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)."

Graph 3

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".

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 14 February 20 11:35

“...a partner will actually have to do some work it's quickly forgotten”. Sounds about right. 

Ex Links 14 February 20 11:38

Almost every City firm signed up to the Mindful Business Charter. All for show? At least Links aren’t pretending.

Anonymous 14 February 20 14:15

It very much can be, 12.21, or at least could.  I had ten happy years at Fentons, albeit followed by one miserable year under the relentlessly tyrannical, disingenuous yoke of S&G's malignant incompetence.  Funnily enough, at lunchtime I bumped into another one of my former co-hostages.  He's now apparently happy and thriving at the Bar, still doing PI.

Roflcopter 14 February 20 15:17

"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.

What has this joker been smoking? A PI bucket shop like S&G has mandates involving hedge fund managers from Manhattan?

HKLegalbird 14 February 20 15:49

The work-life balance “treatment” is a fad. Partners panicked by disillusioned troops throw some cash at a yoga instructor or a couple of comfy chairs. Perhaps a councilor is made available to cater for those with mental health issues but the last thing they want to touch is that stuff. If you are open enough to admit you’re struggling, you’re blackballed from decision making or future advancement pretty quick. 

My old shop in HK was shocking - Harneys as previously featured. Team “wellness events” were actually forced bullying rituals such as endurance events and other cringeworthy exercises drenched in booze and self congratulations. Then they wrapped up these events with a bow and said it was all part of wellness initiatives. Fake sympathy and concern shown if anyone was seriously in trouble, some of whom were. What a crock of sh*t. One event finished with the senior partner, a narcissist of intergalactic proportions, shouting at staff to chant slogans about the firm’s success. 

A bit of decency goes along way. 


#SGWAY=Shaft never share 14 February 20 20:38

Great performance S&G you never disappoint! 




SecularJurist 14 February 20 23:53

2,000 hours a year. Is that a macho boast?

Anyway, that's 38.5 hours a week, but surely that is billable hours, so the actual working week is greater than that. 

rosiegibs 15 February 20 09:37

I left S and G after feeling sick every morning before going in.   It was an awful place to work. Bullying was rife.

Stage Master 16 February 20 07:46

CGSH London Office, doesn’t allow a good work/life balance, We are worked like dogs and have to cancel our family holidays at very short notice.

Stay clear of these jokers.

Lights out 16 February 20 21:41

"One in 21" S&G - that's the one person manning the front desk whilst the bailiffs remove the remaining fixtures and fittings for non-payment of suppliers, staff and rent.

Will the last person to leave please turn off the lights. #theS+Gway


Anon 17 February 20 16:43

Everyone knows the deal by now.  If you want to work for a large City firm, you’ll get worked very hard.  In some cases at certain firms this means a de humanising experience where pushing paper and sitting in front of a screen becomes the main event in your life (other than looking at the canteen menu for dinner options).  If you don’t want the rewards or status of working at firms everyone has heard of, why go through the process of applying for them and accepting offers?  

The A-Master 18 February 20 12:45

I worked at Cleary's London offices for a number of years as a senior associate (with no progression towards partnership), and the work life balance was awful. The partners have no appreciation for us associates, therefore, the talented staff have all left for their competitors along with all their top clients.

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