Of all respondents to Lawyer 2B’s Stress in Law Survey, just over a third (36 per cent) said they typically worked between 46 and 55 hours a week.
A further 29 per cent said they worked between 35 and 45 hours, while 20 per cent averaged between 56 and 65 hours.
Just over one in ten respondents (11 per cent) typically worked more than 66 hours a week, though only 2 per cent worked in excess of 75.
Of those respondents who worked in excess of 66 hours per week, the majority were in a litigation, corporate or banking/finance practice.
Is part-time working, working?
Generally speaking, the longer their working hours, the more stressed respondents were likely to rate themselves. Over 40 per cent of lawyers working more than 75 hours per week rated themselves as 10 out of 10 on the stress scale.
The finding that the more hours lawyers work, the more stressed they feel will obviously not go down as one of the great discoveries of our age. However, it is interesting to note that more than half of lawyers working fewer than 35 hours per week rated themselves at least 7 out of 10 on the stress scale, suggesting that simply cutting down on hours doesn’t necessarily cut down on stress.
A number of respondents who worked fewer than 35 hours per week mentioned the added pressures that come with working part-time.
”I work three days a week,” wrote one senior associate at a high-street firm, “but the number of hours I work is actually equivalent to a full time working week. I have a four-year-old child and eight-month-old baby, and the additional hours have to be done after they have gone to bed. So I work late into the night, am woken at night by the baby and have to get up and go to work the next day.”
“I am trying to juggle work and family since returning from maternity leave,” wrote another typical respondent. ”I am now contracted to work 80 per cent [of normal hours] but am still working around 40 hours a week (52 hours last week!).”
Some 59 per cent of respondents working fewer than 35 hours a week put “pressure to meet billing targets” as a chief cause of stress, compared to 31 per cent of those respondents working more than 35 hours.
American firms not the sweatshops they’re cracked up to be?
Received wisdom has it that the US firms in London are much more willing to beast their lawyers than their UK counterparts. American firms counter that this is a myth put about by the magic circle to excuse the fact that US firms pay much higher salaries.
The survey suggests that it’s the US firms’ story that has most truth to it. At the most junior level, over half (57 per cent) of magic circle trainees reported typically working more than 56 hours a week, compared to just 25 per cent of trainees at US firms.
There is some evidence to suggest that at qualified solicitor level, US-firm associates work longer hours than their peers at large, non-magic circle, London firms; however, magic circle associates still report working harder than any other group.
At the most senior level, while 80 per cent of US-firm partners admitted to typically working in excess of 56 hours a week, only 20 per cent said they typically worked more than 66 hours.
This contrasts with the magic circle. While the same proportion – 80 per cent – of magic circle partners confessed to working more than 56 hours a week, 60 per cent said they typically worked more than 66 hours and 20 per cent more than 75 hours.
Stress in Law survey: full results
- Lead article: Stress in the City
- Stress survey: what are the main causes of stress?
- Stress survey: what policies are in place?
- Stress survey: what firms encourage work-life balance?
- Stress survey: turning work down
- Feature article: Time management for young lawyers
- Feature article: US firms in London: myths and realities