Junior lawyers at US law firm working 14-hour days

updated on 12 December 2022

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A recent survey of working hours reveals that trainees and junior lawyers at Kirkland & Ellis LLP work on average for more than 14-hours a day, clocking in at 9:19am and finishing at 11:11pm. This is the third year in a row the firm has sat at the top of the table for working hours.

In the last year or so, firms have started to fine-tune their flexible working policies in an effort to balance the demands of clients, with staff needs for a greater work/life balance. That said, US firms continue to dominate the top 10 spots in Legal Cheek’s 2022-23 ‘average start and finish times’ table. Although the data also indicates that there has been a slight drop in average hours clocked when compared to junior lawyers from the previous year.

Ropes & Gray LLP and Latham & Watkins are in second and third place respectively, with junior lawyers reporting they typically finish at 9:58pm and 9:13pm on average, working just short of 13-hour days. Junior lawyers at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP , Clifford Chance, and Linklaters LLP work approximately 12-hour days, while Allen & Overy LLP’s junior lawyers reportedly work 11-hour days on average.

Despite Kirkland & Ellis’ junior lawyers reportedly working the longest hours, the firm sits in the second spot when looking at salary, according to Legal Cheek research. The US firm pays its newly-qualified lawyers £170,000, which is £9,000 less than Akin Gump. Clifford Chance and Freshfields are the highest paying English firms, with each offering newly qualified lawyers a starting salary of £125,000.

As part of the survey, a number of anonymous comments were submitted about the working hours at some magic circle and leading US firms by their trainees. One trainee commented on the unpredictability of their work life: “My work/life balance fluctuates wildly being in a transactional seat. Some weeks I’ve been working in the taxi home at 2:00am, waking up in the morning and not having any time to shower or change before starting it all over again! However, some weeks I’ve had very little on so I’ve mainly worked on pro bono matters and administrative tasks, which are encouraged by the partners.”