Analysis

Revealed: Law firms’ average arrive and leave the office times 2017-18

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Who works the longest, and shortest, hours?

You don’t go into corporate law for a quiet life. Adrenaline-fuelled multi-billion pound deals, mega salaries and spectacular perks make for quite a time of it for those lucky enough to secure training contracts at the leading firms.

The trade-off, of course, are the hours. The worst thing about them is how variable — and unpredictable — they can be. It’s common for rookies to have a run of clocking off at 6:30pm followed by a series of days working until the early hours of the morning. But what time do they arrive and leave the office on average?

We asked over 2,000 trainees and junior lawyers at the 60 leading UK-based corporate law firms just this. The results, ranked by average finish time, are below.

Legal Cheek Trainee & Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18 — average arrive and leave times

LAW FIRM AVERAGE ARRIVAL TIME AVERAGE LEAVE TIME
Kirkland & Ellis 9:34am 10:02pm
Weil Gotshal 9:09am 9:09pm
Freshfields 9:19am 8:56pm
Clifford Chance 9:01am 8:45pm
Jones Day 9:07am 8:45pm
Allen & Overy 9:10am 8:43pm
Ropes & Gray 8:55am 8:42pm
Latham & Watkins 9:32am 8:38pm
White & Case 9:12am 8:33pm
Linklaters 9:14am 8:23pm
Shearman & Sterling 9:33am 8:17pm
Mayer Brown 9:15am 8:12pm
Simmons & Simmons 9:07am 8:11pm
Norton Rose Fulbright 9:09am 8:03pm
Baker McKenzie 9:09am 8:01pm
Watson Farley 9:16am 7:55pm
Macfarlanes 8:56am 7:49pm
Reed Smith 9:17am 7:46pm
BLP 9:09am 7:44pm
Dechert 8:52am 7:42pm
Hogan Lovells 9:18am 7:40pm
Ashurst 9:11am 7:39pm
CMS 9:01am 7:39pm
Dentons 8:44am 7:36pm
Herbert Smith Freehills 9:12am 7:35pm
Travers Smith 9:12am 7:32pm
Slaughter and May 9:20am 7:30pm
Stephenson Harwood 9:01am 7:24pm
K&L Gates 9:02am 7:21pm
Withers 8:49am 7:20pm
Addleshaw Goddard 8:40am 7:19pm
Taylor Wessing 8:39am 7:15pm
DLA Piper 9:09am 7:12pm
Mishcon de Reya 8:56am 7:11pm
RPC 9:01am 7:03pm
Bird & Bird 9:09am 7:02pm
Clyde & Co 9:08am 7:01pm
Ince & Co 8:58am 7:00pm
Gowling WLG 9:05am 6:58pm
Squire Patton Boggs 8:43am 6:58pm
Charles Russell Speechlys 9:11am 6:57pm
Hill Dickinson 8:24am 6:55pm
Bristows 8:50am 6:53pm
Eversheds Sutherland 8:41am 6:51pm
Howard Kennedy 9:00am 6:51pm
Forsters 8:55am 6:50pm
PwC 8:48am 6:50pm
Pinsent Masons 8:51am 6:49pm
Walker Morris 8:30am 6:49pm
Burges Salmon 8:50am 6:44pm
Fieldfisher 9:15am 6:36pm
Osborne Clarke 8:49am 6:35pm
Shoosmiths 8:41am 6:34pm
Trowers & Hamlins 8:46am 6:31pm
Bond Dickinson 8:32am 6:25pm
Mills & Reeve 8:40am 6:18pm
DWF 9:03am 6:12pm
DAC Beachroft 8:40am 6:06pm
TLT 9:00am 6:06pm
Browne Jacobson 8:37am 6:05pm
Irwin Mitchell 8:37am 6:05pm

In addition to the times, we received hundreds of comments about working hours. Perhaps because of the big money paid by the firms who work their lawyers hardest, there was not much complaining. Appreciated by many was a no face-time culture that seems increasingly common across the City. We also got notably more comments about flexible working than in last year’s survey, facilitated by a host of recent IT upgrades meaning laptops and Cloud storage systems are more common. This comment from a rookie at a leading US firm’s London office summed up the wider sentiment:

“The hours can be very long, but you know that is the case when you sign up and the firm is very good about working from home etc (as long as the work gets done).”

Still, for many flexible working remains the exception rather than the rule. There is no doubt that in certain departments it can be tough. As one magic circler told us:

“I go home just to sleep, I am in the office for every other minute of the day. That being said, I have only had to work 2 weekends over the past 4 months, which has been nice.”

Rather than focus solely on arrive and leave times, this year we have done a bit more number crunching and calculated average hours worked each day.

Legal Cheek Trainee & Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18 — average daily hours worked

LAW FIRM AVERAGE DAILY HOURS
Kirkland & Ellis 12:28
Weil Gotshal 12:00
Ropes & Gray 11:47
Clifford Chance 11:44
Jones Day 11:38
Freshfields 11:37
Allen & Overy 11:33
White & Case 11:21
Linklaters 11:09
Latham & Watkins 11:06
Simmons & Simmons 11:04
Mayer Brown 10:57
Norton Rose Fulbright 10:54
Macfarlanes 10:53
Baker McKenzie 10:52
Dentons 10:52
Dechert 10:50
Shearman & Sterling 10:44
Watson Farley 10:39
Addleshaw Goddard 10:39
CMS 10:38
Taylor Wessing 10:36
BLP 10:35
Hill Dickinson 10:31
Withers 10:31
Reed Smith 10:29
Ashurst 10:28
Herbert Smith Freehills 10:23
Stephenson Harwood 10:23
Hogan Lovells 10:22
Travers Smith 10:20
K&L Gates 10:19
Walker Morris 10:19
Mishcon de Reya 10:15
Squire Patton Boggs 10:15
Eversheds Sutherland 10:10
Slaughter and May 10:10
Bristows 10:03
DLA Piper 10:03
Ince & Co 10:02
RPC 10:02
PwC 10:02
Pinsent Masons 9:58
Forsters 9:55
Burges Salmon 9:54
Bird & Bird 9:53
Bond Dickinson 9:53
Clyde & Co 9:53
Gowling WLG 9:53
Shoosmiths 9:53
Howard Kennedy 9:51
Charles Russell Speechlys 9:46
Osborne Clarke 9:46
Trowers & Hamlins 9:45
Mills & Reeve 9:38
Browne Jacobson 9:28
Irwin Mitchell 9:28
DAC Beachroft 9:26
Fieldfisher 9:21
DWF 9:09
TLT 9:06

Handling the often gruelling hours is one of the biggest challenges for trainees and junior lawyers. Many struggle, and are helped through it by friends, family and colleagues. There are also specialist anonymous services, such as LawCare, on hand to help. Commenting on our survey results, its CEO Elizabeth Rimmer said:

“We are aware that trainees and junior lawyers can struggle with the long, and often unpredictable hours, they can be required to work. At LawCare we encourage people to talk about how they are feeling, but legal professionals often feel it’s a sign of weakness to admit they are stressed. We know that talking can help to address these issues, including those caused by working long hours. Trainees and junior lawyers can also follow good wellbeing strategies to deal with stress: planning ahead where possible, rewarding themselves when tasks are completed — and taking a break before the next one — taking a lunch break where possible. Taking exercise and eating well are also important.”

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