Staff at firms which scored under 60% could still be more satisfied with their work/life balance than not. Under 50%, it was a different, pallid and exhausted story featuring most of the Magic Circle.

There was a sense that BLM (57%) was being punished for sins in other areas. "Give BLM its due", said a junior solicitor, "no one has a problem with you leaving at 5". It was the firm's "only saving grace" said  a colleague. Although a dissenting voice said, "I have to work evenings to make up for the time wasted during the day on stupid meetings, useless training, billing and slow IT". They "waste your time and tell you off for not billing".

At Herbert Smith Freehills (52%), said a senior associate, "Given the type of work (genuinely the best litigation cases in the City by a country mile), there are inevitably long hours", but "compared with peers (in particular, Freshfields) the work/life balance is not too bad at all". There was some dissent. "Regular shaftings are expected and often for no other reason than it is the whim of the partner", said a junior solicitor. "No client deadline, no external deadline, just a f**k you to the team." "I was given a good flexible working arrangement", said a senior solicitor, although, she said, "friends of mine in other departments have been told that flexible working 'just doesn't work for fee earners'".

"So the hours are long, very long sometimes", said a junior solicitor at Linklaters (50%). "But the remote working is better than ever, and planned holidays are generally sacrosanct". "Obviously the hours are mental", said a trainee, "but I've never actually missed something I really wanted to go to or had to cancel holiday". A peer disagreed: "The hollow apologies from the partners when forced to work late and cancel plans start to irritate after the thousandth time". Advances in flexible working were being made: "It's good that the 'work from home one day per week' policy has been formalised", said a junior solicitor. But "having your name and the day you are working from home 'announced' on an email to the whole group" and "having to stick a ridiculous 'I'm WFH' sign on your door" made uptake "much lower than it should be". On the evidence of its comments, Slater & Gordon (48%) did not deserve it's low WLB score. "I can leave at 5pm and not feel guilty", said a junior lawyer. because the firm is on its knees".

  Not all firms make it easy to achieve balance. 

At Clifford Chance (43%), "if a fee-earner works from home and no partner is there to see it, the fee-earner is on holiday", said a junior associate. Although, "working from home is allowed on Saturdays and Sundays". There "was a survey recently where you placed tokens in boxes that related to your current stress level", said an associate. "As you can imagine, the 'very stressed' box was by far the fullest. The boxes vanished suddenly mere hours after they were put out and never mentioned by the firm again..." But, said a colleague, "given that pay is 'up there', what can you expect?" A partner chimed in: "It's the Magic Circle. If you can't stand the heat..."

There was a price to pay for the wedge at Kirkland & Ellis (41%). "I typically work 13/14+ hours each day on average", said a junior lawyer: "when it's bad, it's BAD". But it was a deal respondents understood. "What do you expect for that much money?" said a senior solicitor. "We were sufficiently forewarned", said a trainee.The work/life balance at Allen & Overy (39%) was "not as bad as people think", said a junior solicitor. Unfortunately, "the expectation that you will work 72 straight hours at a moment's notice hits your social life as much as actually working 24/7".

"I was averaging 2200 billable hours but was told I 'wasn't showing enough commitment'",
said a junior solicitor at Freshfields (30%. "Is it surprising that there's been a flood of Magic Circle associates to US firms?" Trainees "are constantly beasted", said one. "I think having three month seats contributes to this. Associates and partners know that you are passing through the team, so make little effort in this regard". "The moon", said another, "is the only light we'll see..." The firm "does try hard to implement family friendly policies", said a senior solicitor, but "individual partners undermine this by promising clients everything under the sun - with ridiculous timescales". 

At least they're not at Golden Turd Irwin Mitchell (25%), which came last for work life balance and where even the partners "are expected to record the same chargeable hours as associates and do everything else on top" said one, grousing that "sleep is apparently for southern wimps". Dissatisfaction with other factors infected the score: "All of my out of work time is spent dreading going back into work", said an IM solicitor, who therefore marked it down. But there were direct work/life issues. IM, said a paralegal, "demands that you go to ridiculous amounts of internal meetings, repetitive training on the same topics and then business development activities... time which you must then pluck out of the air to make up for the lost chargeable time". It was "totally nonsensical". 
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Anonymous 23 February 18 10:40

I know I will be accused of being a management spy for Irwin Mitchell but how can a firm that regularly scores the lowest in chargeable hours and working hours surveys have the worst score in the UK for work life balance? I am not accusing anyone who filled in the survey of lying or trolling or anything like that but it is worth recording that this isn't everyone's experience at the place. Clearly, it is a big sprawling group and experiences differ from office to office and practice area to practice area but it seems silly to say that people in offices that are graveyards by 6pm are being beasted more than Clifford Chance or Linklaters.

Anonymous 23 February 18 18:50

Irwin Mitchell is never going to get out of the top three. A bunch of Arkwright’s running t’ mill.

Anonymous 24 February 18 06:16

Anyone who works at one of these places is an idiot. Sad sad people - unless they do not value personal time/wives/kids or like feeling like zombies/feel great after 3 hours sleep per night.

Anonymous 24 February 18 09:32

I call bullshit re IRwin Mitchell. I work there and every office I’ve been to is 99% empty by 6.30. And a good thing too.

Anonymous 24 February 18 16:17

There must be no trolls left on the bridges if they are the reason why Irwin Mitchell has won the turd more often than any other law firm.

Anonymous 24 February 18 21:44

The following statement about Irwin Mitchell cannot have been written by an Irwin Mitchell partner as it is simply not true: "even the partners are expected to record the same chargeable hours as associates".