The bottom firms for work/life balance in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Survey were Linklaters, Freshfields and Slater and Gordon. All three firms scored below 50%.
"There's a lot of lip service to work/life balance, but the moment it actually involves pushing back on a client deadline or means a partner will actually have to do some work it's quickly forgotten" said a junior lawyer at Linklaters (49%). "All-nighters are common, late nights in the office are mandatory and weekend work is the norm," added the despairing associate.
Other lawyers at the Magic Circle firm seemed to acknowledge the Faustian bargain. "If you work at Links, you know you are making a pact with the devil when it comes to work/life balance" said a senior lawyer. "At least they haven't been hypocritical enough to sign up to the Mindful Business Charter like some other firms, and are open about the expectations." Another senior lawyer said "in my team it's very normal to bill well north of 2,000 hours each year. We certainly earn our money. There is scope to be more or less hard-working, though, depending on what you're aiming for (and how soon you're looking to leave!)".
A partner considers whether to allocate the last-minute assignment to a team or an individual
"Worked like a dog if you're lucky," said a junior lawyer at Freshfields (46%) "worked to death otherwise". A trainee at the firm reported they were "made to work horrendous hours, with no respect given to outside lives." A senior lawyer said "it's the Magic Circle and they've bumped pay again - no one is under any illusions that this means it'll all be golf weekends and 9 to 5." Another lawyer believed "you get what you're paid for (although you could be paid a lot more for similar expectations at US firms)."
Lawyers at Slater and Gordon (37%) were the least satisfied with worst work/life balance, as the firm came last in the table. "Working until 10 pm every night to make a hedge fund manager in Manhattan slightly richer is not where i see myself in 1 years time let alone 5 years time" said a fed up partner at the personal injury firm. A trainee said "the option to benefit from flexible/home working is majorly dependent on the decade your manager was born in".
A senior lawyer said work/life balance was "rubbish - I'm currently working 12 /13/14 hour days, the firm doesn't even have a policy where I can order a taxi home afterwards if I need one." Although another junior lawyer who was less busy said she didn't "go the extra mile, as the incentive is zero".