Aspiring lawyers expect to work longer hours, says survey

Would-be lawyers are expecting to work far longer hours than they would have done before the global financial crisis, a new survey has revealed.

According to the survey published by cvmail 15.3 per cent of graduates applying for legal roles expect to work over 55 hours a week in 2010, an increase of over a quarter from 12.6 per cent in 2009.

Over a third of students (35.2 per cent) now expect to work over 50 hours a week or 10 hours a day for law firms (the EU Working Hours Directive, which trainees are expected to opt out of, limits this to 48 hours).

University of Warwick law student Chrissy Vassiliou said: “The competition is so high now to even get a training contract that when you secure one you have to expect to work hard and prove your worth once you’re in the door.”

But the prospect of spiralling course fees, tough competition for training contracts and now long hours spent chained to your desk if you are lucky enough to secure a job is putting some students off.

Law student Grace Salmern, who is studying at Queen Mary, University of London, said that the legal profession is starting to look like a grim career choice.

“Students are no longer looking at law as a fun, exciting and rewarding career but something that is extremely hard to get into with very little reward once you get there,” she argued.

But it seems the legal profession has not lost all of its appeal for students after university admissions statistics revealed that more students than ever before have applied to study law courses.

The figures published by admissions service UCAS showed that no fewer than 83,000 students applied to university or college to study law this year, an overall increase of 5.6 per cent since 2009 (see story).

The cvmail research also revealed that in their desperation to secure employment, many graduates are losing interest in employers’ policies on issues such as the environment and focusing instead on more traditional subjects such as a firm’s reputation for longer-term career opportunities.

Only 6.2 per cent of law students surveyed listed corporate social responsibility as the most important factor in selecting a law firm, while over 21 per cent of graduates listed training and career opportunities as the most important factor.