MC vs US - hours

Apologies if this has been done before, but does anyone have any actual experience as to whether US hours are really that much worse than MC/SC in the M&A/PE/leveraged finance world?  Working on these deals it really seems as if they are one and the same in terms of the brutal graft that is demanded of the doc churners (but a significantly greater chunk of wedge for the US bods). 

No this has never been done here.  Neither have watches or house prices. 

And we know how opposed poor little hyoobert is to pointless repetition of topics.

The main MC vs US firms question is what are they like for Independent vs Grammar schools and is it an up and coming area?

  • Your post reads as though you are a student or a trainee.
  • M&A / PE M&A, PE funds and lev fin are different areas; i don't see an overlapping world. They have different demands and pressures with different exit options and careers.
  • The value proposition of a MC or US firm depends on the firm itself, your area and your level of PQE.
  • Hours targets vary between firms. Most in US firms hit over 2000 minimum billables.  Quinn has minimum targets of 2100. Mostly it's 1800-2000 target to get bonus. However time can get written off, or associates are forced to put down time on BD for the relationship so sometimes hit 2300+ and still miss bonus because of forced non billables. Billables will be less in an MC firm. Some people allege US associates to pad their billables, it's a common allegation, but in reality it's more likely to be lazy billing practices and poor narratives - US associates don't need to pad their hours. 
  • You also work hard in MC firms, but the teams are usually less leanly staffed as they are in US firms so there is more support. Hours will usually be better in the MC, yes for a comparable area in a US firm, but it depends on the US firm and how well it is doing and how lean the teams are.
  • Average turnover in US firms is c.2-3 years. It is longer in MC firms.
  • If there is an opening in a US firm, there's no shortage of willing victims from MC firms.

Don’t waste your 20s stuck inside churning out chargeable hours

Hi Biggie

I'm actually an associate and am just perplexed that I seem to be working the same/longer hours than my US counterparts who are on the other side of the deals that I'm on.  So do my mates in other departments.  I hit over 1900 last year and I'd say that was pretty accurate (probably slightly under recorded). 

I'm just intrigued as to whether US bods do, in reality, work any harder for that extra £80k or so.  I can't see how it's possible if you're already clocking 10-14 hours chargeable time a day at a non-US shop. 


  • As I said, US associates do tend to work longer but it's a how long is a piece of string question. I mentioned not just billables, but written off time and BD. You work weekends too. It's not just the number of hours, it's also availability and firedrills - being constantly on call takes a toll. Responding to an email on a Saturday night might only take 15 minutes, but the time it takes you away from your social life isn't great.
  • But the value proposition is more than the sum of a salary and hours. If you are an NQ at an MC firm on 100k and an NQ on 135k at a US firm, the difference net net is something like 15k. When you reach 6PQE at a US firm on 215+60 bonus (it's something like a 260-280 total) versus whatever you get at an MC, yes, that's a lot more money, but you have to factor in i) the burnout having gotten to that stage and still continuing to grind 2300 hours annually; ii) the fact you're now probably the last man standing at that PQE in your team; iii) the up or out system meaning you're expensive and vulnerable to getting booted.
  • Lawyers tend to leave private practice at 3, 5 and 7 PQE. 3 as they've had enough and go in-house. 5 when they decide they don't want to make partner. 7 when they are told they can't make partner. So there's not a huge value proposition of a US firm if you're looking to leave to go in-house in a year anyway.

I had a flatm8 at skadden in m&a. On the few occasions I saw him he said the sport there was watching new arrivals from the MC gradually realise that yes it is in fact possible to get beasted harder than the MC and that they hadn't in fact been working every hour possible as they previously thought.

I started my career at a US firm which I left at 2 years PQE because I wanted more of a work life balance. The one I was at had no official targets but it was frowned upon if you didn't do around 2000 hours so the hours were pretty brutal. Bit naughty but the trick to it is trying to get yourself on really big deals where fees are enormous as those deals allow for more time dumping which is essential if you want to have any sort of life. 

As someone else mentioned, the main thing I got tired of with being at the US firm I was at was constantly being expected to be on call even occasionally if you are on holiday. There is very little respect for personal life which becomes really irritating and eventually unsustainable for me. 

I think it can be like that at MC firms also but not to the same extent. 


The upside for in-house is that you can come in on the highest possible base salary which is important as this mark follows you for the rest of your career.

Thanks for the insight Biggie.  Are you a chinny?

On point 1 - I already tick all those boxes re weekends and having to respond whenever duty calls including on holiday etc. etc. 

On point 2 - at my level the net difference is probably c.100k. Good points re ii) and iii) though. 



I suspect they are working the same.

Their businesses are better:

- less overhead generally 

- US firms will be heavily focused on the most profitable areas and wont be carrying as much by way of service teams

- Fewer partners floating around at the top of lockstep but underdelivering

- US clients normally pay better

- Less squeamish about risk

- Less squeamish about billing

I worked less at a US firm than at MC, although tbh that was mainly because of seniority and having a bigger team around me.

I still reckon the juniors were doing the same. It was MC hard but not worse.

Like many of these things it depends upon firm/team.

  • No, I am not a chinny...
  • I don't feel I have properly impressed the difference in expectations both in terms of the speed and quality of work, as well as availability and responsiveness, for a team which has 2-3 associates versus a MC which has 15-20.
  • By responsiveness and availability, you end up doing a minimum of 2-3 hours billable every weekend, frequently all weekend. Holiday will get cancelled again and again. Then you go away for a week and work the entire time from your hotel room. Some people in an advisory team might have largely undisturbed holidays, some people in transactional practice areas will not be able to take any proper holiday across a year.

When comparing these hours billed, bear in mind that some of the US firms still use 15min blocks for time recording rather than 6min. And they bill separate tasks on the same matter as separate time entries. So 4 quick phone calls can be 1 hour billed whereas in most UK firms it might be 12 or 18 mins billed. 

You work when there is work to do. Because of how large and profitable big US firms are it is more likely all will be busy but even in the so bronze medallion firms and below there will be a few partners earning crap loads of cash and a few teams breaking their balls for them. 


Jesus fucking christ. 

You work 280 hours a year longer than I do. 

That's 35 days. 

I have 45 days a year holiday.

That's effectively around 80 days a year more than the american chap in the example. 


I've worked MC, US and then back to MC. I can say that hours are definitely worse at US (typically for me 2,000 to 2,400 hours per yr - excluding non-billable stuff which properly added a good 100 hours more) compared to MC (1,900 to 2,100). Teams are bigger at MC so more support = people to cover you if you need to go home early or go on holiday. I've had genuine holidays at MC, whilst I've almost never had a proper holiday at the US shop without having to do billing/other admin stuff, respond to client emails etc. Pay slightly better at US when bonus is taken into account, but MC offers better pension, healthcare, benefits. Overall, and for this stage of my life, I prefer my MC experience for work/life balance but occasionally I do miss the flat structure/responsibility/entrepreneurial side of the US place.

I recall a colleague being forced to actually re-arrange his wedding just over a week before at one US firm, that is the extra pound or flesh they pay much of your life are you willing to sell?  There’s being on call 24/7 and then there’s being owned.  I’m at a MC now and I’m pretty happy with pay vs life balance.

At a US firm’s London office the billing equation is pretty simple: 1 MC hour = 2.5 US hours.  Then add (or even multiply) the time difference between the UK and the US, stick your finger in the air and bill accordingly.

How many hours per week would you on average spend in the office or (actually) WFH at MC or US?

What all washed up and biggie said. I started at a US firm and then MC so I was already used to US billable. Good grief, it was normal to me in those days but eventually got tiring not being able to go in the long haul trips without the fear of having to cancel. I really can’t imagine having to do that now. MC was better but not by much, overseas secondment was great tho if that’s an option for you?

Extraordinary really the extent to which people will sell their soul for dolla.

BonBon that wedding story is savage.  I get horrendously beasted (am still going from 6.30 this morning) but I don't think I would be made to do that.  I have had to cancel long weekends away on short notice and that is fucking annoying.  

It’s savage really once you come out of it and realise how much of your time, is taken up by work, all of it really. I look back and wonder how I did it. Then remember all of the nice dinners with friends that I bailed on, most fridays but the last minute holiday cancellations eventually made me get out. Bonbon that sounds horrific.

Accelerate, US firms mainly charge by 10,12,15 minute units , so they can theteotically bill more for “less “ work. 
US clients don’t seem to mind .

And I know if differs by firm but felt like more scrutiny at US and what the others said about it being more lean, so much harder with due diligence. Most of the support weren’t around late into the evening

Any firm that told me to postpone my wedding I would work to rule , until I found a new job .

ultimately there are 24 hours a day you can work, doesn’t matter if 18 of those are spent at Kirkland or CC

We haven't had one of these threads in a while and it just reminds me I am so glad I got just before my first child was born, when my wife was pregnant. 

I never did US (interviewed and turned down) but I was MC litigation for ages. I learned a lot (and genuinely enjoyed the work once I got past the trainee/NQ disclosure doc review stage) but man I sacrificed my 20s to that, I couldn't face sacrificing my thirties to it too. Totally not worth it

Also American firms pay more / are more profitable because they don’t have legions of support staff by comparison.

no 50 HR/BD/ marketing / finance/PR staff etc .

To add to what others have said, from what I have heard and seen, the key difference is the expectation of constant availability and instant responses which is much less a "thing" in the MC, but I would also say that the marginal effect of slightly greater hours at a US firm is bigger than you might think. 

It sounds like working (say) 10% extra hours for 50% extra pay (or whatever the equation is), is a good deal, but that extra 10% could be the difference between the occasional dinner with your kids and not seeing them at all during the week..that 10% could be the difference between managing social events and dinners once or twice a month and zero for 3 months. Etc, etc. The effect of minor changes at the edge is much more significant than the same change in the middle. 

1800 hour billable a year is hard work but if you're paid well you can have a decent life alongside it, although there will be the inevitable late nights and cancelled plans. 

2000 - Much harder than 1800 - you'll be questioning your life occasionally but especially if you get paid more, just barely doable with something resembling a life. 

2200+ - Basically no life and your friends wouldn't recognize you if you walked past them on the street (BTW this has happened to me - I walked past a fat, balding middle aged guy in a suit smoking outside a strip club in the City one night thinking "jeez, I hope I don't end up like him in ten years" and it was only a hundred yards down the road that it clicked that I knew him, and we'd been trainees together a decade earlier in our mid 20s and were basically the same age - mid 30s at the time). 

2400+ - At this point you're basically just a walking billing skeleton, especially if you do it consistently and not just as a one off. 

Rumours aplenty of some corporate bods at US and MC firms billing 3000 hours a year ??

at uni we were presented with a Goldman’s 29 year old M&A MD , who claimed he had a week off each of his first two years . Ie 360 days x 2 years . Mental . He probably earns less than a salaried partner at Herbies

  • If you're in corporate you're not a real lawyer anyway, whether MC or US. 
  • Plot an exit to another non-law role. 

You could find yourself doing 2k+ in any firm, well you could pre recession, may as well get paid the market rate for doing it. 

at least US firms pay better, far better . By way of example Kirkland pay their NQs 50% more than Freshfields, they won’t work 50% more hours....

i dont know how you lot did it, I was doing about 17-1800 hours a year in PP and that was by far too much. Although I spent a lot of time worrying about it all after i had left work for the day, perhaps that is the trick.

  • Wall Street pay somewhere like Dubai for a few years would set you up.

ultimately there are 24 hours a day you can work, doesn’t matter if 18 of those are spent at Kirkland or CC

This.  And it applies equally down at the lower end.  Whether it's recording 2200, 2000,1800, 1600, 1400, all that really matters is how much of your day/week is occupied with work related shit.  I've worked harder at places with lower billables targets simply because the rest of your time is filled with non-billable stuff.  It's still work. 

Worked hardest & had the most work/life disruption in-house - but more enjoyable as I cared about the business so it didn't feel quite as much like 'work'.  

  • People at US firms admit they are there for the money.
  • At the MC they ask whether you’re Oxford or Cambridge, then admit they are there for the money.

Have worked MC, US, national firm.

Hours broadly comparable in what I do, to be honest. 

On balance I preferred the US firm deal - you get properly compensated for the abuse of your capacity (by which I really mean aperture). And you learn a lot quicker and take on proper responsibility a lot earlier.

At MC there was an element of not having to compensate you because you get the “prestige” of working for them and a better chance of partnership (yeah, right...).

At national firm, there was a fair amount of bullshit about it being a nice culture (yes if you’re in the very tightly held equity, otherwise not so much) and more humane hours (again, yes if you’re in the very tightly held equity).

In-house can be just as much work if done properly; but it’s also a hell of a lot more fun and the working culture and environment is a lot more humane.

If you want an easier life on the work front, don’t be a lawyer. Go work for a hedge fund or more generally in asset management. 


  • I agree about hedge funds and asset managers. 
  • Much easier because there's no real work to do. 
  • Get an MBA and cruise. 

But there *is* a better chance of partnership in MC @jackofhearts - sure, it's the difference between 1% and 0.1%, but it's there. At a minimum you (in London) get in front of the actual decision makers instead of being subject to the whims of head office in Ohio or wherever. 

An old supervisor of mine made partner largely on the basis that the global managing partner whose office was down the hall gave him all the work he personally needed done (to be fair, my old supervisor was and is one of the best lawyers I've ever met - he deserved it many times over, but that visibility helped him massively)

To buck the trend I work at a US firm (corporate team) on £250k+ (incl bonus) and prob bill around 1600 - 1800 hours a year (due to alternative fee arrangements there is more focus on efficiency than putting down hundreds of hours so this has no effect on bonus or progression). Can WFH as much as I want and the basic premise is as long as the work gets done we don't give a sh*t about presenteeism etc. When in the office I would typically be home for kids bed time. I know people at regional firms (including partners) earning a fraction of my take home and who work harder.

That said, you do get periods where you're billing 16 hours a day (thankfully not often though) and people suggest unnecessary weekend calls and no one even blinks.

I love these threads. I sometimes think about heading to the MC and then I see threads like this. The most I’ve billed in one year was about 1700, although with non-chargeable it came to around 2100, and that was a tough year (for me). I got paid significantly less than some above who might have been doing 2500 hours of work, but that extra 400 hours is the real killer. That, plus the fact that all the extra money you get paid is taxed at the sharp end. I do like the idea of over-earning, slamming income into a SIPP, and retiring early (which I won’t be able to do) but if you do irreversible damage to your health, miss out on the best days of your life, etc, it just doesn’t seem worth it.

Are you still in PP OD? What keeps you in if not the money?

I’m in private practice litigation. The money has never been a significant factor for me, although Mr Large’s situation does sound good. I like the work and I have good clients. I think being forced to work much more than I want and for clients I despise (on a regular basis) wouldn’t be worth the extra money.

I enjoy hiking, but I wouldn’t want to try to break the record for hiking the Appalachian Way in the shortest time. That would make something enjoyable extremely painful and also lead to crashing and burning.

Mr Large that's interesting.  I've got a couple of mates at non-Kirkland/Latham outfits (Ropes, Covington, V&E etc.) who say the hours are much the same as their previous firms (two of whom worked for a bigger regional outfit which were not MC or SC).  I guess it really just depends on where you land... 

Yes, strutter.

But the price exacted for the 0.9% increase in chance versus the compensation differential over a career assuming you don’t make it is one hell of an opportunity cost.

The MC is a little better at having people mentored through from pretty early in their career by some partners. But it’s a pretty marginal difference.

Some people find it easy to hit 2,000 hours. 2 lawyers spending exactly the same time working on matters will often record dramatically different amounts. I would say it varies by about 30% within my team.

One old guy has no shame. Multiple 0.1 hour units for reading individual emails. He doesn't think he is doing anything wrong. He obviously is. Others under-record massively to their own detriment - mugs like me.

If I am billing at 1,800-level or above, I feel like I have no life. For others, that's an easy 09:30-19:00 working day.

Was indeed savage, think the worst part was shortly after that deal closed, the partner made a move to another firm and made it a condition he could bring his team (being him, another partner, four associates and 2 PA’s to all go together on a sweet deal) and that poor guy that cancelled his wedding was left behind......Brutal.... 

I am pretty pathetic when it comes to turning down work, but cancelling your own wedding at a week's notice is in a different league. 

If a firm sees that you they can do that to you, they will lose respect for you - bad decision all round.

Making someone cancel their own wedding is just sociopathic. I never saw anything quite like that at the US firm I was at - though there was a general sort of expectation of 1 hr response times pretty much all the time during the week. But the hours themselves were not especially worse than MC.

Something that important? All those guests? I hope I would have just told them to fuck off.

I mean - apart from anything else - simply nobody is that vital or important save maybe maybe the partner themselves in which case they can make their own judgement.

BonBon - I think I know the firm.  Did the associates that moved got an outrageous golden handshake?  If I'm correct I'm not surprised at the place that made the guy cancel his wedding...

  • If you want to make money in law, offshore is usually the most obvious strategy, not a US firm.
  • In a year in Dubai or Cayman, you could earn twice as much as you would at a US firm over the course of the year net net. Stay 2 years, you will save as much as you would in the next four years of private practice, assuming you made bonus in London which is not always guaranteed. As I indicated earlier, you can hit 2500 hours in a US firm and be forced to put 501 hours down on BD and congratulations, now you've missed your sizeable bonus.
  • The working hours offshore are not as burdensome as London i.e. you can actually have a life (as much as a life you can have in the sandpit).
  • Partnership prospects in US firms are very limited, and a salaried partner (worst job in the world) is on only a tad more than a 7PQE anyway. Then you have to grind for several years before you're on equity which is mostly 1 mill a year as it is at MC firms.

I spent over a decade at an MC firm, getting seriously beasted pre-crisis and then intermittently (and unpredictably) beasted post-crisis.

I'm now in house with a fund manager, earn at least the starting rate for a junior partner at a top firm, and have a dog who gets cranky if I break her routine by not logging off and taking her walking for an hour at 6.30pm.  

Don't know why I stuck it out at a firm for so long, m9s.

And as for recording individual calls as a billable unit and all that bollocks - you work for sophisticated clients who know what deals should cost.  So if you present them with some doctored piece of bollocks full of tricks, they won't really care how you reached the headline number, but they ain't gonna pay it if it's not within their expectations.

You have to kiss some frogs to find your Prince Charming.

  • Well done Ollie.
  • Biggie also talks sense.
  • Good to see bullets adopted so effectively as well. 

thing is ollie, look around at ur peers at other fund managers

i reckon well over half have big long private practice stints as their background, like u

fact is those fund managers generally only want to hire lawyers at the top level who’ve slogged it out

so maybe the option of a gc-level multitun role while still getting sunset strolls with betsy just isn’t there, largely, without having put in the hard yards earlier. u have to earn those doggy treats.

That’s right really.  My kids see look at me being a lawyer and see someone getting paid a great deal of money for not doing a great deal while WFH.  They don’t see what it took to be in that position (multiple 300 chargeable hours/month, cancelled weekends, travel at an hours notice).  My employer pays for the fact I’ve seen multiple economic cycles and can do in 15 minutes what it takes a junior lawyer an hour plus to do.

God I'm so glad I left PP.  Over 10 years I did between 1500 and 2000 hours a year, depending on workload.  Doing more than 2000 would just be awful.  I used to feel my life slipping away in the busier spells, I looked like a bag of shit and was always stressed.  My family say I'm a different person since I left (in fact I'm the old me, apparently).  Commuting on top of it certainly didn't help.  I'd only go back if I had absolutely no other option.  Enjoy!

Accelerate - they did indeed.  Also whilst it was never uttered, I firmly believe the Snr Associate and right-hand man to the partner in question also had guaranteed partnership track as part of their new firm deal (which actually materialised fairly quickly to my surprise).

I’ve worked in two other US firms (W&C and Lathams) and never again saw this level of behaviour at either, thankfully.  Just the regular stuff discussed here.

Associate soon moved into private practice after that (quick look at his LinkedIn - I suspect best move he ever made).


Having recently qualified in the MC, the aim is to do 2-3 years and leave. In-house asset management always seemed a good gig but they only seem to want funds/m&a lawyers...

funny how a fund house making m&a investments primarily want funds and m&a lawyers innit

 "u have to earn those doggy treats."


M9, try telling that to the spoiled entitled bitch I live with.

But hey, what man wouldn't melt when she bats her eyelids, licks your face and wags her tail just so...

In-house management always seemed a good gig but they only see to want funds/m&a lawyers...

Most lawyers in asset management/funds are not funds lawyers. They are either asset specialists, depending on the asset the fund/manager acquires, or derivatives lawyers. Only huge asset managers and funds of funds really hire fund formation lawyers. 

Twist et Cie invests in a few different asset classes and the legal team reflects that.  We have a limited number of funds specialists, a lot of (our speciality area of) M&A, a few PE, a few structured, infrastructure and general debt. 

So yeah, what Obadiah.  Lots of asset specialists, very few funds specialists.

I don't think there are that many pure derivatives lawyers at funds, certainly not once you get below the big beasts.

oliver twist @ 2:47 - if a client calls me and the conversation lasts 5 minutes, why wouldnt you bill it??

Because over the course of the day you've done 16 separate tasks for that client.  And if they see 16 time entries for a total of 89 units - when in fact it was a half day in total, they'll tell you to p1ss off. 

But more to the point, half the time clients don't even see time entries and narrations. They don't give a flying fuck what your billing system says if the bill comes in 50% over what they expected.  You explain that on the basis that your scope changed and your fee assumptions didn't hold, not because you billed 15 units for leaving 15 separate phone messages over the course of a day.

Stru makes some good points. Unless your goal in life is to be tied to a desk and neglect your family until 55, the way to do it is to endure MC/US till 6/7 PQE, find a senior role IH/ smaller firm and enjoy a decent [family] life. 

I worked as a city legal recruiter. Lots of my candidates were with top US firms

I heard of an associate at Millbank clock 3,000 in a year under a certain partner in ICM. You'll probably know who he is

Yes, 3,000 billable hours in a year 

From what I've heard Milbank is one of the worst sweatshops in the City (a lot of associates leave to MC/SC and I've met a few of them) - quite a bit worse than the larger US firms.  3,000 billable is nuts though - that's over 8 hours on every single day of the year... there must have been some serious time dumping going on there.   

2k+ will make you question your life choices, so you have to be irredeemably sad to clock 3k and return sans resignation letter.