Temp Lawyers in Limelight as Lawsuit against McDermott Proceeds
A contentious lawsuit filed by a former client against law firm McDermott Will & Emery is putting the spotlight on the widespread use by the legal industry of roaming “contract” attorneys who check documents for a much lower hourly wages.
J-M Manufacturing Co., the largest plastic pipe maker in the world, hired McDermott 5 years ago to help them answer the requests of prosecutors for documents after a former worker filed a whistleblower lawsuit.
The Los Angeles-based J-M, last week amended its pending lawsuit, discarding a couple of allegations against the law firm while adding others, which include that the contract attorneys that McDermott used “negligently performed their duties.”
Filed before a California state court in Los Angeles last June, the legal malpractice suit is being perceived in the industry as a vital case with regards to the quality of work done by the growing cadre of contract lawyers who earn as low as $25 to $30 an hour to check and analyze documents related to litigations, internal company inquiry, or regulatory requests for documents.
Last week, a response was filed by McDermott to the initial complaint, which denies the claims of J-M. However, the firm has not filed an answer yet to the amended complaint of J-M. A spokesman for the firm said that the allegations that it neglected to properly supervise temp lawyers are “baseless.”
The hourly rates that agencies charge for temp lawyers are just a small fraction of what a first-year associate working in a large law firm usually bill for an hour.