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‘I went into the office on Tuesday morning and didn’t leave until Sunday,’ claims ex-magic circle trainee solicitor ‘Max Johnson’

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125

The Guardian publishes astonishing claim by anonymised source

📸 Not ‘Max Johnson’

There is a mind-boggling story of a magic circle trainee solicitor working for six days straight without going home that has been published in The Guardian.

The rookie is reported by the newspaper to have come into work on a Tuesday morning and not left until Sunday, with just “a few hours” of rest in a sleeping pod “if I was lucky” in the intervening time.

Rather than simply anonymise the source, The Guardian has at the “interviewee’s request” changed their name to ‘Max Johnson’. Here is the relevant section of the article in full:

Max Johnson* did his training contract in a magic circle firm, before leaving law. “You have to operate like you’re a machine,” he says. “One time I went into the office on Tuesday morning and didn’t leave until Sunday. I got a few hours sleep in a sleeping pod, if I was lucky.”

Johnson says he lost weight because of stress and anxiety. “The days were so busy I would just forget to eat,” he says. He didn’t tell anyone how he was feeling. “It could be portrayed as a sign of weakness and you worry it would limit your progression.” He also couldn’t switch off at home because of pressure to check his phone and respond to emails quickly, he says.

* Name changed at interviewee’s request.

Legal Cheek’s 2018-19 Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey reveals some grinding hours, with ten firms posting average leave the office times of after 9pm. We also received hundreds of comments from the 2,000 plus rookies who completed the survey, detailing how long and unpredictable their hours can be when working on a big case or deal. But none came close to the experience of Max Johnson’s astonishing 120+ hour stint in the office.

Mental health will be a central topic at the Future of Legal Education and Training Conference 2019, with speakers including wellbeing in law expert Professor Richard Collier and LawCare CEO Elizabeth Rimmer.

125 Comments

Anonymous

Not something anyone LGBT would actually say.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

I trained at a US firm and had periods of 100 hour weeks for 2-3 weeks every once in a while. By the end of them I was an absolute wreck and so tired that bizarrely I couldn’t actually sleep. Things like your balance, thermoregulation and concentration go absolutely out of the window when you get that tired, which I never really realised.

The (in hindsight) amusing thing is that despite such devoted service to the detriment of my own health and well-being, the firm dumped me on qualification despite a solid set of appraisals. Although horrifying at the time, it probably forced me to reflect on what sacrifices I am actually willing to make at an earlier stage than I otherwise would. A silver lining of sorts.

(121)(1)

Anonymous

Which firm?

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Name and shame please, this ought to be known.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Greenburg Glusker.

(19)(2)

Glusker HQ

Wrong. We only recruit the top, top, most titanic trainees and have never retained less than 100%.

Anonymous

Well you’re a liar.

Kronos

Back off – or our team of top, top media titans will sue you for defamation in the LA Top Court of Justice.

Mathematics MA hons(cantab) now pursuing a gdl

But have you ever retained more?

Anonymous

Which f irm?

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Skadden. Notoriously sweaty.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Name and shame, which firm?

(0)(0)

Anon

Might as well name as shame if you are anomymous

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Which firm? Give us a clue, or at least a hint please.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Not the OP, but I’ve experienced precisely the same crap at White & Case. Nonstop sweaty ridiculous hours, a partner telling me that it’s expected of me to miss my holiday because of “this deal we must complete” and other similar bollocks. Thankfully I’ve since moved on to a different career, but at the time I’ve internalised it all and thought it’s just part of the game.

(36)(1)

Concerned law student

Which departments have these crazy hours? Corporate? Finance?

Would the hours be any better in Tax, Employment, Competition, IP, Litigation???

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Just avoid the ERISA litigation team – sweatiest area in the City of London!

(2)(0)

Anonymous

u high?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

In the City? All of them.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

A sad tale but not a surprising one in a society which espouses the notion that the more money, power and prestige you acquire, the happier you will be.

Newsflash: it’s absolute tosh.

We need a radical and comprehensive overhaul of our values and a deep nationwide reflection on what actually contributes to well being. Perhaps if we could shed our insecurities, jealousy and greed, we might be able to lead better lives.

(36)(4)

Anonymous

Completely true

#metoo

(0)(0)

Fever

The point on thermoregulation is so true.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Why aren’t more staff hired? Are deadlines left until the very last moment? Is this mostly bollox?

(21)(6)

Anonymous

More staff means less profit left for partners. Can’t be having that.

(14)(0)

Anonymous

Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn 2019

(0)(2)

Anonymous

That’s one way to save at least £1,000 in monthly rent and utility bills!

(14)(1)

Anonymous

No way, you need a residential address mate

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I did this – I’ve appointed a process agent to receive correspondence directed to me.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

How did you make it work? Living out of the office?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Pitched a tent in the dining room

Anonymous

Seriously tho is it possible to do?

Anonymous

Yeah. It’s a bit of hassle but the disabled loo makes for a great en-suite and when I wake up I get to have breakfast in bed before returning to my desk.

Anonymous

You will probably be competing with other lawyers for sleeping space if you are successful.

Or you can move to Dubai, where income is not taxed

(2)(0)

Anon

I would rather work in McDonald’s.

(9)(1)

Glusker wannabe

I’d rather work for a top, top Titan, never mind the Titanic hours.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

Why do people agree to do this to themselves?

If you all say no, firms will eventually adjust their practices. They can’t sack everyone.

I would never sacrifice my health and well-being for a job, what nonsense.

(38)(4)

Anonymous

Because, ultimately, other people will do it.

(68)(0)

Anonymous

We should all collectively say no. We need a union of sorts. Some kind of ‘law society’ if you will.

(112)(2)

Anonymous

Unionise

Solidarity

Maximum working hours like France

CORBYN

(5)(14)

Anon

It was going so well…

(6)(1)

Anonymous

Like so many regulatory bodies, the Law Society has lost the plot to mindless appeasement of the perpetually offended – fail to fill in the diversity monitoring form and you will be in trouble, sweat yuor associates for 120 hours in a week, no problem.

(11)(0)

Anonymous

Questionable claims of implausibly long hours help to prevent a frank and honest conversation about what is a serious topic for junior lawyers. Why is the Guardian contributing to these myths? The reality is far less dramatic but more insidious and damaging.

(13)(13)

Anonymous

What do you mean?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

What? The Guardian is helping to initiate a discussion about this.

(11)(0)

Anonymous

As a MC trainee I’ve never worked anything like the amount in the guardian article and never heard of anyone else doing so. Even at horrendous points I’ve always got home and slept for a good 6 hours or so every night. Literally never heard of more than one all nighter in a row, not even when partners are boasting about how hard they used to work.

(6)(5)

Anonymous

Could other lawyers verify if this is plausible or not? And would these sorts of hours be less likely in Tax, Employment, Litigation, Competition, etc??

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Arbitration is often sweaty hell

(8)(1)

Anonymous

oh its plausible

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Definitely plausible in a busy transactional team, probably around this time of year.

Would be very unlikely in Tax, Employment or Competition. Litigation you could do if you were making an urgent application to court for something like a freezing injunction, but it’s rare.

(12)(3)

Anonymous

My paralegal senses are tingling^

(8)(0)

Anonymous

Thanks for answering. So what do you think average hours in litigation, tax, employment and competition would be like at a MC/US firm?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

9:30-8pm

(5)(0)

Debevoise 1PQE

Bullshit. Disputes are brutal, and can be equally as nonstop as corporate or banking. Try managing four or five different massive arbitration cases with often competing procedural calendars. You’ll piss blood from all the stress

Anonymous

Debevoise 1PQ: What are your hours like?

Anonymous

Debevoise 1PQ is too busy counting all their money to answer your question.

Debevoise 1PQE

Most days 9.45-10am in, 10pm-11pm out. Some weekends at the office, but more often not. If ahead of a hearing or major filing then I pretty much move in and live in the office. Overall manageable, but the stress is slowly killing me.

Anonymous

Sounds tough. Law needs to move away from this crazy overwork culture. They should start earlier and finish earlier.

Anonymous

Law degree from East Anglia- chances of getting a TC?

(12)(3)

Anonymous

ROFL nope

(15)(9)

Anonymous

I know individuals at W&C who studied at UEA. I’m a UEA alumni myself, it’s perfectly doable.

(8)(5)

Anonymous

There are loads of alumni from middling unis as the above posters say – city firms (with a small handful of exceptions) offer TCs to people from UEA, Sussex, Kent, Reading, Keele etc. all the time.

The problem with students at these unis (and I attended one) is that they often have very average A levels (sometime ABB) and in shit subjects from sixth form (i.e. they have been ill-advised and studied PE, Business, etc.). There’s less of a culture of competition and aspiration towards City firms at these unis – I should know – but if you set yourself to it, it can most certainly be done.

(16)(2)

Kronos

If you’ve got a first you’d be qualified to clean windows here at Greenberg Glusker LLP. But a TC? Pah. We only take the top, top, toppest here at the ‘Berg.

(19)(1)

Anonymous

Top top

Anonymous

Are you an alumnus or alumnae? How can one person be “an alumni”.

(11)(3)

anonymouse

Considering that it’s ranked as a top 10 law school in the UK, I’d say very good chances! Plenty of UEA grads with TCs in the MCs etc.

(4)(28)

Anonymous

Top ten law school, very funny. Chambers/Student couldn’t find any UEA graduates at MC firms but even if there is one that doesn’t mean the chances are good which is what the question was about.

Basically the chances are better for graduates of around 30 other universities and most of them won’t be getting training contracts.

(9)(5)

JDP

Measurements?

(5)(0)

Anonymous

12in flaccid.

(1)(0)

Not a lawyer

Such is the price of selling your soul to the devil for 30 pieces of silver (or some other tosh).

Loads of money but no soul, no life and no values – you call that success?

Did anybody, ever, on their deathbed say, “I wish I’d spent more time at work”?.

(12)(2)

Kirkland 1PQE

It’s a lot more than 30 pieces of silver, pal.

(22)(1)

Anonymous

Yeah you get at least enough to buy a one bed in Shoreditch which you can’t spend any time in.

Enjoy.

(14)(1)

Kirkland NQ

Wrong. I get to spend plenty of time at my flat – normally between the hours of 4-9am.

(30)(0)

Anonymous

Totally worth it brah, where can I sign up?

Stalin Allee

Brothers! Sisters!

Stakhanovite working practices can only be justified when utilised in the construction of our workers’ socialist paradise.

Vote Corbyn to end capitalist exploitation.

For the few, not the many.

(9)(5)

Bungle Man Tim

And when these people are dying of a heart attack at 50 their last thought will be…I never saw my kids grow up.

Sad really.

(10)(0)

Anonymous

No, they’ll think “I hope my kids appreciate the tax relief on my SIPP that transfers to them under my well drafted succession documents

(48)(0)

Az

Well go work in a conveyancing/family law firm then! 9-5 guaranteed for you! Interesting people around not willing to talk what their kids are for lunch? Not a chance?

(1)(4)

Anonymous

U wot?

(4)(0)

Anonymous

This is outrageous. Let’s set up a union/society so this bs can stop. I’m at my wits end slaving away for these corporate mugs.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

But what about the magic beans… I mean shares… and the IPO???!!!

(1)(0)

DWF Senior associate, London

Yes but the whole idea of an IPO is that it pays off out massive debt, the management pocket the spoils and eventually bugger off.

By the time we cash in any shares we have, they really will be penny shares.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Close. None of the IPO money will be used for the overdraft.

Dividends galore and massive payments for top brass.

Non exec director on board likely to take more interest in what expensive partners are getting up to (or not getting up to) could result in some interesting changes.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I had a very similar experience as a trainee in a regional firm. I once had to stay until 6pm which resulted in me missing my train home. I was nearly 45 minutes late which meant I missed the Robot Wars final on BBC 2. It was Hypnodisk vs Chaos 2 so you can understand why it’s taken me so long to process.

(102)(0)

Anonymous

Why does nobody ever say the thing that really matters…that 95% of what solicitors are asked to do is a complete waste of time?

These long hours achieve nothing for anyone except run up fees. They’re a form of fraud spiced up by mixing in some torture.

(13)(4)

Anonymous

The bar can be just as bad if not worse. It would help if Instructing Solicitors sent briefs not less than 12 hours before a multi track trial!

(7)(2)

Anonymous

My favourite part is when someone working long hours emails the whole team with an innane request to passively aggressively highlight they are in the office early/late when YOU aren’t and therefore a better employee than you.

(20)(0)

Anonymous

Classic Freshfields corporate dept BS

(13)(0)

Global transactions associate

Just finished a mark-up.

(13)(0)

Anonymous

This didn’t happen as some people have pointed out, it’s a lie.

I’m a junior at a US firm and I have some of the longest hours day to day in the firm in a busy transaction department. My billables weren’t as good as they could have been, but will be longer than most at about 2500 this year. You don’t need an hour more than 2000, I get nothing extra. Most people hover around 2000.

I have never worked these hours. Nor has anyone I have ever known. I don’t recommend city law to anyone, but this is just pure fiction.

Especially magic circle. Most trainees at Slaughters leave around 6:30 everyday. Some of the senior associates stay longer and work weekends, but not trainees. Across the rest of the magic circle it really depends on the seat, how busy it is, the time of year, but more often that not they’re leaving at 6:30-8:30. If you find yourself in a really busy seat there, you’ll be doing 8-11pm for a couple of weeks around a closing. Maybe one or two really late nighters. All nighters uncommon if non existent.

In my US firm, trainees work slightly longer hours; the teams are leaner, they have to work around associates and they have more to do. In a MC firm it’s common for a trainee to have one task like be in charge of a CP list and that’s pretty much it with little ad hoc work. In quiet seats, they’re working until 7:30 and around busy periods they’re out between 10-2am.

Those hours might not sound that bad, but they are. Leaving at even 9pm might sound OK on paper, but try doing that for weeks on end for a few 7pm finishes and it really grinds and makes you hate the job and your life. But staying in the office for days doesn’t happen – rarely are the rubbish sleeping pods at A&O etc. used. We all have phones and laptops which we take obviously home if something ever was so urgent.

(13)(10)

Anonymous

Wrong. There are people that have done these hours.

(12)(3)

Anonymous

YES, I too have unsupported examples of this happening to fictitious people.

(3)(5)

Anonymous

So on legal cheek an article on law firm perks listed sleeping pods and Clifford chance has them and its magic circle. Is Max the ex CC trainee? Unless another MC firm has sleeping pods?

(1)(2)

Comments are closed.

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