Partners working 6.5 weeks extra per year, research shows

Topics: Law firm & practice management

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Partners are spending six and a half more weeks in the office than they did two years ago in an effort to compete for new business with the ‘big four’ accountancy firms, according to a legal recruiter. 

The average number of hours partners are working in 2015/16 is 55.8 per week, up from 50.2 hours in 2013/14, research compiled by recruiter Laurence Simons says. This equates to an extra six and a half weeks a year, based on a typical working week of 40 hours.

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According to Laurence Simons, the spike in the amount of time spent in the office reflects growing competition for work from the ‘big four’ accountancy firms, combined with an increased demand for legal services.

Clare Butler, global managing director at Laurence Simons, said: ‘Since [the] liberalisation [of the legal market], the senior players at law firms are having to fend off competition from newly formed big four accountancy firm legal teams.

‘Partners have been fighting back by nurturing current client relationships and seeking out new opportunities and will continue to do so.

‘On top of this, finance departments are hawkishly looking at the balance sheet as they seek to build leaner and meaner firms leaving little room for high-earning partners who aren’t bringing in fees. With their performance under intense scrutiny, it is little wonder partners are firing on all cylinders.’

But whilst partners are under pressure to work more, the number of hours junior lawyers spend in the office has fallen. 

According to the firm, junior lawyers are spending an average of 46.8 hours per week in the office in 2015/16, down from 47.4 houses in 2013/14, reflecting growing confidence at this level.

The recruiter said that whereas junior lawyers were previously worried about job losses, this worry has largely dissipated as confidence over job prospects is boosted by the growing demand for top talent and strong revenues. It cited research from Deloitte, which showed that revenues at the top ten firms rose 6% in the 12 months to October 2015.

Butler said: ‘Redundancy no longer looms in [junior lawyers’] minds and given the ongoing war for exceptional talent, A-players know they could secure a new role without too much difficulty if their current position isn’t satisfying their personal and development needs. Presenteeism is on the decline.’

Readers' comments (7)

  • 55.8 hours?

    I wish.

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  • Luxury!

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  • slackers.

    4x yorkies

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  • '..... recruiter Laurence Simons says. This equates to an extra six and a half weeks a year, based on a typical working week of 40 hours.'

    40 hours might be a typical working week for the staff of that recruitment agency. However I doubt that it is for those solicitors who are recruited, through their agency, for jobs in private practice.

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  • My principal, James Webster of Eastbourne, arrived at the office at 8.50 a m, had an hour off sitting by the sea at 1.00 p m and left at 5.30 p m. He never to my knowledge worked in the evening nor at week-ends. He virtually told me off when one day I said that I had taken a file home. And he seemed to make a comfortable living, a very comfortable living, mainly out of probate and conveyancing.

    Those were the days, 37.5 hour weeks, eh?

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  • I have not come across any full time private practice lawyers who work a 40 hour week. In my own case it was between 50 and 70 hours (roughly the difference between the West End and the City). So the Laurence Simons headline about lawyers working more weeks in the year is just an eye-catching headline.

    The meat of the story is that partners are working longer hours with increased marketing, and associates are working less hours. I agree with the Laurence Simon's comment that this is (probably) about fending off the competition. Although a City focussed story, the whole legal profession is fighting off competition with the liberalisation of the legal sector. The interesting point is that notwithstanding reduced hours, the competition for associates remains fierce. This would suggest that partners - and firms - are confident the competition can be beaten.

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  • Lunch hours are for wimps.

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