Revealed: Top law firms average arrive and leave the office times

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The ones who work late often get in quite late


Legal Cheek has spent the last few months gathering all sorts of data from rookie solicitors at the leading corporate law firms.

On Friday we revealed which firms scored highest for training in our survey of over 1,500 trainees and junior lawyers spanning across 56 UK-based firms. And today, on World Mental Health Day, we’re unveiling when they arrive at the office… and when they leave.

In the list below firms are ranked in order of latest departure time, but do consider also the arrival times, which vary widely.

Legal Cheek Trainee & Junior Lawyer Survey — arrive and leave times 2016

Kirkland & Ellis9:44am9:14pm
Clifford Chance9:27am8:56pm
White & Case9:20am8:55pm
Latham & Watkins9:21am8:54pm
Simmons & Simmons9:03am8:11pm
Jones Day9:04am8:08pm
Allen & Overy9:30am8:06pm
Herbert Smith Freehills9:16am8:01pm
King & Wood Mallesons9:16am7:57pm
Norton Rose Fulbright9:05am7:56pm
Reed Smith8:57am7:49pm
Shearman & Sterling9:28am7:47pm
Slaughter and May9:04am7:41pm
Baker & Mckenzie9:21am7:37pm
Mishcon de Reya8:42am7:34pm
Travers Smith9:16am7:27pm
Hogan Lovells9:06am7:22pm
Watson Farley9:17am7:22pm
Mayer Brown9:09am7:20pm
K&L Gates9:07am7:17pm
Charles Russell Speechlys8:57am7:09pm
Gowling WLG9:02am7:07pm
DLA Piper8:47am7:03pm
Taylor Wessing9:02am6:59pm
Clyde & Co8:53am6:55pm
Osborne Clarke8:53am6:51pm
Bird & Bird9:14am6:50pm
Howard Kennedy9:05am6:48pm
Addleshaw Goddard8:47am6:48pm
Pinsent Masons8:51am6:46pm
Squire Patton Boggs8:30am6:44pm
Hill Dickinson8:30am6:34pm
Bond Dickinson8:25am6:30pm
Trowers & Hamlins8:43am6:17pm
Mills & Reeve8:41am6:14pm
Irwin Mitchell8:35am6:12pm
DAC Beachroft8:38am6:08pm

Alongside the average times, we have received hundreds of comments from trainees and junior lawyers about their working hours. While most accepted that long hours were a central part of the deal they’d signed up for (the flip side being, of course, fantastic pay), the variability — and associated unpredictably — of the hours came as much more of a surprise.

Some suggested that it was impossible to estimate an average going home time, with comments like “anytime between 7pm and 4am” or even “7 on a good day, you don’t on a bad day” common among trainees at US firms’ London offices. Meanwhile, a young magic circler told us:

Sometimes I leave at 6 and it’s an absolute dream. Other times I leave at 10 and after weeks of finishing at 1, 10 feels like a dream.

Many more lamented the difficulty of making plans during the week and being able to stick to them, with another magic circle insider disclosing:

Work can overtake life but that is the case at most big firms from what friends say. Evening plans usually get delayed and sometimes cancelled.

A related complaint that came up regularly was about urgent work getting dumped on trainees and juniors’ desks relatively late in the day when they had been fairly quiet previously. Often this was blamed on the poor organisation skills of the partner or senior associate. There were also grumbles about weekend working, which is quite common during extra busy times at some top firms.

On a more positive note, many respondents to our survey noted how working hours vary vastly between departments, with “some parts of the office dead by 6.30pm whilst others are bustling until 2am” at one City outfit renowned for its long hours. Deal-driven corporate finance work was said to demand the most late nights.

With this being World Mental Health Day, we got in touch with LawCare in order to get their advice for trainees and junior lawyers who feel that they are being ground down by the long hours. The charity’s chief executive, Elizabeth Rimmer, told us:

One of the ways LawCare supports those in the legal community, and helps to break down the stigma around talking about mental health, is to be aware of the main issues affecting the legal community. There were 907 calls to the LawCare Helpline in 2015, and by far the most common issue callers reported was workplace stress, at 30% of calls. Callers mentioned long, antisocial or inflexible hours as a major factor causing them stress.

She continued with this advice:

We would encourage trainees and junior lawyers to follow some good wellbeing strategies to deal with stress, such as placing value on your personal time; planning ahead where you can; rewarding yourself when you complete a task and taking a short break before starting the next one; taking a proper lunch break where possible, and taking exercise and eating well are also important. There are plenty of positive strategies to help trainees and junior lawyers manage stress, and at LawCare we encourage people in the legal community to talk about how they are feeling and not to stay silent. Legal professionals can feel it’s a sign of weakness to admit they aren’t coping, but talking goes a long way towards addressing issues.

You can contact LawCare here.

If you would like to purchase a report containing a full breakdown of Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey results for your firm, benchmarked against the other participating firms and a custom selected group of peer firms, please contact Legal Cheek Research for more details.