Analysis

Revealed: The extreme working hours of big-paying US law firms in London

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Some junior lawyers are finishing work after 11pm most nights

Junior lawyers at some US law firms in London are averaging 14-hour workdays, exclusive Legal Cheek research has shown.

The data, derived from our annual survey of over 2,500 trainees and junior associates at law firms in London and the UK, shows that lawyers in the City hubs of some US law firms are grinding it out far longer each day compared to their peers at magic circle and other UK-headquartered firms — with the shift to remote-working only serving to ramp up their working hours.

Kirkland & Ellis rookies reported the longest hours of any law firm in the country for the third year running. They start work on average at 9:14am and finish close to midnight at around 11:28pm. That’s over two hours later than those working at most magic circle firms, and a notable uptick on the average hours recorded by Kirkland in last year’s survey (9:28am to 9:46pm), when rookies had spent most of the year in the office before the pandemic hit.

Juniors at other US firms in London also report late finish times, as can be seen in the below table. Those working at Ropes & Gray and Weil finish work well past 10pm, according to our figures, whilst juniors at Latham & Watkins, Goodwin Procter, White & Case, Cleary Gottlieb and Paul Hastings clock off on average after 9pm each day.

Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2021-22 — average start work and finish times

Law firm Average start time Average finish time
Kirkland & Ellis 9:14am 11:28pm
Ropes & Gray 9:20am 10:51pm
Weil Gotshal & Manges 9:46am 10:17pm
Latham & Watkins 9:16am 9:48pm
Goodwin Procter 9:38am 9:45pm
White & Case 9:01am 9:36pm
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton 9:29am 9:16pm
Paul Hastings 9:29am 9:13pm

The full hours data across the 100 surveyed law firms will be published later this week

Lawyers across the City experienced an increase in work as a result of the pandemic, particularly in private equity, which is a major practice area for elite US outfits and has contributed to this year’s record-breaking financial results.

For example, the PE boom reportedly saw Kirkland’s global revenue edge towards $5 billion (£3.6 billion) and partner profits reach an eye-watering $6.2 million (£4.5 million).

Responding to our survey, which was carried out at the start of this year, around the time of the third national lockdown, one junior lawyer at a US firm said, “the hours are long and Covid-19 has made this especially worse with the post-pandemic boom creating huge deal flows and competing client expectations”. They added:

“Work from home has created a ‘work/life blur, rather than balance'”.

NEXT WEEK: The November 2021 UK Virtual Law Fair

This sentiment was reflected by other junior lawyer respondents.

“[My] work/life balance has been totally eroded by Covid-19 and working from home,” pitched in another trainee. “Pre-covid, while there were of course busy periods, I would generally log off and leave the office between 7-9pm, and weekend working was a rarity. Now, finishing work before midnight is unheard of during the week, and weekend working is a regular occurrence.”

“WFH [work from home] life has also meant that with nothing else in our diaries, the default thing to do has just been to work and there’s been no shortage of work to fill up the time,” another trainee added.

A red hot market coupled with no business travel or commute to the office to break up the work day and little oversight from seniors as to when they clock off, left juniors feeling “like we’re on the clock 24/7”, although it was acknowledged that “the flow of deals often means you will have downtime in between heavy spats of work.”

The findings can also partly be explained by the fact that New York (where these firms are usually headquartered) is five hours behind London and often require support later in the day from UK colleagues.

There have been a wave of junior lawyer pay rises reported on over the past year, with newly qualified (NQ) salaries at US law firms in London toppling over £150k. There have also been reports of firms awarding Covid and other discretionary performance bonuses “to keep us sweet”, in the words of one trainee.

The billing targets at US firms tend to be higher than at others, as shown in our 2022 Firms Most List. And we’re told if rookies at one firm were considered to be “under capacity” in terms of billing targets, that they’d get “ripped into corporate M&A deals”, regardless of what seat they were in. In another instance, one trainee said they billed “400+ hours in a month”.

A full breakdown containing 100 UK law firms’ average start work and finish times will be published later this week.

Struggling with the stress of work? Contact LawCare via its helpline or live chat

NEXT WEEK: The November 2021 UK Virtual Law Fair

101 Comments

Question

Is the money really worth it?

(110)(4)

anon

Ask anyone who earns 30k a year in Yorkshire whether they’d like to earn £150k a year to work until 11 most nights… you’ll get your answer.

The real question is: Is working in the NHS worth it? Where 12+ hour shifts are regular and you are getting paid peanuts.

(67)(10)

Anon

But 30k probably gets you a decent house in Yorkshire. 150k in London is almost cut in half after tax and still only gets you a small 1 bed flat, noisy packed commute on the tube and no free time to spend it.

(65)(10)

Anon

I think the exit opportunities are the most important thing, ahead of the NQ salary. Most people realise this.

You’re on 30k in Yorkshire – the likelihood is that over your career you won’t break into 6 figures. That’s fine. You’ll work a 9-5/6 and get a liveable wage. Nothing wrong with that.

People are attracted to these jobs because, once you’ve put in a shift for a few years, it does open doors. There are gigs in house that pay six figures, with good opportunities to progress, that do not require obscene hours. There are very cushy jobs. The name of one of these firms on your CV is virtually is a requirement for these roles.

It depends on what you want. I’d still pick the latter.

(62)(3)

Anon

Umm when I lived in London I made $185 US with cola included and had a nice Islington flat and never got on the tube because I walked to through charming back streets in 25 minutes.

(2)(4)

Anon

I was genuinely shocked at some of the hours US colleagues said they’d been posting last year – even up to 3000 billable hrs. Unless you work in lev fin or PE at MC/SC firms there just isn’t that kind of pressure and even 1800hrs is considered a good year billing wise (1600 in some advisory teams). Unless you’re desperate for cash it really isn’t worth it.

(47)(1)

Unavailable Loo

Both Northerners and Southerners need to stop parroting this. Property in the North has gone through the roof relative to wages. Some LinkedIn warrior in Preston may go on about fabulous work-life balance, but if you’re in a decent sized corporate team in Manchester / Brum / Leeds, there’ll be a lot more in common with your London counterparts than is believed.

(21)(11)

Iain Vesta

Nah bro, these places are cheap as chips. We buy flats up North for the BTL portfolio each year and tend to only buy those aimed at young professionals. It is always a surprise how cheap they are.

(4)(4)

Anon

Christ alive. Hopefully those zombified Kirkland trainees aren’t falling asleep at the (Lambo) wheel.

(73)(3)

Anon

It is, for the most part, due to the focus on transactional departments at US law firms.

A friend doing a contentious seat at one of the US firms mentioned is leaving at about 6/7 and currently has very little work to do.

Those I know who have just started at MC firms in a corporate seat rarely leave before 11pm.

The reason why the average is so much higher for these US firms is because they have very few lawyers working in more relaxed practice areas.

If you’re in a transactional seat, be prepared to work very hard wherever you are. I think LegalCheek is quite happy to stoke the myth that US firm lawyers inherently work harder than U.K. lawyers, and that this justifies the difference in pay, which isn’t always true if comparing those the same practice area. They work on the same matters.

(85)(9)

anony

A good point.

What would the average hours at MC firms be if you excluded the practice areas which the transactional-focused US firms do not have?

e.g. employment, pensions, constructions, public law, sports, blockchain, ESG, investment grade debt/bonds, Islamic finance, most litigation, etc.

(13)(0)

MC Ass

You’re partly right, but it’s also due to the focus on PE. Public and traditional private M&A can involve long hours, but you don’t have a bunch of PE psychopaths screaming down the phone at you (or if acting lender / seller side, a bunch of K&E psychopaths screaming down the phone at you).

As a banking lawyer at an MC firm, I work late fairly often, but not to the extent of my colleagues doing mainly leveraged finance. Investment grade work just doesn’t involve as many American bellends, and as such the hours are generally more reasonable.

There is also far more actual downtime at non-US firms typically. Everyone has periods where they leave at 6, even in transactional teams. This is very rare at US firms.

Finally, US firms tend to just throw work at juniors without training them properly. I have negotiated facility agreements with trainees at K&E who have absolutely no idea what they are doing, and appear to be totally unsupervised. This no doubt adds a lot of hours and pressure because it takes them twice as long to get things done. It’s sold as a positive of US firms (“learn by doing”) but in reality they just tell their lawyers to say no to everything and essentially refuse to negotiate, which papers over the fact they don’t really understand anything.

That said, there’s essentially no point being a PE / leveraged finance lawyer at a MC firm. You may as well always take the money. The only exception is if you really don’t want to spend all your waking hours surrounded by psychos.

(125)(1)

MC Ass

And I should add – you’re certainly not guaranteed to not be surrounded by pricks at a MC firm either.

(51)(1)

Anonymousse

The training point is very accurate and very important. I was one of the many who got lured into a US training contract by the “learn on the job” narrative. The reality of it has been, particularly in transactional seats, that everyone is too busy and stressed to explain anything, you’re mostly left to churn endless CP documents, the technical points are basically gobbledegook, and people are hopelessly out of their depth. I enjoy transactional law but I can’t emphasise enough how much I regret doing a training contract at a US firm.

(78)(2)

Anon

Sure thing bud. How about you tell us what firm this was at. Probably a fake US firm like Jones Day. Most US firms have had trainees long enough to develop their own training system, albeit an informal one.

(5)(68)

ANON

“Training system, albeit an informal one” is vague and meaningless and essentially amounts to nothing more than learning on the job. Hope that helps.

Anon

‘US law firms’ aren’t homogenous though. There’s a massive difference between firms that take on 4 or 5 trainees a year compared to firms like Latham or White & Case which have a very decent training program, a wide variety of seat choices, and usually very strong retention rates.

It’s like saying ‘UK law firms have great training systems’. There’s still a huge difference between the firms.

I do agree that training at the ‘satellite’ office of a US firm is a risky proposition. As a rough cut off I’d say a trainee intake of less than 10 is in risky territory.

(51)(1)

Anon

Tbf I know a lad in a certain team at the MC and it’s an absolute shambles. They’ve got the trainees doing all sorts of work they shouldn’t be doing and the clients are rightly mythed.

It happens in many teams across all law firms, not just at ones like K&E.

Can’t stress it enough – it’s fair to think of the teams within law firms as separate firms. It’s something that you don’t realise before you start the TC, but it’s incredibly striking and important. Statements like ‘working at K&E is bad’ or ‘working in this MC firm is awful’ are silly because these firms are made up of many teams and and individuals and there isn’t one overarching culture. You can get lovely and awful teams within one firm – they usually both have a reputation you become quickly aware of.

(54)(1)

Ex GDC

Agreed! Trained at GIbson Dunn and it was wasn’t very well structured or anything! Complained and then got into trouble for complaining so I had to shut up and carry on sticking labels on folders along with the trainees!

(17)(1)

Ex GDC Too

I’m ex GDC too but not in the London office. Agree that things can sometimes not be very well structured but it really depends on team dynamics/chemistry. I loved my experience at GDC and I think it really comes down to the people. It was sort of a right place, right people, right time thing. I’m at another US firm now and I can’t say the same unfortunately….

Anonyme

Out of interest – what sort of “trouble” do people get in with law firms for issues like this (e.g. speaking up about bad conditions, and other mild things)

Paul

The money is not worth it. Choose a life. Choose a job with reasonable hours. Choose a career you can enjoy. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television. Choose washing machines, cars, Sonos speakers and electrical tin openers… Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit crushing game shows, stuffing junk food into your mouth.

(87)(5)

US Firm Detainee

Not gonna lie, you had us in the first half.

(39)(0)

Kirkland wannabe

Calm down Ewan Mcgregor

(13)(0)

Actual US 1PQE

These hours are misleading. People are counting the latest time they check their emails as their “clock-off” time. I can go out for a nice dinner and/or drink at 8ish and then have to send off an email at 11. That doesn’t mean I’m working 14 hours from 9am to 11pm.

This comment section will be full of cope.

(27)(63)

interested

Out of interest, what team are you in, are you at a £150k+ firm, and what yearly billables do you and your colleagues hit on average?

(36)(1)

Actual US 1PQE

I’m in funds. I’m above 150k base. NQs are just under 150k. I think the official target is 1700 (lol) but 1900ish is pretty typical and it’s impossible to miss bonus targets. In fairness, the past year has been extremely rough for any transactional team so trainees will have had an unusually bad time regardless of MC or US. Their experience is probably skewed very negatively for this reason. It was nowhere near as bad when I did my TC.

(15)(35)

Prof

Uh-huh, sure sure.

Back to the textbooks fresher, you’ve got your Contracts and Tort tutorials tomorrow morning.

(24)(22)

Anon

LegalCheek Boomer: I wish there were more real lawyers here.

Actual Lawyer: [Shares experience]

LegalCheek Boomer: Shut up fresher. Dammit I wish there were real lawyers here.

US 2PQE

Am in US funds too – 2pqe. Honestly think funds is an exceptional outlier though; most people don’t have it as good as us…

(1)(0)

Actual US Trainee

Count yourself lucky. The article is very accurate from my perspective. I just did a transactional seat in a US firm – was glued to my desk 14-16 hours a day and barely had time to eat a banana, let alone dinner at 8pm. Had it not been for a housemate who cooked for me it would have been Deliveroo at my desk every night for 6 months. Being able to walk away from my desk before midnight was considered a luxury, often I had associates call me with new assignments past midnight or had team briefings at 11pm.

(96)(4)

Archibald Pomp O'City

Hold on pal, that doesn’t add up. Your housemate cooked for you at midnight when you got home? Or you microwaved their labour of love in a tupperware box (which would be a step behind a freshly-cooked delivery)? Help me out here.

(2)(20)

US Associate

You’re doing it wrong and/or are just inefficient at your job. There’s no doubt the last 18 months have been horrendous for transactional lawyers but 14-16 hour days and not being able to eat or cook for the entire seat – yeah right.

Learn to say no.

(5)(23)

Name and shame

You at Kirkland? Seems weird that Kirkland’s average leave time is so much later than other firms despite paying basically the same.

Don’t know why people never name the firms they’re at on here bruh. Not like real lawyers actually read Legal Cheek comments or care at all if someone at their firm talks about their experience.

(5)(17)

Anon

Can’t wait to read the comments on this…

It’s very in vogue at the moment to attack US firms in London. I don’t really understand why. They won’t be reading these comments. Most of the commenters, statistically speaking, will not even have a TC themselves.

Here’s the point – you’re fortunate to get a TC at any good law firm in the city. They get thousands of applications for an incredibly small number of places. I can guarantee 90% of those who criticise these firms would accept a TC offer from them if they could even get one. I would.

It is always the same ‘type’ that go on and on about other firms and any of their faults – funnily enough the type who likely struggle to get a TC anywhere

(45)(22)

Duncan

Or perhaps some of us who are commenting work (or have previously worked, like in my case) at US firms in London and are passing on advice, particularly as the pandemic has reassessed what most of us truly want/value? You seem not to have a TC either so I’m not sure if you’re in a position to judge others.

(59)(3)

anon

I doubt it Dunc, sorry

The type of people who qualify or work at US firms don’t spend the afternoon browsing LegalCheek…

That’s why it’s so funny. We’ve got a bunch of students here dismissing some of the most prestigious law firms on the planet.

(8)(25)

Anon

Well said. The freshers on here need to understand these glitzy salaries they see advertised come at a very high price.

(16)(2)

Anonymous

A well-paid sweatshop is still a sweatshop, the US money is good but not worth losing years of your time being chained to your desk at 11 pm every night and ageing irreversibly.

(50)(3)

Anon

Would be interesting to see what their hourly pay is after tax even on these six figure salaries. I heard someone say it wasn’t far off McDonald’s.

(16)(3)

Archibald Pomp O'City

It’s actually below minimum wage.

(1)(5)

Anonymous

I wonder how it is in the beloved offices of Quinn Emanuel – I always hear horror stories about the lack of work/life balance, but never anything sneaks out safe for rumors.

However, the hours sound realistic for the most part. I remember working in big law and not having even time to have lunch/dinner properly. All I had was deliveroo and JustEat from the same shops. Leaving at midnight or after was normal and being back in the office by 10am was expected. I will never forget the night when I was so overworked at 5am in the morning that I forgot my keys in the office. Had to return to the damn thing, where a colleague was still in, take the keys and UBER back home for amazing three hours of sleep and a shower. Good times, not?

(44)(5)

Chicken Dippers

“New York (where most of these firms are usually headquartered)”

Only three of them are NYC headquartered!

(19)(0)

Weil PE associate

No one in my team has finished work before midnight for over a year now…

(65)(0)

Lol

Pretty dumb of you to qualify into PE when you knew it was going to be like that.

(13)(23)

SC M&A

Pretty much identical to the hours my team works.

The past year has been somewhat a ‘freak’ year though. Hopefully the hours will ease up. I do feel for those who have started a TC during the pandemic. No upside imo.

(33)(0)

K654

Does anyone know if working all day on weekends is generally required, particularly on Sundays?

(4)(0)

Anon

I work in a US firm and there was a period where I went six weeks without billing less than 10 hours on every single day. Throughout summer, I worked 7+ hours on more than half of the weekend days. It’s fairly common to be staffed on a new deal Thursday night, Friday or even Saturday. There are troughs too but the weekend work has become horrific since covid.

(33)(0)

Cope

Nah, you didn’t. You’re an undergrad trying to make yourself feel better about your rejections.

(3)(36)

Agreed

I blew past 1950 target last month with no signs of slowing down. In October, 12.7 has been my lowest billables for a weekday. I have worked every day of the weekend with 16.8 being the highest. Unless I get to 2400 hours or something equally silly, I am now essentially working for free which is galling.

Yes, there are definitely folk that come on LC and pretend to be someone they are not, but the “STFU FRESHER” to every comment is just moronic. This year has been absolutely ridiculous in transactional departments. I, for one, am burnt out and starting to answer in-house recruiters.

M&A at a west coast firm.

(33)(0)

NY or Bye Bye 👋

West Coast firm lmao. Basically the UK regional firm equivalent of US firms.

(2)(26)

Anon

Did Harvey Specter tell you this?

Archibald Pomp O'City

“Unless I get to 2400 hours or something equally silly, I am now essentially working for free which is galling.”

Don’t be ridiculous. Melodrama won’t buttress your argument. However much you’re exploited you are still being paid, and probably paid well.

(0)(17)

Lurking

Is anyone actually surprised?

(14)(0)

Bilbo Baggins

I’ve asked this question before a while back, but the only answer seemed to be along the lines of “lmao enjoy your smaller beta bonus” etc. — Is the perfect combination of pay to hours not to work in a department like Employment or perhaps Tax at a US firm? That is to say you’re getting the same tasty base salary as PE/M&A stuff while working fewer hours. A real hourly pay question if I’ve made it clear enough!

More than happy to be corrected for being a dumb pre-Trainee, but it’s a question which I always think of when reading about pay and hours at US firms in particular.

(28)(2)

Anon

To an extent yes, but in most US firms, those teams are almost purely support work to transactions.

That does mean you’re one step removed from the psychopathic fund managers yelling at your corporate colleagues, but you’re a human insurance policy, doing nothing of any interest to the client and churning extremely repetitive tasks (even by standards for law). This also limits your exit options, as other firms are unlikely to have much use for, for example, a 5 PQE employment lawyer who’s never been in an employment tribunal.

There’s also a risk the firm simply decides to make you redundant and outsource most DD if the market goes south, I know K&E already use Walker Morris in Leeds for a lot of their DD work.

(58)(1)

'Chase the Bag' Baggins

Wow, a useful and insightful response! Much appreciated; I had no idea about the DD point you make, nor the implications on exit options. Given how solid it is to become a (share) partner at most US firms, I see now how important the latter can be.

(30)(0)

Serious

It’s pretty much an open secret at law firms that those departments are crammed with second-rate, weak-willed lawyers who couldn’t hack it in a real team so got shelved on qualification. Most people want to avoid that kind of reputation at all costs even if it means longer hours. Also, they are dead-end roles with no exit opportunities. In-house employment expertise isn’t really in demand.

(18)(26)

anon

Tbf tax is a pretty important department and certainly not staffed with second-rate lawyers.

Employment does have that reputation a bit though

(50)(2)

Baggins, B.

Cheers; not exactly the sort of information they put in grad rec leaflets! Far too truthful I’m sure…

(9)(0)

Anon

One thing to add to the above re. exit oops. If you’re an employment or real estate lawyer for example, your only exits are likely other law firms. So whilst you might have an easier life at 24/25, you’re on that billing and BD treadmill for life, whilst a corporate associate can easily jump to in-house or even, if they’re very good and very savvy, a commercial role outside law.

(9)(9)

Anon

This is absolute nonsense. There are loads of in-house opportunities for employment lawyers. So much so that the employment team at my firm has lost several 3 – 5 PQE associates to in-house roles over the last couple of years. To be clear, I am an actual lawyer in a city firm in London and speak from experience.

Anon

4:32pm is most likely a lawyer at somewhere like CMS lol in which case their experience is not at all relevant. The people jumping ship from CMS are going from below six figures to WAY below six figures. No respectable company is hiring in-house employment lawyers so you’re only going to get an extremely badly paid position if you leave private practice. Nobody is saying that exit is literally impossible if you’re desperate to go in-house – it’s just that those opportunities are nowhere near as good as they would be if you specialised in another area.

T

Completely untrue. In my old in-house team, counsel was comprised of mostly employment, real estate and commercial litigation lawyers. It’s also common in-house to broaden your specialism beyond your area of qualification when required by the business.

Realist

Some very large organisations have in-house employment teams. The Post Office and Openreach are two obvious examples: they both have a huge blue collar workforce (postmen and engineers, respectively), and consequently a large number of employment tribunal claims. The respective organisations’ employment teams therefore have lots of tribunal experience.

I suspect that there is considerable truth in the warnings above: I can’t see how (for want of a better term) “c£150k NQ US firms” are able to confer upon their employment associates the same sort of experience which in-house employers see as valuable. I can however absolutely see that moving from CMS (per the example above) and similar firms probably would be viable – as long as associates are sensible and use their time in private practice to build their experience/CV appropriately.

Basically, always explore your escape opportunities: never end up in thrall to a single employer. There’s an excellent general (i.e. not legal specific) career guide called “What Color is Your Parachute?”, details of which are here: https://www.parachutebook.com. Worth considering.

Anon

This is just patently untrue, and students and junior lawyers *really* shouldn’t believe this. A few points:

– The academic profile of the advisory lawyers at my (largeish) US firm is significantly more impressive than that of the transactional ones. Firsts, Oxbridge degrees, masters, foreign languages etc. are very common.

– The work is highly demanding and regularly requires evening and weekend work. Whilst it might not necessarily be as time-consuming as transactional work, it can also be even more unpredictable (I did a tax seat, and opinions would often come in at 9pm with a request from the banking team for us to review them by morning tomorrow). It also requires significantly more thought, particularly as a junior lawyer (as a partner/counsel it’s all intellectually challenging tbh)

– Advisory seats are highly oversubscribed at qualification, whereas transactional seats often have a policy of taking anyone they can. As such the calibre of transactional lawyers is often middling and a *lot* quit.

– In-house opportunities are far more flexible than the original commenter seems to think. The GC of a major bank client of ours was a competition lawyer; her team contains former disputes and employment lawyers (plus obviously finance lawyers too). Aside from that sort of flexibility, most advisory areas of law have significant in-house demand; employment lawyers are needed by almost all companies, particularly post-Me Too, whilst many tax lawyers go in-house to the Big 4 or banks.

In short, this sort of rubbish is why people shouldn’t trust what they read on LC. Advisory work isn’t for everyone (it wasn’t for me in the end) but it’s interesting and highly-regarded stuff, and you can make a successful, lucrative and sustainable career out of it.

(41)(4)

Anon

You might have a point if you’re talking about law firms generally but most US firms don’t even offer an employment seat so its definitely not an oversubscribed department on qualification. Competition and tax are also uncommon or will end up only taking on one trainee per intake because of how small the teams are. How about you name the firm you’re claiming to be from – if it’s something like Baker McKenzie then it’s not representative of actual US firms.

(9)(1)

LW 2PQE

Probably Latham or W&C.

MC Associate

It’s a vicious cycle and not just limited to US firms – partners have come to expect availability until midnight due to wfh and clients will now expect the same level of service that comes with that.

I don’t know about anyone else, and whether if it’s the pandemic or general career fatigue, but I really just do not want to work the long hours anymore. It destroyed my last relationship, the stress is enormous and I’m starting to think life is simply too short for it to be limited to a job where if I quit tomorrow the partners would have a job advert out for my role by the end of the week. Has anyone else had this rut and, if so, how did you re-motivate yourself? I used to love my job.

(65)(0)

Anon

Few factors to consider:

– what did you love about your job before? Could you go back to that? Long hours are an innate part of the job so if you find yourself hating those…

– what else could you see yourself doing? Would you love it more? Even if you didn’t would you value the additional free time even more?

– could you adjust to the lower pay that would inevitably come with lower hours?

(13)(0)

Dubai TopDawg

Go to Dubai bruh. Tax free stacks, moist hunnies left and right, and warm, sunny weather 365 days a year. I work at a US firm there, clock off by 7.00pm daily and earn close to £200,000 a year all NET.

Oh yea baby gimme some moar

(28)(14)

Archibald Pomp O'City

Firstly, don’t let your replaceability dictate your job satisfaction. That is tantamount to being driven by ego.

But on the principle “life’s too short”, that is indeed a more profound observation; more profound than you probably realised when you wrote the comment; and it should give you pause for some deeper thought.

Everything grinds to a halt eventually and at some point you will become too old to enjoy the things you want to enjoy now; and after that, you will become too old to enjoy most things.

After that, the curtain falls on your life forever.

If you don’t want the long hours any more, I’m guessing you can (even by your lights) get a liveable wage somewhere else in a different role. Only your ego or your financial greed would keep you in a career that is destroying everything you want to enjoy, within the very limited window of opportunity you have in your short and finite existence.

(8)(0)

Outrageous

I just cannot believe people are being made to work this hard to earn lots of money……………………………

(7)(15)

US hardcore litigator

I dont understand what all the fuss is about. I work hard yet have enough spare time to drop my sprogs at school and then attempt to run over anyone who tries to take a photo of my illegal parking. Great work-life balance.

(22)(3)

Anon

You’re a partner and your loss is not a drama to your old firm. See comment of your ex-managing partner on LinkedIN. We’re speaking about NQ-PQE5. 😉

(2)(1)

Anonymous

That sounds like Boris of Quinn Emanuel, who’s now moving to Wilkie.

(6)(0)

White, angry partner with elevated blood pressure and an unhappy marriage

If you can’t handle the heat…

(5)(0)

Weekends

I suspect the hours are worse at US firms than the data discloses, seeing as US lawyers are also more likely to work on weekends

(20)(1)

Fresh

Suspecting is the most you’ll ever be able to do, bub. You ain’t getting in.

(5)(16)

Slavish master

Get with the rubric guys. It’s not about money it’s about the thrill of getting your quivering hungry lil mouth tantalisingly close to the throbbing teat of Mammon.

A fine distinction but a distinction nonetheless.

It’s all relative.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Al

(0)(0)

Spamonymous

Imagine sacrificing your twenties and early thirties, when you’re meant to be out having the time of your life, sweating out 14 hour days for a load of psychos at a US law firm

You won’t get those years back guys

(14)(7)

Anon

I’m intrigued – what job do you have in the legal industry that allows you ‘to be out having the time of your life’?

My friends doing TCs at UK firms certainly aren’t. Neither are my friends who couldn’t get a TC and are now paralegals, or working at bars or in coffee shops. Perhaps you’re unemployed and get money off your parents to party?

Where is this nirvana you speak of?

(21)(0)

Anon

Well said. Being time rich but money poor isn’t much fun either

(15)(0)

Cope

Yes – Everyone at MC firms is having the time of their life working until 9 instead of 10. Also, not sure what age you think trainees are but most of my intake will be 24 on qualification. Can stay until 2PQE and get a cushy in-house role where it’s 9-6 for a solid six figures for the rest of my life. So I’ll be enjoying my life from late twenties onwards whilst those who take your advice will be grinding until retirement. Sounds like a good trade-off to me ✌

(6)(22)

lol

Ermm yeah…wishful thinking. You have no use as a 2PQE so good luck with finding a cushty in-house role as you mean much less than 100k. And you’ll be still be qualifying in your 20s so you are still sacrificing another 2 years of your 20s, but hey it pays well. lol

(5)(0)

truth

You must be living in a dream world lol

(1)(0)

Anon

It’s fine. You’ll get downvoted into oblivion, but a lot of what you’ve said is true. Career paralegals love to parrot the ‘sold your soul’ narrative. It’s funny, because it doesn’t work the other way around. People on these competitive schemes don’t belittle them for working a 9-5.

There’s a reason these firms get thousands of applications for ~20 places a year. If you read the LegalCheek comment section and take it as gospel, you’d think it was the worst job in the world and nobody wants it. Most law students would take it in a heart beat.

Literally every firm on here gets ridiculed, the only way to ridicule these firms is to point out their working hours (which are pretty much the same as MC/SC).

(6)(0)

Anon

Lol those cushy and high paid in house roles are a myth. Where do you think will take you at 2PQ and pay you six figures to work 9-6?

(7)(0)

Sunseeker

Offshore.

(3)(0)

Hush

If you know, you know. You’re either an undergrad who knows nothing about typical career progression or a trainee who doesn’t have a shot at any good in-house role.

(0)(0)

Anon

1. You’ll need to get a training contract first.

2. People don’t move to cushy in house roles upon qualification, you’d know this if you weren’t a student.

(7)(0)

James

I’ll add something to this as a 4PQE in a regulatory department at a UK-based law firm:

It’s far too simplistic to dismiss these firms as ‘somewhere to be avoided’ based on the working hours shown here. Latham has an incredible team in my practice area. I can’t speak for the other firms as I don’t work with them as often, but I have nothing bad to say about Latham. Associates from my team have moved there and they only have good things to say. If an aspiring lawyer was interested in a career in my practice area, and they asked me whether they should train there, I certainly wouldn’t advise them to avoid the firm based on a LegalCheek survey result. What a fantastic opportunity it would be.

Once you’re in practice, you’ll realise how silly it is to weigh firms against each other, balancing salary against working hours to determine a ‘winner’. It’s just not that simple. If you’re interested in what one of these firms is good at, be that PE, M&A, fintech, litigation, there is no better place to be. Let me reiterate that – there is no better place to be. You will be exposed to the best work in the market.

City law can be very gruelling. These firms really aren’t so different from the rest. Some of them have been around London so long that they’re anglicised. They’re not full of raging American psychos frothing at the mouth. And no one has touched upon the fact that this is a LegalCheek survey. I don’t need to point out that it could have, and probably does have, many flaws.

All I can say to future trainees on here – take the comments with a pinch of salt!

(26)(1)

Archibald Pomp O'City

Kirkland & Ellis start work at 9.14am?

They should try drinking their morning coffee before they leave the house.

(2)(6)

US Big Dawg Litigator

Having done a corporate seat, it is not only the long hours but the intensity and fake deadlines — everything is urgent, all the time. Compared to litigation (which of course has long hours), everything can usually be done on your own time, and the deadlines that do exist are from the court. Makes a load of difference.

(19)(0)

Al

To hark back to our previous discussion about stress; just the thought of this makes me shudder.

Don’t get me wrong, you can clock up some very long hours at the Bar. I do a fair few all nighters to get something emailed by morning. But I think a major difference is that, at the Bar, you get to be a bit more in control of your own schedule, and also you aren’t necessarily tied to one spot.

So if the weather is nice, and I have no appointments, I can head on out for the day. If necessary I can always stick the headphones in and speak on the phone or zoom. And even if I have to meet someone in ‘real life’, I can choose a nice place.

That to me makes a huge difference. I suppose a lot of solicitor work does mean being sat at a desk. But it seems to me that, when it’s stuff you could do anywhere with an internet connection, then maybe you should be able to just find somewhere chilled to do it. So long as you make your billables, does it really matter where?

I’m interested in people’s experiences. Do you think for example you could still ‘do your job’ to the required standard if you were given a bit more flexibility in how you get your allotted tasks done?

(4)(0)

Doozer

These hours are nuts! Can someone explain why these firms have such a business model? NQ at Kirkland and Ellis – £150K. Why don’t they just cut everyone’s hours by 1/3 , increase their number of sols by 1/3 and decrease solicitors pay by 1/3?

(4)(2)

Anon

This article is really racking up the comments.

I have noticed for a while that US firms are getting a lot of stick on here. It’s going to come as a shock to many on you when you start at a U.K. firm and expect to work 9-7 regularly.

Even the LegalCheek survey, which isn’t reliable at all, has average MC finish times at past 9. That’s not even a significant difference (apart from K&E which for whatever reason is a ridiculous outlier – probably had one respondent or something).

(7)(1)

Starbucks

I spent some time working at a big City firm before I qualified. One thing that I was struck by was how incredibly miserable everyone seemed. The paralegals were always on the brink of tears. The associates were stomping around barking out orders. No-one seemed to be interested in what they were doing. Certainly no-one was enjoying it. As one went up the food chain, it was clear that people really had little independent existence. There was seldom any mention of interests, hobbies, partners, children. People were clearly absorbed by what they were doing but not necessarily in a positive way.

I think a lot of this was due to the hours. I would arrive at the office around 8.30 to find the place deserted. The actual working day seemed to start around 10.30. People would typically work until the evening, the very late evening, or beyond. I arrived at the office a couple of times to find people who had not left since the preceding day. I was horrified seeing this and wondered whether I was the one going mad or them.

The long hours culture shows how the law has become a seller’s market. The only way to afford property in London (or, to a lesser extent, the rest of the country) is to find a high-paying job. Those who are able to dole out high-paying jobs make the most of their position by sweating their labour. Let’s say we have a lawyer who is paid £150,000. That is a great salary. However, if you divide that by the number of billable hours that might be expected, perhaps 2,000, you have a gross hourly income of £75 per hour. That time is probably being billed out to the client at £200, £250 or more. Someone is making a lot of money and it is not the person at the coalface.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is why I became self-employed!

(10)(3)

Actual US Lawyer

This thread is total nonsense. Have been in a transaction team at K&E for 7 years and made partner. Average hours are 2200-2300 in the team, top billers in the 2400-2600 region, with the odd nutter higher than that.

Hours went up during COVID but in normalised times the idea of a 14 hours average work day is ludicrous.

(1)(3)

LOLrightokaybeta

Okay fresher…

(0)(1)

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