Mon. Dec 6th, 2021


That’s enough to make you sick. More than two-thirds of lawyers reported mental illness in a study done last month for LawCare for charity. Burnout is common.

Law firms have a duty to ensure that long hours do not make staff ill. But advocates must also guard against their own penchant for overtime.

An associate at the outpost of a US law firm in the London outpost can charge around 2,000 hours a year, according to one recruiter. This equates to 8.5 hours per day, excluding internal meetings, marketing and study. But a busy lawyer can pay closer to 2500 hours or 10.6 hours a day.

The buyout development and the pandemic contributed to long hours. But hard data is scarce.

Website Legal Cheek compiles an annual survey of typical daily finishing times reported by a self-selected sample of junior attorneys, whose size within each firm has not been disclosed. This year, workers at the office in Kirkland & Ellis in London reported that they stopped work at 11.28pm, a figure that seems too precise – even as an average – and improbably high. Juniors at Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Freshfields said more credibly that they regularly switched off after 9pm.

Three Lex charts showing: Mental illness in UK attorneys, experienced in previous year (%) Late finishes do not match more dissatisfied UK attorneys, staff satisfaction score and end time Burnout is highest among 26-35 year olds, burnout rate for UK lawyers

High workload apparently does not engulf the perceptions of employees of employers. The working hours of Legal Cheek do not match the scores of the satisfaction survey of RollOnFriday, a competitive website. High salary is a likely reason. At Kirkland, newly qualified attorneys earn $ 205,000.

Broader factors, such as the pandemic, can cause some health problems. About 20 per cent of adults in the UK experienced depression at the beginning of this year, according to government statistics. The rates were higher among young women, a group well represented in the lower ranks of law firms.

Temperament also seems to be part of the problem. Research Laura Empson, a professor at Bayes Business School, found that recruits at the law firm are often anxious overachievers who tend to work long hours.

Law firms like Ashurst and Baker McKenzie start wellness programs. It will only succeed under two circumstances. First, employers will have to temper the expectations of the pay hours. Second, they will have to realize that many staff members are natural workers.

The Lex team is interested in hearing more from readers. Tell us in the comments section below what you think of the law firms.



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