Revealed: Law firms’ average start and finish times 2023-24

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By Rhys Duncan on


Exclusive research shows dip in working hours compared to previous year

It’s not all big bucks, fancy offices, and high calibre perks across the UK’s top law firms. Apparently, they also get up to quite a lot of work too.

Anonymously surveying over 2,000 trainee and junior lawyers, Legal Cheek has gained an unparalleled insight into the working patterns and hours at over 100 leading law firms.

As was the case last year, the average working hours for trainee and junior solicitors have decreased across a raft of law firms. Whilst this could be chalked up as a small win for work/life balance, slowing market conditions across several practice areas may also play a role.

Topping our list for the fourth year in a row came Kirkland & Ellis, with the average junior clocking up over 12 hours a day and not logging off before 10pm. Also in the 12 hour club are Ropes & Gray, Weil Gotshal and Manges, and Milbank. Those £150k+ NQ salaries clearly don’t come without a few late nights.

The 2024 Firms Most List — featuring the Legal Cheek Survey results in full

At the other end of the scale, personal injury giant Fletchers Solicitors came in with the lowest average working day with 8 hours and 36 minutes. New entries Winckworth Sherwood and Brabners join Fletchers and returnee Russell-Cooke in averaging (just) shorter than nine hour days, with most rookies out of the office by around 6:15pm.

But, how does your firm fare? The full list of results, ranked from the longest to shortest average days, can be found below. These timings will, of course, fluctuate depending on the particular department a junior works in, and the demand at any given time. You can also see the average start and finish times of juniors, ranging from a typical 5:30 finish, to average closing times past 10pm.

Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2023-24 — average start and finish times + average working hours

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Law firm Average start time Average finish time Average working day
Kirkland & Ellis 9:33am 10:01pm 12 hours 28 minutes
Ropes & Gray 9:18am 9:40pm 12 hours 22 minutes
Weil Gotshal & Manges 9:17am 9:29pm 12 hours 12 minutes
Milbank 9:21am 9:29pm 12 hours 8 minutes
Fried Frank 9:18am 9:15pm 11 hours 57 minutes
Jones Day 9:11am 8:53pm 11 hours 42 minutes
Dechert 8:53am 8:30pm 11 hours 37 minutes
Goodwin Procter 9:40am 9:16pm 11 hours 36 minutes
Simmons & Simmons 9:01am 8:30pm 11 hours 29 minutes
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 9:19am 8:46pm 11 hours 27 minutes
Sidley Austin 9:30am 8:52pm 11 hours 22 minutes
Debevoise & Plimpton 9:29am 8:51pm 11 hours 22 minutes
Clifford Chance 9:22am 8:44pm 11 hours 22 minutes
Gibson Dunn 9:05am 8:22pm 11 hours 17 minutes
Linklaters 9:18am 8:33pm 11 hours 15 minutes
Vinson & Elkins 9:18am 8:31pm 11 hours 13 minutes
Sullivan & Cromwell 9:41am 8:53pm 11 hours 12 minutes
Morrison Foerster 9:16am 8:28pm 11 hours 12 minutes
Latham & Watkins 9:26am 8:35pm 11 hours 9 minutes
Davis Polk & Wardwell 9:36am 8:39pm 11 hours 3 minutes
Norton Rose Fulbright 9:08am 8:08pm 11 hours
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton 9:15am 8:12pm 10 hours 57 minutes
Shearman & Sterling 9:16am 8:13pm 10 hours 57 minutes
Akin Gump 9:10am 8:02pm 10 hours 52 minutes
White & Case 9:20am 8:11pm 10 hours 51 minutes
Allen & Overy 9:25am 8:15pm 10 hours 50 minutes
Willkie Farr & Gallagher 9:29am 8:17pm 10 hours 48 minutes
Macfarlanes 9:08am 7:52pm 10 hours 44 minutes
Baker McKenzie 9:09am 7:52pm 10 hours 43 minutes
Herbert Smith Freehills 9:12am 7:52pm 10 hours 40 minutes
Orrick 9:21am 8:00pm 10 hours 39 minutes
Katten Muchin Rosenman 8:51am 7:25pm 10 hours 34 minutes
Greenberg Traurig 9:18am 7:51pm 10 hours 33 minutes
Ashurst 9:13am 7:46pm 10 hours 33 minutes
Stephenson Harwood 9:16am 7:47pm 10 hours 31 minutes
Taylor Wessing 8:55am 7:26pm 10 hours 31 minutes
DLA Piper 8:51am 7:15pm 10 hours 24 minutes
Paul Hastings 9:24am 7:45pm 10 hours 21 minutes
Hogan Lovells 9:09am 7:30pm 10 hours 21 minutes
Cooley 9:12am 7:31pm 10 hours 19 minutes
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner 9:06am 7:25pm 10 hours 19 minutes
Kennedys 8:45am 7:00pm 10 hours 15 minutes
Mayer Brown 9:13am 7:27pm 10 hours 14 minutes
Reed Smith 9:20am 7:32pm 10 hours 12 minutes
Travers Smith 9:17am 7:27pm 10 hours 10 minutes
Mischon de Reya 9:01am 7:10pm 10 hours 9 minutes
CMS 8:55am 7:04pm 10 hours 9 minutes
Eversheds Sutherland 8:38am 6:45pm 10 hours 7 minutes
Watson Farley & Williams 9:18am 7:23pm 10 hours 5 minutes
Slaughter and May 9:22am 7:26pm 10 hours 4 minutes
K&L Gates 9:18am 7:20pm 10 hours 2 minutes
Gowling WLG 8:55am 6:52pm 9 hours 57 minutes
Withers 9:03am 6:58pm 9 hours 55 minutes
RPC 9:00am 6:53pm 9 hours 53 minutes
Wiggin 9:01am 6:53pm 9 hours 52 minutes
Squire Patton Boggs 8:49am 6:38pm 9 hours 49 minutes
Bates Wells 9:05am 6:51pm 9 hours 46 minutes
Charles Russell Speechlys 9:01am 6:45pm 9 hours 44 minutes
Burges Salmon 8:50am 6:32pm 9 hours 42 minutes
Bird & Bird 9:10am 6:50pm 9 hours 40 minutes
Walker Morris 8:33am 6:13pm 9 hours 40 minutes
TLT 8:36am 6:14pm 9 hours 38 minutes
Foot Anstey 8:44am 6:21pm 9 hours 37 minutes
HFW 9:17am 6:52pm 9 hours 35 minutes
Pinsent Masons 9:01am 6:36pm 9 hours 35 minutes
Gateley 8:47am 6:21pm 9 hours 34 minutes
Hill Dickinson 8:46am 6:19pm 9 hours 33 minutes
Howard Kennedy 9:02am 6:33pm 9 hours 31 minutes
Lewis Silkin 8:58am 6:28pm 9 hours 30 minutes
Addleshaw Goddard 8:53am 6:22pm 9 hours 29 minutes
Penningtons Manches Cooper 8:51am 6:18pm 9 hours 27 minutes
Osborne Clarke 8:58am 6:24pm 9 hours 27 minutes
Dentons 9:21am 6:46pm 9 hours 25 minutes
Shoosmiths 8:47am 6:11pm 9 hours 24 minutes
Kingsley Napley 9:03am 6:27pm 9 hours 24 minutes
Trowers & Hamlins 8:53am 6:15pm 9 hours 22 minutes
Womble Bond Dickinson 8:37am 5:58pm 9 hours 21 minutes
Accutrainee 9:04am 6:23pm 9 hours 19 minutes
Farrer & Co 9:08am 6:26pm 9 hours 18 minutes
Michelmores 8:38am 5:56pm 9 hours 18 minutes
Bevan Brittan 8:38am 5:56pm 9 hours 18 minutes
Stevens & Bolton 8:57am 6:14pm 9 hours 17 minutes
DWF Group Plc 8:45am 6:02pm 9 hours 17 minutes
Bristows 9:12am 6:29pm 9 hours 17 minutes
Mills & Reeve 8:43am 6:00pm 9 hours 17 minutes
Express Solicitors 8:20am 5:36pm 9 hours 16 minutes
Harbottle & Lewis
9:19am 6:35pm 9 hours 16 minutes
Forsters 9:07am 6:23pm 9 hours 16 minutes
Fieldfisher 9:00am 6:15pm 9 hours 15 minutes
RWK Goodman 8:48am 6:02pm 9 hours 14 minutes
Clyde & Co 8:57am 6:11pm 9 hours 14 minutes
Weightmans 8:48am 6:00pm 9 hours 12 minutes
Ashfords 8:46am 5:55pm 9 hours 9 minutes
Shakespeare Martineau 8:45am 5:51pm 9 hours 6 minutes
Wedlake Bell 9:18am 6:21pm 9 hours 3 minutes
Birketts 8:46am 5:49pm 9 hours 3 minutes
Irwin Mitchell 8:43am 5:46pm 9 hours 3 minutes
Winckworth Sherwood 9:14am 6:12pm 8 hours 58 minutes
Brabners 8:49am 5:45pm 8 hours 56 minutes
Russell-Cooke 9:15am 6:01pm 8 hours 46 minutes
Fletchers 8:44am 5:20pm 8 hours 36 minutes

As part of the survey, we also received hundreds of anonymous comments about working hours. For those looking at the upper end of the table, some words of advice:

“Balance? Sorry mate, never heard of him.”

“Hours are, of course, not exactly 9 to 5, but it’s certainly not dissimilar to any other serious private equity or finance outfit in the City”

“Weekends and holidays are honoured (unless there are emergencies) and your time is mostly respected. However, when work calls you are expected to answer.”

“[Work-life balance] comes and goes in waves. If I were to say it’s good, that would be a lie, but it’s not as god awful as people make out. There are sometimes weeks which go by when I barely bill anything, but then I have had to work over the last two bank holiday weekends. Swings and roundabouts.”

It’s not all bad elsewhere in the table however:

“No one is expected to work late if there is no work to do. Even when there is a lot of work on, the culture of the firm is for everyone to help and support if one person has a lot to manage”

“[I’ve been] told by more than one senior person at the firm to stop checking emails at the evening/weekends”

“It is very rare that I work past 5.30pm and I have never had to do work on a weekend”

The 2024 Firms Most List — featuring the Legal Cheek Survey results in full

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