Junior lawyers at a leading US firm clocked off at 11:28 pm on average during lockdown, a survey found

Junior lawyers at a leading US firm clocked off at 11:28 pm on average during lockdown, a survey found
Remote working and increased deal flow took its toll on junior lawyers during lockdown earlier this year, a survey suggests. shironosov/Getty Images
  • London-based junior lawyers at Kirkland & Ellis worked 14-hour days during lockdown, a survey found.
  • Average working hours across the legal sector have risen, according to the survey by Legal Cheek.

Junior lawyers at the London office of a major US firm worked more than 14 hours a day on average during lockdown in early 2021, according to a survey of sector working conditions.

Juniors at the US law firm Kirkland & Ellis clocked off at 11:38 p.m. on average during lockdown, the survey, by Legal Cheek, an industry-focused news site, found.

Legal Cheek surveyed 2,500 trainees and junior associates at 100 law firm offices in London and the UK about their working hours at the start of 2021, when the UK was in lockdown due to a surge in COVID-19 infections.

Survey data showed that, on average, junior staff at eight of the 10 firms with the longest working hours were starting earlier than during the same period in 2020, while junior staff at all 10 firms were working later into the night.

Remote working and a surge in demand for legal services were the reasons behind the uptick, Legal Cheek said.


With an average working day of 14 hours, Kirkland & Ellis topped the list, with junior staff clocking on at 9.14am and finishing at 11.28pm on average. Other US-headquartered firms Ropes & Gray and Weil, Gotshal & Manges were second and third with average days of 13.5 hours and 12.5 hours respectively, per the survey.

Demand has been particularly high for firms specialising in private equity deals, which surged in December 2020 as buyers took advantage of low interest rates and government stimulus packages.

At Kirkland & Ellis, revenues are expected to grow from $4.15 billion to $5 billion this year due to a surge in such deals, for which it consults, according to the FT.

Kirkland & Ellis, Ropes & Gray, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

One anonymous respondent at an unnamed firm told Legal Cheek that their work-life balance had been "totally eroded" by working from home, as their days blurred into one without commutes or routine. Some were working longer as a result of increased deal flow.


"Finishing work before midnight is unheard of during the week, and weekend working is a regular occurrence," one unnamed respondent said.

However, other anonymous respondents told Legal Cheek that long hours were expected within the sector and that senior managers were understanding. Pay and starting bonuses have increased as firms battle to retain staff.

The impact of the pandemic and remote work have been felt in other sectors. Last year junior staff at Goldman Sachs highlighted excessive working hours in a pitch deck to senior management.

Veterinary surgeons, health care workers, and office staff have all said they're burning out after nearly two years of increased demand, and COVID-19 pressures.