US firms do least to encourage work-life balance – but magic circle lawyers are more stressed, reveals Lawyer 2B survey

US firms in London are far less encouraging of work-life balance than their UK peers, a Lawyer 2B survey of stress in law has revealed.

The survey found that some 70 per cent of lawyers working at US firms in London thought their firm’s senior management “didn’t really” encourage employees to maintain a work-life balance, compared with 29% of magic circle lawyers and 46 per cent of those at other large London firms who felt the same way.

However, the survey also reveals that despite this, magic circle lawyers at every level generally worked longer hours than their US firm counterparts. One quarter of US firm trainees reported typically working more than 55 hours a week, compared with 57 per cent of those at magic circle firms, while at qualified lawyer level, 75 per cent of magic circle lawyers were averaging more than 55 hours per week compared to 68 per cent of US firms’ lawyers.

Trainees Magic circle US in London
Working more than 55 hours a week 57% 25%
Working more than 65 hours a week 21% 13%
Working more than 75 hours a week 14% 0%
Qualified lawyers Magic circle US in London
Working more than 55 hours a week 75% 68%
Working more than 65 hours a week 46% 20%
Working more than 75 hours a week 13% 0%

Magic circle lawyers were also the most cynical, with 50 per cent believing that their firm’s talk of work-life balance was merely lip service and only 18 per cent genuinely convinced that their firm’s management really believed in employees maintaining a work-life balance.

Does your senior management actively encourage employees to maintain a work-life balance? Magic circle US in London
Yes, and I think they really believe it 18% 12%
Yes, but I think it’s just lip service 50% 15%
Not really 29% 70%
Don’t know/no opinion 3% 3%

Lawyers at small London firms were most positive about their management’s attitude to work-life balance, with 46 per cent of respondents believing their firm had a genuine commitment to it.

American firms also fare poorly when it comes to stress-busting policies: only 6 per cent of respondents in this group were aware of stress-management initiatives provided by their place of work, compared to 40 per cent of magic circle lawyers.

Other key findings from the survey of 446 lawyers included:

The full results and analysis of the survey can be found at the links below.

Stress in Law survey: full results

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