Younger lawyers are unhappy about the hours they put in while women are working 100 more hours annually than men, according to research published this week that shows generational differences in attitudes to working hours.

The findings of a mid-year survey conducted by legal information provider Thomson Reuters show that younger lawyers work the most hours while the oldest age group work the fewest. Lawyers under 40 do 2,250 hours annually - 50 hours more than lawyers aged 40-60 and 250 hours more than lawyers over 60.

While 53% of lawyers were satisfied with their total working hours and 17% desired more working hours, 30% of lawyers (across all the age groups) wanted to work fewer billable hours.

Lawyers under 40 ideally want to do 1,500 billable hours, compared to the 1,750 they currently do. Lawyers aged 40-60 want to devote more of their time to non-billable hours. Lawyers over 60 do 1,400 billable hours but want to cut it down to 1,250 hours.

Women do a total of 2,200 hours annually - 100 hours more than men.

The report says law firms need to ‘tune in’ to persistent discrepancies between men and women’s experiences, generational differences in attitudes to working hours, and how lawyers’ preferences develop throughout their career.

‘Young professionals are placing more explicit emphasis on work/life balance, mental wellbeing, leisure and other activities outside work than was evident in previous generations. A higher proportion of the professional workforce are mothers and as men now take more active roles in child-rearing, it means that younger professionals as a group are juggling more domestic responsibilities alongside their paid jobs. Today’s under-40s are also conscious that their working lives will likely be much longer than those of their older colleagues, which further influences their perspective. Collectively, these factors mean that long working hours are a potential push factor for younger talent to leave law firms.'

While lawyers under 40 ideally want to work 2,000 hours annually, lawyers between 40-60 ideally want to work 2,200 hours. 'This is likely to be explained by a combination of factors, including their stage of life being more compatible with extended hours and a greater focus on work (as their children grow up), personal development needs, and desire for career progression coming to the fore after 15 or more years in the profession,' the report says.

Thomson Reuters surveyed 1,170 lawyers globally. The UK accounted for one third of responses.


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