Due Diligence

When I was practicing law in the early 1990s, mergers and acquisitions were booming--and so were the corporate law departments of big firms that handled the legal aspects of the deal. One of the most time-consuming and tedious aspect of a corporate affiliation was the process of doing "due diligence"--before the affiliation was authorized, lawyers for each party looked through mountains and mountains of legal paperwork of the other party to make sure there were no unanticipated problems or liabilities. The work was usually done by first-and second-year associates, under the direction of a beleaguered fourth year associate, who reported to the partner in charge of the case. While tedious, it was still considered "professional work"--you needed enough training to spot the problem. Consequently, it was billed as (entry level) professional work. If I recall, the going rate then was on average about $150 per hour; it would be higher now. A big affiliation could require weeks of work by three or four associates.In the litigation field, the analogous type of work was document review in the course of discovery.Now, that work will be done by computers.

Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.

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