Revealed: The best law firms for work/life balance 2021

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By Philippa Canfield on

Which firms are offering the best of both worlds?

Although our typical understanding of the work/life balance has been thrown up in the air, with law firm offices up and down the country temporarily closing their doors, COVID-19 has made the need for downtime more important than ever.

The pandemic has thrown new issues into the mix, such as balancing family life, home-schooling and dealing with illness, all of which are causing difficulties when it comes to working the long hours expected of many City lawyers.

The pressure to ensure an appropriate balance between time ‘in and out of the office’ has now become a need to balance time ‘on and off the computer’, as lawyers relocate to their home offices — a move that may remain long after the pandemic is over.

To work out which firms have been nailing the work/life balance dilemma, we put the question ‘How is your work/life balance?’ to trainees and junior lawyers from nearly 100 of the country’s leading corporate law firms, as part of our annual Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. Respondents then rated their work/life balance on a scale of one to ten — with one being ‘Non-existent’ and ten being ‘Excellent, perfectly balanced’.

The results are in and we can now reveal which firms were awarded an A* for their efforts in promoting a good work/life balance for their lawyers in 2021. Here are those top 12 firms, listed alphabetically:

Hill Dickinson
Irwin Mitchell
Mills & Reeve
Trowers & Hamlins
Womble Bond Dickinson

The 2021 Firms Most List – featuring the Legal Cheek Survey results in full

As part of the survey, we gave the rookies themselves an opportunity to give further insight into how their firms are managing to promote a healthy work/life balance by submitting anonymous comments. Here are a select few from some of the firms listed above:

How is your work/life balance?

“I would say the firm provides a really good work/life balance. The firm encourages you to get involved in social activities. In some practice areas there will be times where you are expected to work late but this is not the norm.”

“Good work/life balance is promoted throughout the firm although there are periods when you have to do longer hours because of busy spells in the department or matters you’re working on. This isn’t often.”

“No atmosphere of presenteeism. Difficulty with working from home is there is generally work to be done so can be hard to log off — but superiors are very flexible.”

“Really good work/life balance, no need to stay in the office ‘to be seen’. It’s a case of get your work done and enjoy your life too.”

“Considering the size and the reputation of the firm, I think that the work/life balance offered is fantastic. I can arrive at the office at 9 and leave the office at 5 without feeling as though there are any reprisals. We have a flexible way of working which means I can log on from home when I choose and take a break when I choose (schedule and meetings permitting).”

“It’s never perfect but definitely more manageable than many other firms out there. The teams are supportive and helpful with workloads.”

Besides the top 12 firms listed above for work/life balance, 20 firms scored an A, 31 a B, 23 got a C and ten a D.

The winning law firm in this category will be announced at The Legal Cheek Awards 2021, sponsored by BARBRI, on Thursday 25 March 2021.

The 2021 Firms Most List – featuring the Legal Cheek Survey results in full

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