Magic circle partner reveals how home-working has changed his life for the better

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A&O funds lawyer Paul Sampson says he can now have dinner with his wife and read his kids a bedtime story

A magic circle partner has revealed some of the things he “rarely or never did” prior to the coronavirus lockdown, and how his life has changed for the better because of it.

In a refreshingly honest post (below) shared on his LinkedIn last Friday, Paul Sampson, a funds lawyer at the London office of Allen & Overy, lists nine activities he could barely get around to doing during the working week, and we presume, can now do so since working from home.

Between Monday to Friday, he would be hard-pressed to help with all the errands and chores around the house, as per his post.

A&O’s average leave the office time is 8:43pm, according to our annual survey, which is also roughly in line with its magic circle rivals. So it’s understandable that Sampson would also struggle to find the time to eat dinner with his wife, or bathe his kids and read them a bedtime story.

Sampson continues in the post, which has received 1,528 reactions at the time of writing, that he’s able to go for walks in the fresh air, watch mindless tele “just for the sake of it” and even wear the same pair of trackies each day.

“The list goes on,” says Sampson, who is an A&O-lifer, having spent more than a decade with the firm. “Some of these things are difficult/embarrassing to admit to,” he continues, adding: “Looking back, all of them were my doing; behaviours repeated day-after-day without really stopping to think how I might do things better.”

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He goes on to reflect on another lesson he has learnt from the coronavirus pandemic:

“We are living through one of the most important social experiments there has ever been. This has been enforced upon us and we miss many of the things we previously took for granted. What we’ve gained though is the opportunity to re-evaluate what we were doing before and make some positive changes for the future.”

A&O might’ve only just partially reopened its City HQ but one LinkedIn user was keen to know which of his list Sampson wouldn’t be prepared to give up. In response, Sampson quipped: “That’s a really tough question but if I had to choose, I think it would be the tracksuit bottoms ?.”

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Top lad, refreshingly down to earth.


Jeremy Corbyn Fan

Office face time must be at an end after the pandemic.


Not a closer

It’s sad that he’s only just clocked that never having dinner with your wife and missing your kids growing up isn’t normal. I’m sure he takes home remarkable amounts of money, but when you’re making sacrifices like that what really is the point?


MC Associate

It’s so weird how many of our partners haven’t realised this either.

In appraisals the mention of this being the reason you don’t want to stick around to make partner is met with confusion.



You might find it hard to believe but a lot of very bright men can imagine nothing worse than being stuck at home with the wife and kids. A long day in London (including a few pints with the PE team) is a blessing.




It’s a different perspective. The power, wealth, travel and prestige of big law partnership give some people immense self worth and happiness.

Provided your wife doesn’t want a particularly close relationship and is happy with largely single parenting backed by significant finances, this can work for you both.

The kids don’t really agree to it, but they get a very privileged upbringing in a boarding school environment where this set up is going to be normal amongst their peers. If they do want a closer relationship with their dad, you can always invest in therapy to get to the bottom of why that is.



You are likely trolling, but to be clear, biglaw does not provide anyone with “immense happiness”, least of all the partners, as you would know if you’d ever worked for one. It gives them money.

It’s important for youngsters to recognise this. If you are there to make money, that will happen. Whatever else you may be looking for personally/spiritually, you will not find it in the firm.


MC Assoc

Not true. Many of the partners I have worked for genuinely love their job. They enjoy pontificating on calls where they know everything. They love doing emails. They adore discussing legal issues or negotiating deals.

There are absolutely the ones who have an unhappy life with a partner they hate and kids they don’t know, but my experience is that they are the minority compared to the ones who absolutely love it. If you genuinely find finance, or regulation, or M&A, or whatever it is, absolutely fascinating and get off on being important and rich then it’s an incredible job.


“They are absolutely the ones who have an unhappy life”. So you agree with me. Your point is just that a perverse minority enjoy spending the vast majority of their waking hours (and eventually much/most of their adult life) in an office, in part because of the opportunities afforded to them to act like arrogant arseholes. Which is not what I disputed. They are not “immensely happy” people.

Kirkland Partner

Trust me, when you open the garage door at your Chelsea townhouse and behold that beautiful, verde Ithaca titan, six hundred horses sat poised for action under its perfectly sculpted bonnet, then thoughts that your wife hates you and your kids don’t remember you will disappear.



Those tracksuit bottoms must smell pretty ripe.


I See Hypocritical People

I suppose your associates could experience more of these benefits too if you were willing to reduce your demands to generate a 7 figure annualised profit per partner. Or is improved life quality for the little people not on the agenda? I look forward to the announcement that expected annual hours are being reduced.



Yeah no shit buddy. Now use your power for good and change things so we can all enjoy our lives a bit more


Legal 500 Researcher

Didn’t know A&O had a funds team…



It’s not a particularly well known team since A&O are not really a leading firm in PE/Funds work.


Legal 500 Researcher

Interesting. Any noteworthy GPs we should be noting?



The Church of England is the main GP



It’s tragic on every level that to be a success that’s the level of sacrifice required.



This is exactly the reason why many associates do not start the process to become partner at their firms which is a shame.


MC Associate - 4PQE

I’m not sure why he is getting flak from people in the comments – I’m just glad to see some real honesty from a partner who clearly wants to see a change in the way he works. It would also be interesting to see how many people in any City law firm was able to the above pre-lockdown – this certainly isn’t endemic to A&O.

I’m hopeful that more partners are like Paul who is having frank conversations with his family and those he works with as to how people should work in future in the legal profession. Personally I think it’s a good thing A&O are making up partners like Paul who will no doubt be incredibly influential in changing how we think about and indeed deliver legal services in a post-COVID world. Thank you Paul for your honesty and here’s to more tracksuit bottom-wearing in future!



Chances of change for the junior staff? Somewhere between zero and zilch.



The funny thing is the problem that Paul described is not exclusive to the Magic Circle firms. Of course everyone knows the US is notorious for bad working hours and having o be available to respond 24/7.

But this is also a big issue at Silver Circle firms too. I have attended networking events with top SC firms Macfarlanes, Travers Smith, HSF, HL and I asked several partners at each firm about their hours and work life balance and every single one admitted not being able to see their wife and kids very often or occasionally spending time on a rare weekend.

Interestingly, the female partners didn’t have kids but said she kept dogs and another said she considered their nieces and nephews to be like her kids. The female partners also said their hours were bad but I guess you feel less guilty when you don’t have kids, and I’m assuming that’s probably why they were made partner in the first place


Archibald Pomp O'City

Lucky dogs, that’s all I’ll say.



Given that the hours are bad and there is lack of work-life balance across all firms, is a key reason everyone is jumping ship to US firms. If you’re gonna get worked like a dog at every firm in the city, you might as well go to the one that pays the most


Makes sense

Well done for turning a piece about improving work life balance into advising people to join US firms



I worked with Paul and he is a thoroughly decent chap; a rare gem amongst MC partners.


Saul Goodman

Worthy of an H E Bateman cartoon – The AO partner who said he would rather spend time at home with the missus and read the kids their bedtime stories.

Fair play to him. Probably grounds for expulsion from the partnership!!



I agree with both of your comments. I was a trainee in the same department as Paul. Paul is not overbearing as the majority of A&O senior associates and above are, largely as a result of the time pressure that they feel. Paul is calm, thoughtful, and has a great sense of humor.


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