Second Circuit reverses dismissal of contract attorney overtime claim against Skadden

Posted on: July 24th, 2015 by Steve Larson

wagesThe Second Circuit has reversed the dismissal of temporary attorneys’ putative overtime class action against Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, saying document review work doesn’t necessarily amount to practicing law.  The appellate panel agreed with the lower court’s conclusion to look to North Carolina law in determining whether plaintiff David Lola was practicing law under the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act, but said in remanding the case that the trial court erred in concluding that “engaging in document review per se constitutes practicing law.”

“A fair reading of the complaint in the light most favorable to Lola is that he provided services that a machine could have provided. The parties themselves agreed at oral argument that an individual who, in the course of reviewing discovery documents, undertakes tasks that could otherwise be performed entirely by a machine cannot be said to engage in the practice of law,” Circuit Judge Rosemary Pooler wrote.

The panel, which heard oral arguments in May, vacated a Sept. 16 ruling that granted a motion to dismiss from Skadden and fellow defendant Tower Legal Staffing Inc. The lower court’s finding said that Lola and other contract attorneys were exempt from the FLSA as licensed attorneys engaged in the practice of law. Lola argued that the work he did was too menial to count as practicing law.