Firms that scored between 50% and 74% for work-life balance featured lawyers with varying degrees of satisfaction: from the sun-kissed to the permanently moon-tanned. 

"I get home for bath-time nearly every day" said a senior lawyer at Burges Salmon (74%) presumably referring to his kids' washing times. "The Firm feels like a bubble at times: work in the office, eat in the canteen, socialise in a wine bar in the same building," said a trainee at the Bristol firm, "but it's a very comfortable bubble". A partner said "it would be categorically wrong for anyone to believe that a materially better work/life balance can be achieved in a large 'regional' law firm compared to London", but he added "in reality what you actually save yourself is time commuting, which is still a serious benefit".

"Considering the pay, it could be better" said a senior lawyer at Capsticks (73%) who added the firm had addressed welfare with "a new ping-pong table" as well as "increased working from home/flexibility".

At Eversheds Sutherland (72%) a junior lawyer said that in response to feedback about poor work/life balance the firm "offered yoga at lunchtime". However, another lawyer said the initiative had a negative impact on his well-being when he was made to "watch sickening videos of senior partners (known to be cruel taskmasters) recommending that you take up yoga."

A lawyer at Pinsent Masons (72%) reported that the firm had e-mail signatures professing to "support agile working" with "no need to respond to this email outside your working hours", but felt this was laughable since "being un-contactable is not an option." Although a trainee with better working hours proclaimed: "Finished by 6 throughout my TC".

At CMS (71%) a member of staff was pleased to report "I see the little people who live at my house most nights". Although a less fortunate junior lawyer barely had time to close his caps-locks: "JUST. SO. BUSY."

"Anyone who doesn't consider the work/life balance to be excellent must be either utterly deluded or totally unaware that any other firms exist" said a lawyer at BLM (69%). A colleague at the firm didn't share the same view, as he was "often working weekends just to stay not too far behind." Rather morbidly he added "I sometimes dream of having a massive heart attack and dying in the office, just so the management feel guilt. If they're capable of such things. Sociopaths often aren't." 

For a US firm, Weil achieved a pretty decent score of 68% for work/life balance. A junior lawyer said that "hours are extremely reasonable for US pay, and partners are very supportive of limiting avoidable time in the office." Another junior lawyer said "Let's be clear: for the money, they get their pound of flesh. But, it's nowhere near as painful as life at similar firms (looking at you Kirkland)." 

"I take great pleasure at walking out the door at 5.15pm every day" said a junior lawyer at Clyde & Co (67%). A senior lawyer said work/life balance at the shipping firm was "excellent" but felt that the firm "uses that as a reason for the atrocious pay!"

"It's not about 'work/life balance', it's about juggling," said a partner at Clifford Chance (66%). "If you want to be a Magic Circle partner with children you need to either (i) have a spouse/partner who doesn't work, or (ii) be ready to be nannied up to the nines. There is no third option, and those who try to find one end up miserable."

A trainee at Slaughter and May (66%) said the "lack of billable targets generally means lower hours than peers at other MC firms, and weekends are generally respected, but when the shit does hit the fan it's just as bad as any other top City firm." However, a junior lawyer disapproved of the "no billable hour targets culture" as he believed "it means that associates who have no skills can clock out of the office on 20 hours a week for years with no consequences, whilst good associates get absolutely beasted because every partner wants them to work on their matters".  He added "when your pay per hour falls below the rate of the patty flipper at McDonald's, you know there's a problem with your work/life balance."

DLA Piper (65%) "is a firm where you can hide strategically by pinning your workload to a single partner, and maintain some semblance of a normal life" said a senior lawyer, although noted "the downside with this approach is that you will breed the contempt of everyone around you."

Graph 2 b

"Hours can be bad at times" said a trainee at Ashurst (58%), "but it is appreciated if you stay late and you are encouraged to leave if you don't have anything on." A partner at the firm said "we might not be the most profitable firm in the world, but that means the partners don't have to spread themselves so thin due to billing pressure.  We can stay hands-on with the work, which the clients like."

"We're either a firm where lawyers get a good work-life balance and are paid accordingly" said a lawyer at Watson Farley Williams (56%) "or we take a hit on work-life balance and we're paid on a level which reflects what is fair in the market. At the moment, we're neither of these options."  

At Kirkland & Ellis (51%) a junior lawyer responded to the survey question saying, "work/life...what?". One junior commented "I once had a free Sunday, that was nice". A colleague pointed out, "You know the deal when you join."

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 14 February 20 09:36

Fools at Simmons & Simmons have a bad deal. Long hours, high billable target and the pay is well below peers.

it’s worst in transactional departments. Oblivious partners focused only on PEP don’t care. Lip service paid to work-life balance and mindful business but completely ignored in practice.

When your hourly pay works out to be minimum wage and working two jobs at the same time there’s a problem. 

Diblo 14 February 20 11:04

Industry is getting worse. US firms paying big bucks increasingly more attractive even with the pound of flesh expected. At least you can earn enough to save for a few years then go somewhere more humane. Poxy middle of the road firms like AG, Simmons, Clydes etc offer the worst of both worlds. Associates unhappy, overworked and underpaid with limited career progression opportunities and partners wondering why they lack motivation. NQ pay boosted at some firms but then barely moves up that level. 

Ponker17 14 February 20 11:16

Agile working = ability to work late into the night and at weekends from home. What a privilege. 

Anonymous 14 February 20 11:23

"watch sickening videos of senior partners (known to be cruel taskmasters) recommending that you take up yoga."  Which idiot thought this was a good idea?

Anon 14 February 20 15:28

"We're either a firm where lawyers get a good work-life balance and are paid accordingly" said a lawyer at Watson Farley Williams (56%) "or we take a hit on work-life balance and we're paid on a level which reflects what is fair in the market. At the moment, we're neither of these options."

Shit pay. Shit hours. Partners don’t care. Low morale. WFW is a joke. 

Anonymous 14 February 20 15:49

CC partner sounds like he/she has a shite life.

I want to see my children (and not just for an hour for dinner/bath time followed by 4+ hours of work before the sleep deprived misery starts again the next day).  

SecularJurist 14 February 20 23:34

One doesn't stay at their firm because of the ping-pong.

OTOH, many seem unable to leave their firm, suffering from a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. If there are more cons than pros, notwithstanding remuneration, one should go to a different profession, or a smaller firm, or the public sector. 

If one is a specialist in one area of practice, other career options may be limited, so one should, having weighed up the pros and cons, seriously consider quitting.




Gazeboed 16 February 20 10:19

These surveys always mentioned Kirkland as the worst of the worst. Out of interest, just how bad is it? What’s a good finish time?

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