Lawyer Wellness

30% of these lawyers would like to work fewer hours; those most dissatisfied are younger and female

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Thirty percent of surveyed “standout lawyers” would like to work fewer hours, while 53% are satisfied with the hours that they are working.

Another 17% wanted more hours, according to the Thomson Reuters midyear survey of nearly 1,200 lawyers who were identified as standouts by their clients.

Those who are least happy with the hours they are working are younger lawyers and female lawyers. The finding demonstrates “the widely acknowledged push factor which causes many in these groups to leave the industry,” according to an executive summary of the survey report.

Female lawyers currently put in 100 hours more on average than their male counterparts, which is about 5% more hours, the survey found. Also, younger lawyers—those younger than age 40—work the greatest number of hours, while older lawyers work the fewest number of hours.

But the youngest age group had the greatest discrepancy between hours worked and ideal hours. Currently, that group works a median of 2,250 hours, including nonbillable hours, but they would like to work 2,000 hours. That’s the number of median hours put in by lawyers older than age 60, which is the lowest amount of the age groups surveyed.

Female lawyers work a median of 2,200 hours, including nonbillable hours, but they would like to work 2,100 hours.

The findings are based on a survey of 1,170 standout lawyers in 50 countries. About 770 male lawyers responded to questions on hours, while about 230 female lawyers responded. The survey report, entitled Stellar Performance: Skills and Progression Mid-Year Survey, is available for download here.

“The demographic variations in these findings point to a need for law firms to tune in to persistent discrepancies between male and female lawyers’ experiences, generational differences in attitudes to working hours, and how lawyers’ preferences develop throughout their careers,” the report said.

The survey also found that only 2% of lawyers are completely happy with their nonbillable activities. The surveyed lawyers would like to drop four of their average 10 nonbillable responsibilities while gaining two different responsibilities. Among the especially disfavored activities are talent recruitment, talent development and marketing.

“Clearly, substantial opportunity exists for firms to realign available resources,” the report said. “The impact of enabling lawyers to channel their energies in the areas about which they are most enthusiastic could be valuable.”

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