Second Circuit Holds That Contract Attorneys Performing Document Review Can Assert Unpaid Overtime Claims

On July 23, 2015, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that licensed contract attorneys performing document review can assert claims for unpaid overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The case is titled Lola v. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and a copy of the opinion is here.

Contract attorneys reviewing documents and coding are typically classified as “exempt” from receiving overtime premium pay and are either paid a salary or a straight hourly rate for all hours worked.

In reaching its conclusion, the Second Circuit held that document review does not constitute practicing law in North Carolina per se, because the practice of law requires the exercise of at least a modicum of independent legal judgment.  The court noted that the contract attorney at issue alleges that he performed the document review “under such tight constraints that he exercised no legal judgment whatsoever – he alleges that he used criteria developed by others to simply sort documents into different categories.  A fair reading of the complaint in the light most favorable to Lola is that he provided services that a machine could have provided.”

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