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|
|Allen & Overy||9:10am||8:43pm|
|Ropes & Gray||8:55am||8:42pm|
|Latham & Watkins||9:32am||8:38pm|
|White & Case||9:12am||8:33pm|
|Shearman & Sterling||9:33am||8:17pm|
|Simmons & Simmons||9:07am||8:11pm|
|Norton Rose Fulbright||9:09am||8:03pm|
|Herbert Smith Freehills||9:12am||7:35pm|
|Slaughter and May||9:20am||7:30pm|
|Mishcon de Reya||8:56am||7:11pm|
|Bird & Bird||9:09am||7:02pm|
|Clyde & Co||9:08am||7:01pm|
|Ince & Co||8:58am||7:00pm|
|Squire Patton Boggs||8:43am||6:58pm|
|Charles Russell Speechlys||9:11am||6:57pm|
|Trowers & Hamlins||8:46am||6:31pm|
|Mills & Reeve||8:40am||6:18pm|
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
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.”