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ding the Reality of Long Lawyer Working Hours
The majority of lawyers work full time, with many putting in more than 40 hours per week, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, especially those in private practice and large firms. It is well known that lawyer working hours are long and arduous. For attorneys, a full-time role rarely means nine to five.
There’s so much to do — from meeting billable hour requirements, managing clients, appearing in court, and staying on top of case prep — that there’s no wonder why lawyers work so many hours. If we look at the complexities of the typical career path of lawyers, we can see why.
The legal industry is fueled by normalizing overwork, which contributes to burnout, excessive stress, substance abuse, mental health problems, and an overall lack of well-being. span>But there is a huge problem with simply accepting that the working hours of a lawyer are, by necessity, exceptionally long and demanding.
In this article, we’ll look at how many hours lawyers work and why, as well as the effects on their health of ongoing overwork. Most importantly, though, we’ll look at how to manage and balance a lawyer’s working hours.
How many hours do lawyers work?
Most lawyers work more than 40 hours a week, and some (especially Big Law attorneys) put in up to 80 hours. On average, full-time lawyers work 49.6 hours per week, according to the 2018 Legal Trends Report. However, 75% of lawyers report frequently or always working outside of regular business hours, and 39% say this negatively affects their personal lives.
Numerous factors, including firm size, practice area, and geographic location, have an impact on the working hours of a lawyer. This accounts for the variation in the number of hours that various lawyers put in.
According to the 2020 Legal Trends Report, the average hourly rates in these practice areas are 30 and 65, respectively. For instance, the hourly expectations of a corporate lawyer at a Big Law firm in Manhattan are likely higher than those of family lawyers at a mid-sized firm in Ithaca. While the corporate lawyer can pull higher financial compensation than the family lawyer), the big city corporate attorney will have to deal with the pressures of the big city.
Why do lawyers work so many long hours?
The reasons for full-time lawyers working longer than the typical 40-hour workweek are complex, but common ones include:/span>
- Billable hours requirements. When law firms have minimum billable hours requirements, attorneys must work a minimum number of hours on billable client work. When these billable hours are combined with the hours spent on non-billable (but still necessary) tasks like client intake, research, travel, and communication, it becomes challenging to complete everything within a typical workday.
- The majority of lawyers—77%, according to the 2018 Legal Trends Report—work after regular business hours to catch up on work that wasn’t finished during the day. This struggle isn’t exclusive to attorneys at firms with billable hours requirements.
- Client service. Clients come first, and that can have an impact on a lawyer’s working hours. For example, according to the 2018 Legal Trends Report, 51% of attorneys work after hours to be available to their clients.
Are long lawyer working hours bad for your health?
Working excessive hours is not a sustainable practice for many people for a variety of reasons, and the pressures and exhaustion that come with prolonged overwork can affect lawyers’ career paths and health.
Some of the most prevalent health problems brought on by long hours spent practicing law include:
- In this episode of Clio’s Daily Matters podcast, Paula Davis-Laack from the Stress & Resilience Institute explains that lawyer burnout is more than just being exhausted. According to Paula, burnout is “the manifestation of chronic workplace stress.” Lawyers who work long hours in stressful environments are more likely to experience burnout.
- Problematic alcohol use disorders affect attorneys at a higher rate than those in other professions, according to a 2016 study by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, which found that 21% of licensed, employed attorneys are problem drinkers.
- Lawyer anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues are common in the legal profession, according to a study by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Another study by the same organization found that 19% of licensed, employed attorneys experience symptoms of anxiety.
How to restore balance to your work-life as a lawyer
Here are some important ways you can take care of your health and lessen the impact of the legal profession’s long working hours.
Take good care of your physical and mental health.
- Eat well. Working so hard that you forget to eat, or eating unhealthy, processed food, is not helping your work-life balance. Instead, fuel yourself to support productivity in the hours that you do work by avoiding excessive caffeine and alcohol, and eating regular healthy meals.
- Maintaining physical activity is crucial for maintaining lawyer wellness and managing anxiety.
- Prioritize downtime and time off. Rest is important for preventing burnout and negatively impacts our health. But when you’re working long hours, rest is often the first thing to go. To counter this, you might need to schedule downtime and make a conscious effort to prioritize rest.
- Set boundaries. Recognize your limitations, express them clearly, and stick to them. Learning to say no when necessary can help you achieve a better work-life balance. For more information, listen to this episode of “Daily Matters” with Master Certified Coach Terry DeMeo.
- Practice mindfulness. As lawyer and author Jeena Cho explains on the “Daily Matters” podcast, “mindfulness and meditation can be powerful tools for supporting mental wellness for lawyers.” If you need assistance with mindfulness, you can also use technology to help, as there are many “span>available” “span>apps” [span][span][span][span][span][span][span][span][span][span][
- Keep in mind that maintaining social connections is crucial for your general health and wellbeing, but it can be easy to let them fall by the wayside when you’re overly preoccupied with your career.
Learn more about lawyer wellness and mental health in an episode of the Daily Matters podcast from professionals like Paula Davis-Laack, founder and CEO of The Stress & Resilience Institute, and Jeena Cho, mindfulness educator at The Resilient Lawyer.
Strategies for striking a balance between work and life
You can also take the following actions to create or restore the balance between your work and personal life:
- Seek meaningful work. Working long hours can be stressful, but it can feel less taxing if you’re engaged in something you care about.
- Delegating work to support staff, other attorneys, or outsourcing work, if you can do so ethically and securely, can free up time in your day.
- Work smarter. Using technology to streamline and automate administrative and non-billable tasks reduces your lawyer’s working hours while getting the same (or even better) work results. For example, using real-time time tracking software like Clio Manage’s legal time and expense tracking software can help you save time at work by making your daily processes more efficient.
- Make your own hours. If you can’t find a balance where you are, you may want to think about other options, like starting your own law firm, to realize your own vision of work-life balance.
A step towards a healthier and more balanced life as a lawyer
Long lawyer working hours are common in the legal industry due to factors like billable hours requirements and heavy caseloads, which can lead to stress, a lack of balance, and burnout. Recognize the causes of long lawyer working hours and take action to mitigate them in order to promote wellness. This way, you can avoid stress, burnout, and other negative effects.
How many hours a week do lawyers work? span itemprop=name>
Lawyers tend to regularly work over 40 hours per week, with Clio’s 2018 Legal Client Trends Report finding full-time lawyers work an average of 49.6 hours weekly. This varies based on multiple factors, including firm size, practice area, and geographic location.
Are lawyers required to put in long hours? span itemprop=name>
Lawyers are known for working long and often grueling hours, with most lawyers working more than 40 hours a week. According to Clio’s 2018 Legal Client Trends Report, 75% of lawyers report often or always working outside of regular business hours.
This blog post was originally published in May 2021, and it was most recently updated on October 31, 2022.
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Extra Information About how many hours does a lawyer work That You May Find Interested
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Frequently Asked Questions About how many hours does a lawyer work
If you have questions that need to be answered about the topic how many hours does a lawyer work, then this section may help you solve it.
How long do lawyers actually put in?
Most lawyers work b>more than 40 hours a week,/b> and it’s not unusual for them to work up to 80 hours a week (especially Big Law attorneys).
Do attorneys have spare time?
b>Attorneys enjoy exercising, reading, dining out, going to the theater, and going to museums when they’re not spending time with family or going on vacation. c>Yet others have an outdoor spirit that manifests in hunting, fishing, and gardening.
Why do attorneys put in such long hours?
Because the work is typically more important, and because partners and associates profit more when clients are willing to pay for more hours at a higher hourly rate, most associates and partners aspire to work on large matters for large corporate clients.
Do attorneys go to work each day?
Bloomberg View reported that an attorney at a large law firm works anywhere from 50 to 60 hours a week on average. The long hours are due to the obligations the practice of law imposes on an attorney. A day in the life of a lawyer is anything but a nine-to-five routine with an hour or more for a leisurely lunch.
Is practicing law stressful?
Many lawyers struggle with long hours, challenging clients, and ever-increasing demands on a daily basis. While lawyers might benefit from having an elite reputation and plenty of money in the bank, it can also be incredibly stressful.
Do lawyers receive hourly pay?
Ask your lawyer about the hourly rate and ask for an estimate of how many hours will be spent on your behalf. Hourly rates can vary depending on the lawyer. Sometimes a lawyer bases the fee on a fixed dollar amount for each hour or part of an hour spent working on your legal matter.
What is it like to be an attorney?
While it is not a requirement, many lawyers work long hours and occasionally in high-stress settings to fulfill all of their obligations. While some lawyers can manage part-time or 40-hour workweeks, many work nights and weekends.
How long do lawyers sleep each night?
The average lawyer gets less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, and law firms frequently require their attorneys to work nonstop on crucial cases or ongoing deals.
How demanding is working as a lawyer?
Even the toughest, most seasoned lawyers can experience stress from conflict, long hours, demanding clients, competition, and the constant pressure to be perfect. Many young lawyers struggle with high levels of stress and frequently leave the practice of law entirely because of it.
What legal job is the simplest?
Estate Planning wins the most stress-free legal practice area when practicing law for lawyers. Many lawyers avoid estate planning as it is a field of law associated with death. Although being a legal clerk is the easiest career path, it is only suitable for beginners.
What are the drawbacks of practicing law?
If you’re one of the many lawyers who struggles with poor organization, poor proofreading and editing skills, and typos, don’t lose heart; you don’t have to let them prevent you from succeeding or waste your time trying to fix them.