‘Is it acceptable to take all my annual leave as a trainee?’

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One Legal Cheek reader seeks guidance on holiday etiquette

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one Legal Cheek reader is keen to know whether it will be frowned upon to take all their annual leave during their training contract.

“Is it generally acceptable to take all my annual leave days as a trainee? Is the situation different at US vs MC firms?”

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The fact this question is even being posed speaks so ill of law firm culture.



You have an annual leave entitlement for a reason. Nobody will respect you any more for not taking days off that you’re entitled to. Life’s hard enough as a lawyer, take your breaks.


Adam S

What kind of stupid question is this. Yes take all your leave . Use them. You don’t get extra brownie points for feeling tired , weak, and exhausted. Take your leave, in fact take your sick days as well.



Of course it is, anyone who says otherwise should be ignored. But be smart about it, don’t take swathes of leave at short notice or when you know your supervisor is slammed. Give people plenty of notice and discuss with them and you’ll be fine.


Associate 1

Of course! This isn’t the US where people don’t take all their leave.

The only real caveat is that you will generally only be allowed to take a proportionate amount of leave per seat. In other words, if you have six month seats, you will only be allowed to take half of your yearly entitlement each seat.

The only other point to think about is that firms won’t be happy if you ask for something weird like a Monday, Wednesday and Friday off because with it causes problems with handing over work. But if you take a long weekend or a week/two weeks off, no issues at all.

Final plea as an associate is for you to (a) tell me you’re going away at least a week in advance and (b) arrange suitable cover with another trainee for while you’re away. It’s not my job to keep track of your movements or arrange cover, that’s something you have to do.



It’s very clearly not the trainees job to arrange suitable cover; they’re a trainee! It is a matter for you to ensure you have sufficient resources.



This is not true.


US Associate

It really is. It’s not a trainee’s job to delegate to other trainees (handover notes are different) and it can put trainees in an uncomfortable position when other trainees politely tell them to fuck off and that they don’t have capacity (in my experience, most trainees will push back hard on work coming from another trainee).

The associates or partners on the relevant matters should arrange for other appropriate trainees in the team to be on standby to cover.

My firm actually has as policy a rule that trainees are not allowed to delegate to other trainees, to avoid these issues.



It definitely is the trainee’s job in my firm too. We have a number of trainees in each team and they email amongst themselves to arrange holiday cover (just as the associates do).


Middle ground

A good trainee will discuss with another trainee about handing over their work and then pass that to the associate for the formal delegation.



That sounds like part of a supervisor’s job to me



Before the nonsense starts flowing here, I’m at one of the US firms everyone drools over on here and yes, you can take all your holiday – if you’re at a US firm you’ll only get 20 days. Just be smart about it, taking a full two weeks in August when it’s quiet will make for a much better and disturbance free break than trying to go for a week at the beginning of December or in March.

Amongst some of the more mid level and senior associates there’s also an understanding they can take basically as many days off as they want (given it’s not really tracked) as long as you hit (and most likely exceed) your hours for the rest of the year. Again, just don’t give notice that you’re off two days before a signing…



State your firm, cuh.


US Associate

Not sure where you’re getting 20 days only at US firms?

We get 25 at mine (Vault 10, US) and can carry 10 if unused at the end of the year.



Latham is the only US firm to only give 20 days in the UK, and no days carried over. A bit shite.


Archibald Pomp O'City

It’ll be 28 days actually. How much time away do you expect? This isn’t education.



I seem to take about 10-12 weeks off a year, though I don’t really count days. But then there is a downside, as I can’t carry the time into next year.



Annual leave is part of your remuneration package – you should absolutely be able to take all of your leave. Not to do so is equivalent to saying you’ll sacrifice X number of days’ pay.



Some of my solicitor friends worked at a place that would ‘buy back’ unused holiday days.

How much pressure that put on people not to take full holiday is left as an exercise for the reader.

But is that a common practice?


Archibald Pomp O'City

Buy-backs aren’t uncommon and don’t put pressure on employees to under-take their leave unless their is a cultural expectation of doing so in the firm. And in that case, you’re in a better position than if you just lost the leave, notwithstanding you don’t get much chance to enjoy all your earnings.



Yes, and ignore comments which say ‘you can only take a week at a time’. Take two if that’s what you want to do


Archibald Pomp O'City

“if that’s what you want to do”

Of course, because one joins a law firm to exercise one’s freedoms and enjoy life’s rich tapestry of extracurricular hobbies. Make a flexible working request to do woodwork one day a week if you want to, as well.



It’s a manager’s role to ensure cover is in place.


Ropes & Chains

Go read the article about the Ropes associate who’s suing the firm for the unrelenting workload. There’s your answer.


Nothing to see here

I can’t read the full article online, they’re all for subscribers only. Ugh so annoying.



If you feel like you can’t take your contractually agreed holiday then you’re working at the wrong place. Get out now.



I just recently qualified and have been kept on by the City firm I trained at. I had some holidays booked for Spring/Summer 2020 which, unsurprisingly got cancelled. I therefore retracted my booked A/L days from the firm.

Near the end of the summer I got an HR email clearly stating that I must take my holiday allowance as a) the firm was going to stick to the usual limit on carrying unused holiday days over, and b) everyone needs breaks. I ended up basically taking an entire month off in the autumn with only 3 weeks’ notice. Taking that much holiday had no impact on my NQ offer or choice of team to join. My supervising partner didn’t even hesitate on the approval. I just made sure I created a handover note for any ongoing matters and closed out as many open files as possible before turning on the out of office.

Leave nothing on the table. Take your days.



No offence but your firm doesn’t sound particularly demanding, especially since you refer to it as a “city firm” rather than any respectable categorisation. Some of us are actually indispensable.


Anon (OP)

In the global top 20 for turnover. It’s a demanding firm and I’m in a fairly demanding transactional team. HR just didn’t want people trying to carry 15-20 days holiday into 2021 and trying to take >2 months off.

Do not for a second think you are indispensable. In private practice, you are nothing more than cannon fodder for the partners. We all are. Just grab a decent salary and holiday entitlement whilst you still can.



Lol the typical reference to global turnover as if that’s a measure of anything. Even meme firms like Dentons and CMS are top 20 by that metric. Tell me what your salary is instead bro. Hope you aren’t calling it a decent salary when it’s 60% of a US NQ lol.



Salary per billable hour at the firms is probably comparable. Net take home salary per hour is probably better at the non-US firms, and that isn’t even taking into account the price you put on enjoy your weekends and annual leave.

Value is winging it with 1,400 hours billable at a ‘meme firm’.


Sometime when you’re feeling important;
Sometime when your ego’s in bloom
Sometime when you take it for granted
You’re the best qualified in the room,

Sometime when you feel that your going
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how they humble your soul;

Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining
Is a measure of how you’ll be missed.

You can splash all you wish when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore,
But stop and you’ll find that in no time
It looks quite the same as before.

The moral of this quaint example
Is do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember,
There is no indispensable man.


Archibald Pomp O'City

Your contribution to the firm must have been fairly trivial if they could spare you at such relatively short notice, for such a long time and – I will assume here – with such little impact.



You really are pompous for someone who gets ‘there’ and ‘their’ mixed up – reread your comment above.



Well, you got me their.



I asked myself whether I could take a day off and the very nice man who answered said that yes I could!



You must have a very nice senior clerk, then!

I’ve overheard a woman in the robing room complaining that she had booked time off but the clerks kept slipping things into her diary anyway, and a bloke who complained he once had to miss a friend’s wedding because his clerks couldn’t arrange cover.

It’s not quite as easy as all that at the Bar!


Yes, but only if

Depends if you can sail through your hour targets. The best can take all their time off and put in the hours to deserve an admirable bonus.



I once worked at a firm where a fuss was made about me taking more than two weeks. I was entitled to five. MASSIVE red flag.

Nobody would expect you to voluntarily drop part of your salary, so why would you expect to forgo bits of your holiday? Time is money, after all.



Just to clarify, more than 2 weeks off in a row? or 2 weeks in the holiday year in total?

My firm has a policy if you want more than 2 weeks off in a row you need approval from the management committee. If it’s a couple days they typically don’t mind but if it’s like 3+ weeks they need convincing. To me that seems reasonable given how busy the firm is and they need to staff matters.

Or are you saying you received complaints about taking 2 weeks off in a holiday year? If so, that’s psychotic.



I’d taken two weeks, then a few months later wanted to take a few days more. I was giving them a few weeks’ notice as well. “Well, you HAVE had quite a bit of leave already. Are you sure this is necessary?”

As I say, massive red flag!


Ex-city trainee

Good luck finding time to take all of your annual leave allowance


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