Work-Life Balance

Demanding work schedules are damaging their health, say 82% of surveyed lawyers

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The demands of work at leading law firms in the United States and United Kingdom are quantified in a new survey that found 22 percent of senior lawyers and partners work every weekend, and more than 10 percent work an average of 70 or more hours a week.

Brutal work schedules are taking a toll, according to the survey by Legal Week (sub. req.). Eighty-two percent of the surveyed lawyers believe long hours at work are damaging their health. The results are from a survey of 267 partners and senior lawyers at leading U.K. and U.S. law firms.

The breakdown: Eleven percent of the lawyers said long hours are damaging their mental and physical health “a great deal”; 30 percent said there is “quite a lot of damage” to health; and 41 percent said there is “a little damage” to health.

More than 10 percent of the lawyers said they work 70 hours or more in an average week; 34 percent work 60 hours or more; and 75 percent work 50 hours or more.

Legal Week spoke with mental health experts about problems associated with long work hours. “If you work consistently over 48 hours, it definitely damages you,” said organizational psychologist Sir Cary Cooper. “There have been innumerable international studies showing that working consistently long hours will damage your health. … Rates of stress, depression and burnout are very high. It’s hidden because people are frightened of letting partners and colleagues know that they’re not coping.”

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