Revealed: Law firms’ average start work and finish times 2023

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By Divyansh Sharma on


Legal Cheek’s exclusive research sheds light on the working habits of trainee and junior lawyers as firms continue to fine-tune their WFH policies

Earning big salaries working on even bigger deals from fancy perk-filled offices comes with the trade-off of long working hours. New Legal Cheek research provides un-paralleled insights into average start and finish times at top law firms across the UK.

As big legal players continue to fine-tune their flexible working polices in a bid to balance the needs of their clients and staff, our exclusive data shows a slight drop in the average hours clocked up by juniors this year compared to last year.

The reduction in time spent working ranges from several minutes for some lawyers to almost an hour for others. This could be down to a number of factors including firms making more of an effort to improve the work-life balance of their lawyers, and a cooling in client demand in some practice areas following a post-lockdown boom.

Perhaps unsurprising to most, the London offices of high-paying US powerhouses top the list of latest finish times. Kirkland & Ellis, the Chicago-headquartered outfit, landed the top spot on the list for a third year in a row, with average start and finish times at 9:19am and 11:11pm. Joining it in second and third spots, albeit by a fair distance, are US firms Ropes & Gray and Latham & Watkins, with finish times of 9:58pm and 9:13pm respectively.

The 2023 Firms Most List – featuring the Legal Cheek Survey results in full

Meanwhile, at the other end of the timings table, national players chalked up the shortest days. Personal injury giant Fletchers boasts the earliest average finish time at 5:14pm, with Express Solicitors in second place at 5:33pm. Rounding off the top three earlier finishers is Weightmans at 5:44pm.

So how does your firm fare? The full list of results, ranked from latest to earliest average finish times, can be found below. These timings will, of course, fluctuate according to which department juniors are working in, billing targets or the ebb and flow of a deal. Note also the start times which vary widely.

Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2022-23 — average start and finish times

Law firm Average start time Average finish time
Kirkland & Ellis 9:19am 11:11pm
Ropes & Gray 9:19am 9:58pm
Latham & Watkins 9:21am 9:13pm
Weil Gotshal & Manges 9:12am 9:11pm
Goodwin Procter 9:18am 9:11pm
Milbank 9:04am 9:09pm
Vinson & Elkins 9:05am 9:06pm
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton 9:07am 9:06pm
Sidley Austin 9:14am 9:05pm
Skadden 9:05am 9:01pm
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 9:16am 8:59pm
Gibson Dunn 9:16am 8:58pm
Dechert 8:57am 8:58pm
Linklaters 9:15am 8:56pm
Sullivan & Cromwell 9:41am 8:53pm
Fried Frank 8:58am 8:42pm
Clifford Chance 9:21am 8:41pm
Davis Polk & Wardwell 9:36am 8:39pm
White & Case 9:26am 8:35pm
Simmons & Simmons 9:01am 8:30pm
Morrison Foerster 9:02am 8:22pm
Norton Rose Fulbright 9:06am 8:19pm
Akin Gump 9:22am 8:19pm
Herbert Smith Freehills 9:09am 8:18pm
Allen & Overy 9:18am 8:18pm
Willkie Farr & Gallagher 9:28am 8:13pm
Shearman & Sterling 9:16am 8:13pm
Mayer Brown 9:03am 8:09pm
Ashurst 09:09am 8:09pm
Debevoise & Plimpton 9:27am 8:08pm
Baker McKenzie 9:07am 8:04pm
Macfarlanes 9:03am 7:58pm
Hogan Lovells 9:09am 7:51pm
Orrick 9:08am 7:48pm
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner 9:09am 7:43pm
Slaughter and May 9:18am 7:41pm
Reed Smith 9:14am 7:38pm
Taylor Wessing 9:05am 7:26pm
Travers Smith 9:12am 7:25pm
RPC 9:00am 7:25pm
Watson Farley & Williams 9:22am 7:22pm
Wiggin 9:02am 7:17pm
CMS 8:52am 7:16pm
Bird & Bird 9:04am 7:12pm
HFW 9:13am 7:10pm
DLA Piper 8:46am 7:10pm
Dentons 9:02am 7:09pm
Withers 8:52am 7:07pm
Gowling WLG 8:59am 7:07pm
Mischon de Reya 9:02am 7:04pm
Ince 9:02am 6:57pm
Pinsent Masons 8:52am 6:48pm
Osborne Clarke 8:56am 6:47pm
Eversheds Sutherland 8:36am 6:47pm
Charles Russell Speechlys 9:16am 6:47pm
Burges Salmon 8:41am 6:47pm
Kingsley Napley 9:15am 6:45pm
Howard Kennedy 9:09am 6:44pm
Addleshaw Goddard 8:46am 6:44pm
Lewis Silkin 8:59am 6:41pm
Clyde & Co 9:01am 6:39pm
Squire Patton Boggs 8:52am 6:36pm
Shoosmiths 8:41am 6:35pm
Penningtons Manches Cooper 8:41am 6:35pm
Farrer & Co 8:59am 6:35pm
Fieldfisher 9:00am 6:33pm
Bristows 9:09am 6:30pm
Wedlake Bell 8:59am 6:27pm
Walker Morris 8:29am 6:26pm
TLT 8:42am 6:25pm
Accutrainee 8:44am 6:25pm
Taylor Vinters 8:48am 6:23pm
Trowers & Hamlins 8:47am 6:19pm
Forsters 9:07am 6:19pm
Gateley 8:40am 6:17pm
Hill Dickinson 8:45am 6:15pm
DWF Group Plc 8:41am 6:15pm
Russell-Cooke 9:11am 6:14pm
Kennedys 8:51am 6:10pm
Mills & Reeve 8:41am 6:06pm
Shakespeare Martineau 8:42am 6:00pm
Womble Bond Dickinson 8:41am 5:52pm
Ashfords 8:42am 5:51pm
Irwin Mitchell 8:42am 5:49pm
Weightmans 8:30am 5:44pm
Express Solicitors 8:18am 5:33pm
Fletchers 8:21am 5:14pm

As part of the survey, we also received hundreds of anonymous comments about working hours. Here are a selection of quotes from some Magic Circle and top US law firm trainees.

“My work/life balance fluctuates wildly being in a transactional seat. Some weeks I’ve been working in the taxi home at 2am, waking up in the morning and not having any time to shower or change before starting it all over again! However, some weeks I’ve had very little on so I’ve mainly worked on pro bono matters and administrative tasks, which are encouraged by the partners.”

“Post-Covid the WFH culture is also a lot more relaxed. It is very common to leave around 5:30-6pm, then log-on from home. Really nice if you have housemates/live with your partner.”

“Normally Saturdays and Sundays you are not expected to work — although normally one weekend of every month something comes up which requires a considerable number of hours at the week. Leaving the office pre-9pm in the week is a rarity.”

It’s not all work and no play, though. Some rookies mentioned the importance of boundaries and taking control of working habits.

“If you put down boundaries, they will be respected. As long as the relevant deadlines are met, no one minds if you leave the office at 3pm.”

“Hours can be anti-social, but if I have plans that I really want to do, on the whole I can do them if I flag it and work around it. My trainer even let me book a half day off with a couple of days’ notice so I could watch Hamilton. Weekends have been broadly uninterrupted.”

“There have been weeks where I have worked late hours but people seem to be very conscious of the need for people to pursue their hobbies and passions outside of work. I have been able to regularly go to the gym five times a week before work (with the exception of closing week on a deal when I was working past 2am every day) and have also been able to play football/go for drinks with friends/colleagues after work.”

The 2023 Firms Most List – featuring the Legal Cheek Survey results in full

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