Second Circuit reverses dismissal of contract attorney overtime claim against Skadden

July 24, 2015 by

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.

Steve Larson
An experienced trial lawyer who handles both hourly and contingent fee cases, Steve has expertise in class actions, consumer cases, antitrust litigation, securities litigation, corporate disputes, intellectual property disputes, unfair competition claims, employment matters, and disputes involving family wealth. Steve regularly represents individuals and businesses in federal and state court and has obtained class-wide recovery in multiple class actions. A veteran practitioner, Steve's clients value his creative approach to resolving complex litigation matters.

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