Revealed: Law firms’ average arrive and leave the office times 2018-19

Avatar photo

By Legal Cheek on

Who works the most, and the least?

MoneyLaw might buy you a place on the mad London property ladder, but it won’t leave you much time to spend enjoying your half a million pound rabbit hutch in Zone Three.

That’s one of the key messages of this year’s Legal Cheek average arrive and leave the office time survey of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in London and the UK. This year the firm with the latest leave time is the London office of US giant Cleary Gottlieb (newly qualified (NQ) solicitor salary: £120,000) — where, according to our figures, rookies leave on average at 10:01pm.

In second place is Kirkland & Ellis (NQ salary: £148,000), with an average 9:49pm leave time, and third is Milbank (NQ salary: £132,000), where the average leave time is 9:48pm, a minute earlier than Kirkland.

The other end of the table of over 80 top law firms surveyed is a very different picture. Secure a training contract at one of these outfits — most of whose trainees are based outside London — and you could be home in time to catch the end of The Chase.

The firm in this year’s survey with the earliest average leave the office time is Royds Withy King (NQ salary: £37,000-40,000), where lawyers are typically out of the door by 5:41pm. The joint second earliest leave time is 5:43pm, at Hewitsons (NQ salary: £38,000) and BLM (NQ salary: £30,000-41,000).

Legal Cheek Trainee & Junior Lawyer Survey 2018-19 — average arrive and leave times

Cleary Gottlieb 9:38am 10:01pm
Kirkland & Ellis 9:45am 9:49pm
Milbank 9:45am 9:48pm
Weil Gotshal & Manges 9:07am 9:22pm
Skadden 9:15am 9:21pm
Latham & Watkins 9:39am 9:16pm
Allen & Overy 9:16am 9:10pm
Clifford Chance 9:19am 9:10pm
Debevoise & Plimpton 9:42am 9:08pm
Sullivan & Cromwell 9:32am 9:04pm
Linklaters 9:17am 8:55pm
Jones Day 9:00am 8:48pm
Sidley Austin 9:26am 8:44pm
Freshfields 9:23am 8:43pm
White & Case 9:16am 8:24pm
Covington & Burling 8:52am 8:22pm
Baker McKenzie 9:10am 8:15pm
Macfarlanes 8:56am 8:15pm
Shearman & Sterling 9:20am 8:13pm
Ropes & Gray 9:21am 8:10pm
Ashurst 9:09am 8:06pm
Herbert Smith Freehills 9:17am 8:05pm
Norton Rose Fulbright 9:12am 8:03pm
Stephenson Harwood 8:59am 8:03pm
K&L Gates 9:02am 8:00pm
Hogan Lovells 9:13am 7:55pm
Slaughter and May 9:13am 7:51pm
Reed Smith 9:14am 7:50pm
Dechert 9:14am 7:45pm
Mayer Brown 9:07am 7:45pm
Simmons & Simmons 9:11am 7:42pm
PwC 9:14am 7:40pm
Mishcon de Reya 8:51am 7:39pm
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner 9:01am 7:35pm
Dentons 8:56am 7:33pm
Travers Smith 9:16am 7:32pm
Ince & Co 9:15am 7:30pm
CMS 8:58am 7:25pm
Taylor Wessing 8:59am 7:24pm
HFW 9:07am 7:23pm
Wedlake Bell 8:53am 7:22pm
Withers 9:05am 7:22pm
Watson Farley 9:25am 7:21pm
DLA Piper 8:38am 7:18pm
Bird & Bird 9:08am 7:10pm
Clyde & Co 9:08am 7:09pm
Howard Kennedy 9:02am 7:09pm
Squire Patton Boggs 8:45am 7:05pm
Fladgate 9:01am 7:02pm
Bevan Brittan 8:51am 7:00pm
Bristows 8:28am 7:00pm
Gowling WLG 8:54am 7:00pm
Eversheds Sutherland 8:39am 6:59pm
Addleshaw Goddard 8:44am 6:58pm
Burges Salmon 8:51am 6:57pm
Charles Russell Speechlys 9:01am 6:53pm
Walker Morris 8:32am 6:53pm
Browne Jacobson 8:48am 6:47pm
Pinsent Masons 8:55am 6:47pm
RPC 9:08am 6:47pm
Penningtons Manches 8:56am 6:45pm
Trowers & Hamlins 8:53am 6:42pm
Farrer & Co 8:53am 6:40pm
Osborne Clarke 8:51am 6:39pm
Fieldfisher 9:08am 6:33pm
Shoosmiths 8:34am 6:30pm
Forsters 8:58am 6:26pm
Kennedys 8:29am 6:22pm
TLT 8:45am 6:19pm
Womble Bond Dickinson 8:39am 6:18pm
Hill Dickinson 8:25am 6:17pm
DAC Beachroft 8:32am 6:15pm
Ashfords 8:47am 6:14pm
DWF 8:42am 6:12pm
Blake Morgan 8:45am 6:06pm
Weightmans 8:40am 6:06pm
Foot Anstey 8:38am 6:01pm
Irwin Mitchell 8:34am 5:59pm
Michelmores 8:31am 5:51pm
Mills & Reeve 8:41am 5:45pm
BLM 8:31am 5:43pm
Hewitsons 8:37am 5:43pm
Royds Withy King 8:52am 5:41pm
The 2019 Firms Most List – featuring the Legal Cheek Survey results in full

As part of the survey we also received hundreds of anonymous comments about working hours. Here are some choice quotes from MoneyLaw and magic circle rookies. Note in particular the variability of the hours.

“To be expected we work long hours. However … trainees are treated like adults/junior associates from day one. It’s on you to manage your time. Some trainees do very well at balancing work and life by managing themselves effectively. Nevertheless, you want to make sure you get as much from the training contract as possible so there will be some long days/nights. If you’re drowning in work, it’s because you took on too much, a lesson you will learn very quickly during the TC.”

“They bought my soul.”

“Not unusual to go months without getting home for dinner, regularly expected to work/be available at weekends. However, when there genuinely is no work to be done then no one would question you leaving at 17:31.”

“Varies massively by department. If you get stuck in some of the rougher seats be grateful for either Saturday or Sunday off, don’t count on both!”

“Incredibly variable. I leave at 6:30pm fairly frequently but equally have had several weeks worth of post-midnight finishes in my first 5 months here and have had to work a few hours to a whole day on several weekends.”

We put the results of the survey to LawCare, the mental health and wellbeing charity for lawyers. Its CEO, Elizabeth Rimmer, commented:

“For trainees and junior lawyers often long hours are unavoidable — but it is important that firms recognise that a ‘presenteeism’ culture often exists, with young lawyers working long hours to prove themselves. Ultimately spending too much time in the office can lead to stress which reduces staff performance and morale, and can lead mistakes being made. Staff should have time off to recover after a busy period and not regularly work at weekends. Having the time to pursue the things we enjoy and spend time with friends and family is vital to wellbeing. We would encourage young lawyers to speak up or call LawCare for support if they feel long hours are affecting their wellbeing, and to make sure they look after themselves — taking a break, exercise, eating well, fresh air are all essential to good mental health.”

If you are struggling with long hours and stress you can contact LawCare anonymously here.

The 2019 Firms Most List – featuring the Legal Cheek Survey results in full

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek's careers events:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub