, in front of workstations set atop elongated, and often flimsy, desks that are placed in horizontal formation to fill an, often poorly lit, room.  They eat at their desks.  They sip coffee from mugs.  Usually the coffee isn’t that bad.  Neither is the water.  And sometimes, oh sometimes, there are even snacks.

They listen to music, or audiobooks, or podcasts.  Sometimes they surreptiously scribble notes into notepads, because they have real clients, and this job is to keep food on the table and pay student loans.  If the reviewers know each other, and often the long-timers do, they keep a constant, knowing chatter.

“This isn’t so bad.”

“It could be worse.   Remember?  Where you on that project?”

“I was on the so and so project for eighteen months.”

“I remember.  The CFTC kept coming back and asking for more documents.”

Or more quietly, “Why is she watching constantly watching Netflix?”

Or anxiously, “How many documents we have to review an hour?”

Or more anxiously, “I hope we get paid on time this week.”

Or even more anxiously, “I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, I hope I don’t get blacklisted from this shop.”

And so on, but eventually, “This isn’t so bad.”

They crowd into tiny bathrooms that lack toilet paper.  Sometimes they drink at their desks.  Sometimes they complain about having to take a thirty-minute break, because that will cut into the money they earn. Sometimes the team lead is power hungry.  Often the project manager is a non-attorney who is at the mercy of an overly optimistic sales manager.  Respect is in short supply.  They are on the “review line” after all, meaning they couldn’t cut it in the real legal world.

After three weeks of twelve hours days spent sitting in front of a glowing screen, they become pale and bedraggled and, somewhat, “out of it.”  They are not quite there.  Yet they are ready the next day, ready decide whether a document is relevant – is connected to the case – or irrelevant – not connected to the case.  Sometimes they code for privilege – did a real attorney give advice to the client.  Sometimes not.

The oldest among them remember the good old days.  The days before technology assisted review, where the software helpfully spits out only those documents that it calculated to be potentially relevant.  Or even further back, in the days before most people had internet at home and so did all of their porn viewing and email on their work computers.  In those mythic and halcyon days, a document reviewer could, every so often, stumble across an illicit affair, or a character sheet for a Dungeons and Dragons dwarf warrior.

Not so much now.  Not so much now.

Michelle Wolf Scares Me

Michelle Wolf is not funny.  Let me step back.  I like to listen to NPR in the morning.  This morning, I heard these words as I lay on my pillow, Pork Chop’s big pug butt to my face, “”I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. But she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye…” And I thought, “poor Sarah! Leave Sarah alone!” And then I cried.

Not really, I actually thought,” wow, that lady I not funny. She seems kind of mean.”

Later, as I sat in my office, eating a big faux pot brownie, I heard the voice again, but this time she was being interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air.  I learned that her name is Michelle Wolf, that she’s a comedienne, that she was a correspondent for the Daily Show, and that she’s under fire for her act at the White House correspondent’s dinner.

Who the fuck watches the White House correspondent’s dinner?  If you are watching that broadcast and are not intimately related to one of the participants, you should be ashamed of yourself.  It’s just another celebrity/journalist jerk off fest.  Seriously, go for a walk.

Before this morning, I didn’t know who Michelle Wolf was.  I quit my job recently.  I’ve been doing document review.  Document review is legit.  You sit around for roughly nine hours a day and review documents.  Your time is so absorbed by sheer tediousness that you don’t have any time for CNN or basic hygiene.  Alas, a post is for another time.

This post is to rant about mean girl Michelle Wolf.  Michelle Wolf is a mean girl.  Her comedy is laced with smug, mean, bitterness. People, apparently, lap that shit up.  Not I, because women like her have always intimidated me. She was a track star.  She majored in P.E. in college.  So, of course, she’s the smartest bitch in the room.  And she is a bitch, that’s her shtick.  Like her comedy special is called “Nice Lady,” and, in it, she revels in not being a nice lady.  Or so, it seems.

I’ve not watched her comedy special, because, again, women like her scare the hell out of me.  In my experience, super-athletic smart girls who are better than everyone else, are super judgmental.  Like, for example, they often do not like fat girls. And I’m a fat girl.  They often don’t understand silly people. And I’m a silly person.  They often don’t like people who can’t run fast.  And I can’t run fast.

I will admit, however, that she can say some hilarious things.  On Fresh Air, she said something like, “I’m a science person…I majored in kiniesology in college.”  Hilarious.

 

I Sometimes like Margaritas

In the summer, after a drenching summer rain has passed, and the sun begins to sear when not hidden by bulbous grey and white clouds, I like to go outside and lay on my hammock and read. Now on these days, the weather is not particularly cool. 


Often, however, a cooling breeze filters the heat enough so that it is just possible to comfortably lie very still, under the hammock’s canopy and enjoy some Cold War era science fiction.


When I am chilling in my digs down here in Texas’ Gulf Coast, I sometimes like to partake in a classic libation called the Margarita. This tasty and refreshing concoction is by no means my own creation. You may well know it. It comes in various costumes, most, no doubt, festooned in colorful suger draped nightmares. The most egegiously awful are those created with sour or premade margerita mix. But who am I to judge? I don’t like too much sweet and my comfort food is an episode of King of the Hill.
I like a tangy, lime drenched margarita with triple sec, contreau, tequila, and a splash of soda water. The contreau allows just a bit of sweetness to an otherwise limey drink. The triple sec, well, it makes the drink good too.

Sources of Yeast for Beer

There’s this show on television where some blonde haired broad from California apparently wonders around the country tasting homemade craft beer.  Her name is Meg Gill.  She loves beer.  She also seems to be looking for home brewer to steal a recipe from or some such nonsense.  Okay, maybe “steal” isn’t the right word.  I think she’s holding a contest of some sort.  Like whomever wins, gets to have their beer brewed in an actual, real-life brewery.  So anyhow…

In one particular episode, this chick is wondering around New York City, hanging out with hipsters, and drinking beer when she encounters a self-styled anarchist. The anarchist lives in a house.  The anarchist seems clean, well-groomed, and clothed.  The anarchist has a job, because anarchists have to eat too.  He also brews beer.  He wins the contest, because anarchists are all about competition.

The most interesting thing about this anarchist fella is that he sources yeast from a log.  He found the log in a park somewhere.  This makes him unique because yeast is pretty important to the production of delicious beer.  Also there are many sources of yeast.  Basically yeast adds flavor to beer.  From what I understand, if you ferment strawberries with yeast, or something…look I really don’t understand the science behind this, but I think the yeast eats the strawberries and poops in the mixture or whatever, and “magic” beer that tastes like strawberries eventually appears in your closet.

Anyhow, upon hearing about log yeast, I thought – “I create beer using yeast harvested from my very own, special, vagina.”

Of course, I thought this was hilarious.  I’m sad that way.  So I immediately skyped my husband, because he was in the bathroom and I can’t say such marvelous thoughts aloud when my a dad is around.  My dad is sitting right here.  My dad thinks dark drinks, like coca cola and Guinness, are the devil.  I asked my dad why he thought this.  And he didn’t answer, so my assumption is that he’s a stealth Mormon or something.

I also skyped my sister, Pat.  Pat sends me a picture of her new couch in response.  This makes me sad.  I want a reaction, damnit.  I can’t keep vulgar stuff like this to myself.  Finally she responds – “Eww, tab, eww.”