The RollOnFriday Firm fo the Year 2017 survey has revealed which firms hook their lawyers up to drips, nail their wrists to the keyboard and slip a chamber pot under the desk for that genuine 24/7 office experience.

On 64%, Shoosmiths "lost its fabled work life balance that it used to promote", said a lawyer there, while elite Slaughter & May also scored 64% for "late nights. Lots and lots and lots of them". Partners were, said an S&Mer, "merciless". Apparently, "you occasionally catch the flash of pure pleasure in their hawkish eyes as they shit on you at 8:00pm on a Friday, destroying your weekend (or your honeymoon - nothing is sacred)". 

At Fieldfisher, which scored 62%, staff said the pendulum had swung too far toward life for "certain heads of department" who were "getting away with anything" including 45 "unnoticed" days of holiday. Working from home was "not encouraged" at Charles Russell Speechlys, where the work/life balance was "horrific for such a poor salary". As a result the firm "struggles to attract and retain associates" and the "people left get beasted". 

US firms were a home away from home for many, but not in a good way. There was a "brutal "work/life balance at White & Case, where hours were "erratic and fairly relentless". On the "rare occasion you make weekday plans", said a junior, "it is hard to say until you actually leave the office whether you will make them or not". Partners were "maniacal about associate billables", said a colleague. "I once had a severe cold and proposed working from home. I was told that a mask could be provided to me if I came in the next day". At Linklaters, "as a trainee it sometimes felt like my ass was getting prised open by a heavy-duty car jack", and "now that I've qualified it's as if I've got a giant neon sign wedged between my butt cheeks inviting partners, clients and more senior associates in. It's getting crowded". Others said that the hours were "crippling" and "hard", however one solicitor said they were "still excellent compared to what I thought they would be". 

 At Olswang, "if you take the fact that I hate my work and I hate my life", said a solicitor, "then yes I suppose there is quite a bit of balance there". Another said that partner reviews of capacity levels were reliant "solely on chargeable hour figures for the month to date", and made "zero adjustment for anyone that has any holiday", leaving even hard workers clobbered if they took time off work. A Clifford Chance senior solicitor said that, "I am worked like a bitch", but believed "I would be worked twice as hard elsewhere in the Magic Circle". Another said weekends "are now a thing of the past. SoS". There was a similarly "terrible" balance at fellow Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy, where a solicitor said that recent pay hikes were "generous", but partners "fail to realise that many associates would prefer a better work/life balance rather than the money".

The "20 days-per-year" holiday allowance at huge-paying US firm Latham & Watkins was "miserly", said a lawyer, and the "very annoying" target hours made "December so much less fun than it should be". 1900 hours "is achievable without having a completely horrendous year", but "chances are you'll have had one or two quiet months and having to claw it all back is a real pain in the social life". A colleague said, "I am in danger of being absorbed into the fabric of the building like Bootstrap Bill from Pirates of the Caribbean ('Bootstraps Bootstraps')". A third gave a poor score because of "little to no individual thanks for spending relationship and marriage-damaging amounts of time working" even though "I'm probably not even in the top 25-30% of billers at the firm - they must be undead". Freshfields scored 44%, but while the hours could be "dreadful", they "are not a surprise for anyone who knows the firm". Kennedys earned 38% partially as a result of "junior fee earners being signed off with work-related stress in droves", said a lawyer, with morale "absolutely through the floor".

  It wasn't all bad. After hitting 1900hrs he got eye drops. 

Irwin Mitchell 
was branded a "workhouse excuse of a law firm". The flexibility initiative may have gone awry: "everyone hates the whole hot-desking thing", said a lawyer, claiming that leavers "have actually cited 'having their own fucking desk' as the reason for handing in their notice". In "a twist of possibly ingenious management", people "now get in earlier in the morning so that they get computers where the monitors are on stands". The Golden Turd 2017 scored 35%, but unusually it was scored poorly because of too little work, not too much. As KWM staff voted in the survey it was becoming increasingly clear that the firm was about to collapse. In the last couple of weeks in December, said a staffer, "we would skive off and start drinking at 4. Heck we'd even go to the pub at 3, and come back in for 5 to check emails to see what the next installment of shit hitting the fan looked like". As work dried up and colleagues left, there was even a silver lining: "a lot of spare offices in which to have long conversations with recruiters".

US firm Kirkland & Ellis was rated the worst for work-life balance, receiving 25%. "Don't get me wrong, the money is good", said a lawyer, "but make no mistake - it is a faustian pact. They own you and they don't feel any shame or guilt in abusing you when it suits them". Some people "are lucky and have a reasonable time of it" but "others get pounded". Lawyers cited a "24/7 email culture" and an "expectation to be available at any time", with, "working every weekend considered normal" and "not going home for 4 day commonplace". Summing it up, a junior posed a rhetorical question: "have you ever had to cancel a holiday while you were on the holiday?"
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Anonymous 10 March 17 06:35

How can you have a workhouse which has too little work? There is more than enough work in personal legal services, the problem lies with the disaster that is business legal services. Overpaid, over-hyped and over-rated and yet cosseted by the clueless Board. How many more big name washed up partners or failed mergers will it take before we see an end to the expensive but doomed failure to transform the business? The money is drying up and those who perform are being squeezed daily so as to pay for those who have a track record for failure. The future is anything but bright under a Board which appears to be an improvement on the last one but is still pretty clueless.

Anonymous 10 March 17 08:37

BLS at IM is surely the ultimate poisoned chalice for any board. No amount of polishing that turd is going to turn it into a diamond. Best all round if everyone agrees it's time to quit while they are behind and flush the whole thing down the toilet.

Anonymous 10 March 17 13:16

All the moaning (and quite rightly!!) and yet all those lawyers who become partners and have the power to make the culture better and make a difference don't seem to do anything.... Unfortunately the money is still more attractive to most.

Anonymous 11 March 17 14:46

Why would anyone choose to work for Kirkland instead of any other American moneylaw firm that pays the same? I suspect they will soon have a mass attrition issue on their hands.

Anonymous 13 March 17 17:45

No wonder Charles Russell Speechlys made an appearance towards the bottom of the pile. Since the merger they have hemorrhaged lawyers due to the battling at Partner level for everyone to find their feet. The Private Wealth team has less than halved in size, with significant turnover of those that were there at the point of the merger. It was so bad that they actually handed out bonuses to those that 'survived' the merger by one year. Failure to retain good lawyers, pay a proper wage and the fact that others are noted as 'senior associates' before they had even qualified left a lot of the team seething with resentment and looking at other mid-sized firms across the City.

Anonymous 13 March 17 21:20

IM missed the chance to diversify 6 or 7 years ago. It will never get another chance to transform from a PI business.