Legal Cheek has revealed the best law firms for work/life balance in 2019.
A good work/life balance isn’t just about avoiding long hours at work. It’s also about having an open mind, exploring flexible working, avoiding ‘presenteeism’ and not emailing staff late at night, expecting a response. Awareness is important, but changing the culture and mindset of others is a different challenge altogether.
The below were revealed as the best law firms for work/life balance as scored in Legal Cheek’s survey:
Ashfords is an ambitious firm, but not at the cost of your life. One insider said: “I love the work/life balance at Ashfords. The latest I have ever stayed is 7pm. If there is no urgent work to do, the partners encourage you to leave on time.” And it sounds like that supportive stance isn’t just empty words. Junior lawyers describe a “better than average” balance towards “life”.
Striking that balance does depend on the department, our spies tell us: “In property, it was pretty good with average working hours. In corporate/commercial your personal life can take a serious hit at times.” Everything is relative, of course, comments one rookie: “For law (!) I think the firm offers a pretty decent balance. Stay till 7pm when you are busy, leave at 6 when you are not. Occasionally there are longer days but these are few and far between and usually involve travelling.”
Trainees at BLM can expect to leave the office at 4.45pm – almost like a regular school day! This insurance and dispute resolution firm has made the A* grade in work/life balance with it’s generous working hours.
Spanning South England from London and Southampton across to Oxford and onto Cardiff, Blake Morgan not only scored A* for work/life balance, it also scored highly in top ten best arrive-and-leave times.
One interesting point noted was that noone minds work interfering on occasion, as long as its recognised by the partners. One rookie told Legal Cheek: “Although there are times when working late is inevitable, this is acknowledged and is not the norm.”
Browne Jacobson’s Manchester office in Spinningfields opened a couple of years ago with a goal of offering a more flexible working life.
This national firm based in the Midlands is a friendly, level-headed sort of place and at least one insider is ebullient: “For the quality of work, the size of firm and the pay, I would imagine you would be hard pressed to find a top 60 law firm with a better work/life balance”. The only qualification to this was that there was some variety between departments: “Commercial tends to be the longest [hours]”. But a deal’s a deal, after all. And dealmakers wait for no man (or woman).
Not only in the top ten in Legal Cheek’ s survey for work/life balance, DWF also came out well on its average arrive and-leave times for 2019.
As one insider put it, the firm’s work/life balance is: “Pretty bloody great to be honest — would not trade it right now.”
Though there might be some variety between seats, one trainee said that despite being in a banking seat they were: “almost always out by 6.30-7pm”.
This firm has continued its growth with a series of European openings in Italy and Holland, and this is its third year in the top ten law firms for work/life balance.
Fieldfisher, as a City player, easily in the top 30 firms in the country so its work/life balance is, according to our spies, “great compared to other City firms”. You do have to pack a lot in because you’ll be expected to clock up 1,500 billable hours. But the rewards could be generous. Fieldfisher’s top-grossing partner earned £3 million last year.
A repeat top ten law firm for work/life balance, Forseter’s has done very well in the era of the high-net worth individual and pays its staff well to boot. One insider said: “I am actively encouraged to pursue my extra-curricular weekday activities.”
Irwin Mitchell has consistently received accolades for delivering on work/life balance for its lawyers, making it into our top ten for the third year running. “Everyone down tools at 5pm” at this national firm of 14 offices, says one insider.
There are mentions of “a one-hour lunch break” and “added coffee breaks to boot”. Another mentioned “A standard day in my current seat is 9am – 5pm; while this isn’t the norm, the work/life balance here is a real perk.” Another junior lawyer was equally positive: “A trainee telling you that they stayed until 8pm would be met with gasps of shock.”
Mills & Reeve
Mills & reeve has delivered on work/life balance for the second year running, posting an excellent leaving time of 5.45pm. Early birds who work hard (arrival time 8.41am), staff can buy extra holiday, and actually manage to take it too.
Royds Withy King
One insider told us: “I rarely work later than 6, and have never been required to come in on a weekend.” It may come as a bit of a surprise, then, that one rookie observed that there were differences between the seats and that the balance is: “very dependent on department.”
For a more detailed assessment on the above, visit Legal Cheek here.
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