The legal profession can be both satisfying and challenging. But it's common knowledge that lawyers put in long hours.
If you aspire to be a lawyer, no matter what type of lawyer you want, learning the work hours in this profession can help you decide if it's the right career for you.
Continue reading to know how many hours lawyers in the US work and other related information.
How Many Hours Does a Lawyer Typically Work in a Day?
A full-time job for a lawyer rarely entails working from 9 to 5 like other professions.
According to a study, 86% of lawyers claimed to work hours other than the standard 9 to 6 schedule. Some 56% of lawyers said they work after 5 p.m., and 28% work after 6 p.m. Interestingly, and somewhat concerningly, 11% of lawyers say they work past 10 p.m.
The hours lawyers work daily, however, can't be easily calculated because there are a lot of factors to consider.
Depending on the area of law they practice, their experience, where they work, and the requirement of a case they currently handle. Days might involve more seasoned lawyers than hard hours, rigorous study, and client interactions. Although lawyers frequently undertake significant work in courtrooms, their everyday job obligation usually focuses more on administrative and preparation tasks.
The typical working hours in a day as a lawyer greatly depend on the type of lawyer you are and who your employer is:
- for a large firm: 12-14 hours a day
- for small and medium-sized firms: 8-11 hours a day
- for government agencies - 8 hours a day
How Many Hours Does a Lawyer Work in a Week?
Many lawyers work full-time, but most work more than 40 hours weekly. The average lawyer works 49.7 hours per week, an extra 2.8 hours per week.
All lawyers occasionally must work long hours on a particular case. But for some, 50 to 70-hour work weeks are the norm. Lawyers in private practice and those in large firms frequently spend extended hours researching, drafting, and reviewing papers.
Lawyers spend most of their days in their offices. But there is also a lot of time when they have to go to different sites to visit clients, such as jails, hospitals, and homes. They also need to travel to appear in court.
Do Lawyers Work on a Weekend?
Working on weekends is a dilemma most professionals face. For lawyers, working on weekends can become a norm or part of their work routine.
Weekend work for lawyers, especially for new lawyers, is a top priority. Some clients prefer to meet during weekends because they are too busy. Sometimes, clients would also choose to meet during lunchtime when they are free.
Of course, that does not mean that lawyers have to spend all their weekends and holidays working. Everyone needs time to rest and reset, and everyone deserves their vacation time. However, if a lawyer wants to keep practicing law in a competitive law firm long-term and if they're going to succeed, they cannot consider working in law firms as just a job.
Most law firms want their lawyers to eat and breathe law to ensure they made the right decision in hiring them. Because of this, it's crucial to want to work on weekends and holidays and be ready to do so.
Why Do Lawyers Work Such Long Hours?
Lawyers work long hours for various reasons, including:
1. Billable Hours Requirements
One of the reasons lawyers choose or are required to work long hours is to meet minimum billable hour obligations. The law firm where they work assigns these requirements.
They also have other time-consuming activities, including travel, research, recruiting new customers, and communicating with various legal parties. These activities make it impossible for some lawyers to work a 40-hour workweek.
Even if a lawyer doesn't work for a legal firm with a minimum billable hours requirement, they often must work outside their regular business hours to keep up with all their legal-related tasks.
2. Catch-up Cycle
Overwhelmed with many cases, most lawyers stay late to finish the task that must be completed during regular hours. This becomes an endless catch-up cycle until lawyers have to work more hours than necessary.
Lawyers in firms with billable hour obligations are not the only ones who suffer from this. Most lawyers work longer hours to catch up with tasks that must be completed during regular business hours. Catching becomes an endless cycle until the workload becomes unbearable.
3. Client Service
Clients come first, and that can impact lawyers' working hours. Depending on the particular demands of their cases, some lawyers offer their clients on-call access 24 hours a day, each day of the week.
Disadvantages of Lawyers Working Long Hours
Lawyers work long hours because they represent clients. Lawyers feel fulfilled and meaningful and help the legal system by fulfilling client commitments. On the other hand, working long hours might be taxing for a lawyer.
However, even if working long hours "comes with the territory," there are unintended effects.
Working 50-70 hours a week is unhealthy for anyone. And lawyers cannot escape the negative consequences, no matter how used they are to working long hours.
Here are some of the most prevalent problems brought on by long hours spent practicing law include:
1. Lawyer Burnout
Lawyer burnout is a serious problem brought on by long hours and stress. Although many lawyers know they are working too many hours, others are unaware or only recognize it once their energy levels have depleted and require a lengthy break.
2. Problems with Addiction and Substance Abuse
The lengthy work hours and stressful court cases that lawyers face daily can put them at risk for substance usage, both legal and illegal. The number of legal professionals who use drugs and alcohol is a constant concern.
3. Continuous Anxiety
Law schools prime law students to experience anxiety. They are trained to be pessimists, always looking for what could go wrong. Lawyers are professional worriers expected to anticipate and guard against possible future threats. Worrying becomes a way of life for the nervous lawyer, who sees potential problems everywhere they turn.
Lawyers strive to help their clients with their legal difficulties, even if it means working longer hours each day. Sometimes, their work can help people get their lives back on track by clearing them of charges or assisting them in receiving compensation.
Knowing that their job significantly impacts other people's lives motivates them to work hard and, at times, longer than others.