In the latest chapter in the ongoing saga regarding contract attorneys claiming to be overtime eligible, Judge Ronnie Abrams of the Southern District of New York ruled that a contract attorney reviewing documents for litigation firm Quinn Emanuel was “practicing law” and thus exempt from overtime pursuant to 29 C.F.R. § 541.304(a)(1). Henig v. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, S.D.N.Y., No. 1:13-cv-01432, 12/30/15.
Describing the detailed, multi-leveled, often “rote” document review process utilized in high stakes litigation, Judge Abrams observed that “[n]ot all of it is law at its grandest,” but concluded that “all of it is the practice of law.” Because Plaintiff Henig’s role in that document review process “involved the type of professional judgment necessary to be engaged in the practice of law” as defined in the state of New York, the Court concluded he was engaged in the practice of law within the meaning of the FLSA regulation, and thus exempt.
Utilizers of contract attorney labor can take heart in Henig, recognizing that the door remains open to similar claims absent controlling appellate authority.