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Long hours ‘may push young lawyers away’

03 Dec 2021 / employment Print

Long hours ‘may push young lawyers away’

Younger lawyers are unhappy about the hours they put in while women are working 100 more hours annually than men, according to a survey carried out by legal-information provider Thomson Reuters.

The research finds that younger lawyers and female lawyers “seem to be the least happy” with the number of hours they are working.

Thomson Reuters says that this may be one of the reasons why many in these groups leave the legal industry, or seek legal work outside of law firms.

The online survey, conducted in September, gathered responses from 1,170 lawyers in 50 countries.

Women work more hours

The survey shows that younger lawyers work the most hours, while the oldest age group work the fewest.

Lawyers under 40 do 2,250 hours a year – 50 hours more than lawyers aged 40-60, and 250 hours more than lawyers over 60, according to figures from the research quoted in the Law Society Gazette of England and Wales. 

While 53% of lawyers were satisfied with their total working hours, and 17% wanted 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 with the 1,750 they currently work, according to the research.

Lawyers aged 40-60 want to devote more of their time to non-billable hours. Lawyers over 60 work 1,400 billable hours, but want to cut it down to 1,250 hours.

Women work a total of 2,200 hours annually – 100 hours more than men.

‘Potential push factor’

Thomson Reuters says that 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,” the study points out.

Child-rearing

“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,” it adds.

Thomson Reuters describes long working hours as “a potential push factor” for younger talent to leave law firms, with today’s under-40s are also conscious that their working lives will likely be much longer than those of their older colleagues.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland