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on Thursday, 28 August 2014 in Law

In today’s global economy, US law firms are increasingly called upon to manage or defend clients in a variety of ways across borders or at home with respect to foreign operations. Often, this leads to copious amounts of review work that must be performed by the firm who, in turn, have to recruit outside the firm in order to complete the project. Indeed, finding people with the necessary language skills can present a challenge. At Circonlex, we have been helping clients address these issues for over 5 years and have extensive experience with foreign documents and translation. From this experience we have compiled a check list for firms to help them manage document review teams and provide the best possible service to clients while keeping costs in-line with expectations. The following general guidelines have been put together over the years in order to help law firms staff and manage contract attorneys during review projects.


This is by far the most important and, perhaps, the most difficult task, especially since associates and partners may not have the knowledge necessary to evaluate the language skills of applicants. Even though, generally, applicants must pass through two screens before they are hired, both the staffing agency and attorneys may be unable to properly vet applicants. The firm should determine whether the contract attorneys will be reviewing and translating or simply reviewing from a cost perspective as well as how detailed the translations should be when evaluating skills. The person ultimately responsible for hiring should use the following practical guidelines to compose an effective team:

  • Interview and hire both native English and native speakers of the foreign language. An effective team will be comprised of a mix of native English speakers and native speakers of the source language. This allows the team members to parse through documents and better understand the issues presented,
  • When hiring native English speakers immersion is vital: the applicant should have experience in a country in which the source language is spoken,
  • Actually contact references once a short list has been prepared,
  • Foreign nationals, unless they have a green card or were employed before-hand, will often be on OPT visas that will last only one year after they completed their LLM. Long-term projects will require the firm to go through the visa process or find new talent at the end of their visas,
  • Personalities will be difficult to judge but the hiring attorney should keep in mind that a foreign LLM student will view the job as an opportunity whereas a JD will likely perceive a contract attorney position as a step down.
  • Prior business or legal experience would be optimal as, at times, applicants from a more administrative/government background will likely require more time devoted to managing them,
  • Beware of serial document review attorneys or those who have been fired from projects,
  • Keep an open mind, sometimes the best credentials will not yield the best results.


Law firms generally do not involve contract attorneys in the substantive issues presented in a case or due diligence, which is the leading cause of problems between the law firm and third party reviewers. We believe that the firm should select two or three contract attorneys to be the primary contacts for the associates and partners handling the matter. Managing the people aspect of a document review can be very difficult, especially with contract attorneys. In our experience the following methods will ensure a smoother process:

  • Get the contract attorneys involved by explaining the case fully and setting out some of the legal arguments that the firm plans to utilize. This keeps the contract attorneys focused and makes them feel like part of the team and will, ultimately, reduce review time by associates as the documents will be more responsive,
  • Create a detailed memorandum explaining what is expected from the review team and the procedures that should be followed to avoid any potential misunderstandings, this will be time consuming on the front end but the time savings later will make it well worth the time,
  • Select, once the project has begun, two or three contract attorneys to be responsible for the work product and as whom to contact with issues. These attorneys will be less involved in the preliminary review but will have more responsibilities for secondary review and to handle the day to day questions and problems that may arise with other reviewers,
  • For extremely technical legal documents reviewers should work in tandem, one JD with one LLM,
  • Provide a workspace that is not entirely separate from the associates and partners,
  • Provide continual updates and information. Select an associate who will meet with the team on a weekly basis beyond the reporting provided by the two or three contract attorney contacts,
  • Make sure that the LLM reviewers are in constant contact with the responsible contract attorneys, they can best determine the materiality and consequences of the foreign documents,
  • Treat the team as equals, many times the relationship between contract attorneys and associates will become adversarial and this will lead to an ineffective use of time.


Trusting the review team to find all the important or responsive documents is a leap of faith that many firms are loathe to undertake. The memorandum issued to the contract attorneys should be as vast as possible without including all the documents for secondary review so as to catch all responsive or important documents. In our experience, associates and partners should handle tertiary review, allowing the contract attorneys to handle the preliminary review and the responsible contracts attorneys to conduct secondary review.

  • Divide the documents into reasonable amounts, the responsible contract attorneys should distribute tasks once a reviewer has finished an allotment and should monitor progress,
  • Divide documents by language.  There is no extra value in paying the more expensive foreign language review rates when a substantial portion of the documents are already in English.
  • Determine whether the documents should be fully translated or summarized, large documents should be outsourced,
  • Remember that for admissibility in court, if the document is translated by an attorney, the attorney can simply provide an affirmation of accuracy,
  • Discovery materials received may be difficult to categorize and organize, but if this is possible (privileged, transactions, by entity) it is a time saver and can be given to certain contract attorneys who will become very familiar with those particular documents.



Very large documents (3,000 or more words) should be outsourced. This will likely not lead to overall savings to the client but it will save time. A few things to consider:

  • Planning ahead can save a huge amount of money as rush rates are likely to be 100% more,
  • Try to use the same company/translator for the same types of documents to ensure continuity,
  • Consider receiving a preliminary summary of the document in question to see if translation truly is necessary
  • No translation will ever be perfect.


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Circonlex was created in 2008 in order to address the need for higher quality legal, financial and technical translations.


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