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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53 Comments

Legna & Lived

Is this what you aspire to be? Lawyers that sacrifice their life and freedom to the corporate image just because you desire the image and money. If so join our firm, Clifford Chance.

Anonymous

Just realised your name is Angel & Devil backwards.

Anonymous

Is that the firm where fee earners are offered a choice of an incontinence pad or a leg-bag so as to ensure that billable hours are not diminished by un-necessary lavatory breaks?

Anonymous

Please you just think about the client while taking a dump and then its billable.

Oxana

Used to work like this for over 10 years and in different time zones, with flights and work in plane, miss it so much!!! Most interesting and exciting experience of my life, I would join!)

Anonymous

Longer hours at CMS and Addleshaws than Slaughters? Something isn’t right here!

Anonymous

Slaughters hours are not that bad. The start times are interesting: much later for magic circle and US firms. You really do get a rubbish deal at the northern firms. Leave not that early, start very early, earn a fraction of what you would in London.

A little S&M

S&M’s hours are actually pretty cushy unless you are on a deal or on their “show pony” round for partnership or you’re sitting with a supervisor senior associate who is on “show around”, so working liking a nut. Almost no chance of promotion but the deal is pretty good for the first three or four years – great work, nice office, cheerful company, decent social life and hours are very tolerable. Salary, benefits etc are also rather competitive these days. You just need to forget that the partners are making 15+ times your salary and the end will come for most eventually.

Anonymous

I think the words “fuck that” spring to mind.

(69)(104)

Anonymous

This bears absolutely no resemblance to reality, at least for my firm but I suspect this applies to most if not all the firms listed.

s.32 Salmon Act 1986

You have got to think that Kirkland’s graduate recruitment team are underpaid. They are selling students a product that involves AVERAGE working days of over 12 hours, plus a retention rate of 56%. So if you sign up as a Kirkland trainee, the deal is that you will be beasted until your eyeballs bleed and then you have a 1 in 2 chance of getting canned. And yet every year the graduate recruitment team fool 9 people into taking that deal. Whatever Kirkland are paying the graduate recruitment team, it’s not enough.

Honest Recruiter.

I really doubt they all get ‘canned’ some will invariably choose to leave because they don’t want to join the 3 bigger departments (Corporate, Finance and Funds), which is always where the demand will be.

s.32 Salmon Act 1986

Great to have the honest Kirkland graduate recruitment team here – ever dutiful, as anticipated. You should definitely push for that raise. You can cite the 40+ upvotes on my previous comment as evidence of popular astonishment at the job you do.

That said, the question of exactly how the trainees left doesn’t really make much of a difference does it? Half of last year’s trainees were either: (i) canned; or (ii) not offered the jobs they wanted, by the firm to which they had given 12 hours a day for the preceding 2 years. Perhaps you need to involve the PR team to spin that one (though I have no idea whether they are as talented as you clearly are).

Anonymous

Honestly, stuff like this makes me question whether I want any part in the commercial legal sector.

I’m sure that many are happy with their carrers and salary, but I’d rather sacrifice a good chunk of pay to have some semblence of myself left after the proccess. I mean, do they even have time to spend the money they earn?

I may be naïve, but working daily for 11 hours can’t be healthy for any part of your body.

Anonymous

Umluats on niave….pahahaha.

You’re safe bruv. No TC from these outfits for you.

Anonymous

Take a look in a dictionary some time.

Anonymous

That’s a diaeresis, not an umlaut. 😉

Anonymous

The problem with these average figures is twofold:

1. They are self-reported, and in my experience most of my colleagues over-estimate their own hours on a self reported basis, because you obviously don’t forget the times you stayed until 2am because they were awful, but you easily forget that run in the summer where you left at 6pm everyday for a month. So I would say the actual averages are likely to be a bit lower than is reported here.

2. The variance within firms (as well as between them) is absolutely huge. At my firm (magic cirlce) there are some transactional departments (e.g. corporate) where you can regularly expect to spend several months at a time working an 80+ hour week, whilst in some of the advisory departments (e.g. employment, tax) working past 7pm is an extreme rarity.

Anonymous

What I’ve found though isn’t that the shorter hours departments are more consistently busy. We all know it’s relatively common for corporate and banking trainees to sit around all day with nothing to do and then work from 7PM until 3AM. Whereas advisory and contentious work tends to be consistent – working until 8PM can easily end up being 10 billable hours. Utilisation isn’t much higher in the transactional departments than the advisory ones.

That’s terrible for the fee earners of course. Work until the early hours but don’t get a bigger bonus or greater recognition than your advisory colleagues.

Anonymous

In-house ftw

Anonymous

These hours are atrocious. Horrible culture. Students – it isn’t worth it.

From burnt out associate in ill-health.

Not Amused

This sort of reporting is LC at its best.

SingaporeSwing

Law firms are the new factories, and well done to Legal Cheek for highlighting this issue.

I really don’t know why people are so keen to sign up for this. Appalling.

Law 2nd

As a teacher turned lawyer, what I would say is that despite some of the crazy late nights listed here, if you compare the spread of working hours over a week then corporate/commercial law is still WAY more attractive a prospect in terms of workload v salary for a graduate.

In my first two years in teaching, I would be at school every day by 8am and leave between 5 – 6pm. Often with barely half an hour for lunch. I would then do an hour or two of marking at home 3-4 nights a week plus an afternoon of planning at the weekend. This meant regular term-time working weeks of 60 hours+ even though my contracted hours were for pupil contact hours of 32.5 week! No jokes. My salary was 26k to start with.

And before someone says “what about the holidays?!” then yes, having the summer off was brilliant but at half-terms and Easter I was more often than not in school for half of the holiday doing catch up, planning or fitting out the classroom.

Yes you’ll do 60+ hours a week at US or Magic Circle but you’ll be paid almost double what a new teacher is. I imagine junior doctors work a similar pattern what with 12 hour shifts and the starting salary there is £27k on average nationally.

Then look at the hike in salary once your post-qualified – there is just no comparison in teaching or medicine. You’ve got to be a headteacher or a consultant to earn what a NQ at US or MC does after only two years in the job!

The question is, if you’re going to be beasted… wouldn’t you rather get paid well for it?

Anonymous

Also bearing in mind you can easily do tax, regulatory, trusts, employment etc. and simply not get beasted that hard at all. In all honesty I am an advisory lawyer at a magic cirlce firm and my working week is usually between 48-60 hours and almost never more than that. The salary to hours ratio in some areas of law is fantastic.

Anonymous

Unsurprising really that knowing some law and applying it means a higher salary to hours ratio than just being another body to throw at a massive prospectus or DD.

Anonymous

Is it really that much work for lots of the hours though – just sit in front of a class of kids teaching them something. Hardly that much effort required.

Law 2nd

From such an utterly ill-informed comment I will assume your only experience of education is exclusive prep schools in wealthy postcodes or rote-learning of the textbook east Asian variety.

In which case, please note that not all children:

a) want to learn
b) are capable of learning
c) have parents who want them to learn
d) come to school happy, well-fed and ready to learn
e) have the skills to get on with each other
f) have any interest in getting on with their teachers (who more often than not have nothing in common with them apart from having to spend 7 hours in the same room every day with them).

Teaching 30 ten year olds every day in a deprived part of east London, where any number of them
i) don’t have English as a first language;
ii) have SEN or mental health problems;
iii) have messed up home lives,

and managing to make the curriculum exciting and relevant while keeping order is easily the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. Never mind making any of them progress, or (whisper it) exceed expectations – it’s bloody difficult. And a great privilege at that. But when you get paid peanuts (relative to other professions with similar training requirements) it doesn’t make it any easier!

Something tells me you wouldn’t last half an hour.

Anonymous

Oh the struggle. Would you like a hug?

Law 2nd

Get plenty of those from your mum, thanks.

Anonymous

If that is all you have been you have been taken for a mug. You mug.

Anonymous

We can all agree on on thing, I hope – if crime paid in this country, corporate law world would be much emptier. I laugh at those who say that they have ‘always aspired to work in a commercial law firm’, bitch please….

Anonymous

That response is unlikely to get you a training contract anyway. In fact, careers folks at my uni specifically told us not to say something like that because it’s stupid and shows that you don’t understand how the legal industry makes money.

Anonymous

Definitely. Head recruiter at my firm told me there’s always dozens of the ‘I’ve wanted to be a corporate lawyer since I was 6’ people and obviously it always gets an enormous mental eye roll. If you have wanted to do this since you were a child then you’re probably far too boring to share an office with.

Anonymous

Get to 3 PQE @ £160k per year + bonus. Leave with the ability to buy a decent property and be mortgage free before aged 35. The time isn’t that bad > free food, gym subsidy, free taxi, posh dinners, unlimited bar tabs and fun client entertaining events. Stimulating and challenging work with ambitious and intelligent colleagues. People will self select themselves for a US firm depending on their character. But for others a 9-5 is just way too boring and dull.

Anonymous

3 PQE way less than that in most of these firms…

Anonymous

Agree with this – I have worked in private practice and in-house, and I far prefer pp. The main reason is the people you work with – often like-minded, intelligent, ambitious people who are often extremely self-aware and self-depreciating. I

n-house, on the other hand, lacks any kind of dynamism; it’s mostly middle aged people who are looking for a less challenging environment. Nothing wrong with this, but I just found pp far more engaging.

Anonymous

These figures need to be taken with a heavy dose of salt. I’ve worked at three of these firms and, having walked past many empty offices over the years at much earlier times than the “average” home time listed, I can’t see how they’re true and accurate representations of how long people stay at their desks.

It’s better to consider them instead as times that lawyers at those places wouldn’t consider particularly “early” or “late” if they actually arrived or left then. So a Kirkland associate wouldn’t regard themselves as being really busy if they left at 8pm every day, while a Bird&Bird lawyer might.

Anonymous

As someone who often works on the otherside to Irwin Mitchell I can confirm that they are kidding themselves

Anonymous

I wouldn’t mind consistently working 9am to 7pm or similar, it’s the uncertainty that is the killer especially as a trainee. You never know what time you are going to get out so things like going to see to shows, having a hobby with set times for training, arranging to meet friends etc. are out of the question during the week.

SingaporeSwing

And then you’re expected to have a good answer when senior members of the profession ask you, “Whet do you like to do in your spare time?”!

Fauzi

Amazing

Anonymous

All white-collar service industries do long hours because that’s how they convince themselves that they’re necessary and important. It’s the same in management consultancy and accountancy.

It’s also why hierarchy is so strong in these industries: when a job has no obvious benefit to anyone else those who do it can only get validation and respect from people in the same boat.

Once a person is conditioned to expect long days and other abusive ways of working – like expecting holidays to be cancelled, sending pointless emails over weekends, and so on – they perpetuate the nonsense.

People doing productive and useful jobs, like those in medicine and engineering, may sometimes work long hours but they’re not treated as a requirement and not seen as a badge of honour. Junior doctors had to fight for years to get a regime of properly reduced hours, for example.

If half the city lawyers walked away the work would still be done just as well and just as quickly. But the wasteful, greedy repetitious activity and charging would stop.

In-House Trrainee

In-House all the way. Average start time of 8:30, average leave time of 5:00, Never had to work a weekend yet, the latest I’ve been in was 8:00 (once).

Plus, no billable hours and nightmare clients.

Perks are decent too.

Anonymous

Sounds pathetic

Anonymous

Certainly not pathetic. the hours in-house allow for actually having a life outside of work. I moved in-house straight after qualifying and feel sorry for my friends who remained in law firms, all of whom earn more than me, but have no time to spend it.

Also in-house.

What’s really pathetic is spending almost all of your waking time working in the vain attempt to one day climb up a level in the pyramid scheme…

In-house offers more flexibility, the ability to actually have a life, and although the starting salaries aren’t on par with NQ US lawyers, they are above the average across the profession and can rocket up fairly quickly.

Tom

Perhaps the best career advice I ever heard was this: No one ever lay on their deathbed wishing they spent more time at the office.

Rumplebulb

Do people actually even work at Irwin Mitchell? Here’s me thinking it was some sort of shell company to hide a massive “money making scheme”.

Gzla

I wouldn’t Mind working 10-11 hours a day as a trainee, if I were getting paid over 40k in those firms. Trainees at these firms get twice he recommended salary. Whilst those like me work same hours for below the recommended Salary.. that’s when you say it’s unfair.

Anonymous

The average hours for my firm in the survey seem to be quite long, I wonder if the people self-reporting are in heavy transactional seats?

Walter S

Having worked more than 12 hours a day for lawfirms I can say now that those lawyers have no life. Their life is just the lawfirm. Now I realized that is better working to live instead of living to work. Life is much more than working for people or corporations that you will not know in your entire life.

Anonymous

Litigation hours not so bad. Usually 9-7. And at a US shop, you get paid the big bucks. Some of the commenters here who say lawyers have no life / in house is better etc – not really comparing like for like are you. I couldn’t bare taking the pay cut of an in-house role, and at that kind of pay, I certainly would want to finish up by 5 pm.

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