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It has been well reported that the number of suits actually making it to trial has dropped sharply in recent years. By some accounts, jury trials now comprise less than 2% of all cases filed. As such, true trial lawyers, skilled at wowing juries with crafty reasoning and dramatic delivery, have far fewer opportunities to display their talents. Oddly enough, however, the hours and expense of preparing for trial have skyrocketed due in great part to the amount of e-mail and other electronic data now involved in discovery. This has sparked a boom in the market for contract attorneys who review documents more cost- effectively than associates (most are billed at less than half the rate of associates). Many companies now regularly expect their law firms to use contract talent in litigation. Indeed, in December 2005, The American Lawyer, an affiliate publication of the NLJ, reported that 77% of the 200 highest-grossing U.S. law firms use contract lawyers, and many firms report they employed more contract attorneys in 2005 than in previous years. As a result, many argue that now what clients need most are good litigation managers, not litigators. So what are firms doing to create better managers who can supervise contract talent in document reviews, and what are they doing to attract and retain the resource that has become the backbone of most litigation support functions-contract attorneys? The answer is: not much. All too often, document reviews occur in windowless rooms with dozens of contract attorneys seated at fold-out tables using computers, equipment and chairs that have been pilfered from empty offices, a jungle of wires snaking around them. Most receive little or no training and are managed by associates disgruntled because their lives have become something they did not picture when they were in law school. This is a shame, to say the least, because so much is at stake. At best, a poorly managed case results in unhappy workers and high turnover; at worst, it leads to poor work quality, mistakes and release of privilege. In short, how well a firm manages its litigation and its contract talent can make or break a case. Accordingly, the following are best practices-ideas that can help improve processes and better manage the ranks of contract attorneys. The legal staffing industry is booming in response to the demand for contract talent. In its 2006 annual forecast, published in the Feb. 24, 2006, issue of Staffing Industry Report, market research firm Staffing Industry Analysts Inc. estimates the legal staffing market will hit $1.5 billion in 2006 (growing 15% from 2005 levels). This makes legal staffing one of the fastest-growing segments of the entire staffing industry. As a result, a large number of agencies now exist, and firms must choose carefully. Firms should ensure that their agencies conduct thorough background checks and that all candidates are properly credentialed. Agency staff should recruit selectively and interview every candidate in person. (Some agencies conduct interviews by phone, especially when recruiting in a location where they have no office. Others host “cattle calls” at local coffee shops to sign up recruits.) Once an agency is selected, it is important to foster a relationship with agency staff. For example, attorneys should consider having weekly meetings with managers from the agencies they use. These meetings can provide a regular forum to give feedback and communicate the firm’s needs. As a result, agency managers get to know the firm and become more effective at selecting candidates who suit its needs. A professional environment The first step to creating a professional environment is to craft a professional workspace. If a workspace is unorganized and dysfunctional and attorneys receive second-rate tools such as clunky, slow computers and uncomfortable fold-out chairs, chances are they will not produce their best work.

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