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The Best Of Hours, The Worst Of Hours: ATL Survey Ratings

This coming Friday, it is the inalienable right of all Americans to sleep off their hangovers, or riot at Walmart, or do anything at all rather than work for The Man. But Biglaw is a different country. As illustrated by Elie’s decision matrix, the “choice” of whether to work on this sacred day is, for the denizens of the law firm world, fraught with other pressures and expectations. We all know that Biglaw careers demand a Faustian bargain: in return for their fat paychecks (and bonuses?), lawyers are expected to work grueling, unpredictable hours. This time of year, that reality is brought into sharp relief: the “holiday season,” with those “family obligations” and so forth, is something that occurs elsewhere.

But law firm billable expectations are not homogeneous. There are significant differences across practice areas, seniority levels, and, of course, individual firms. So how do the various practices, employment statuses, and firms stack up?

The ATL Insider Survey (we’re fast approaching 15,000 responses, thanks everyone) asks respondents to assess their employers in terms of a variety of “quality of life” categories, including hours. These ratings are indications of respondents’ “satisfaction” with their hours, not an attempt at making quantitative comparisons. We are also assuming that “satisfaction” implies a sense of work/life balance and basic reasonableness, rather than “more = better,” although that will be true of some minority. Please note we lack sufficient survey data to generate ratings for all firms (e.g., Wachtell Lipton). Ratings are on a scale of 1 through 10, with 10 highest.

Hours Rating by Practice Area:

Tax 7.49
Antitrust/Regulatory 7.47
Litigation 7.10
Labor & Employment 7.03
Corporate 6.88
Intellectual Property 6.87
Bankruptcy 6.83

These results comport with our earlier finding that Tax attorneys are Biglaw’s overall happiest campers, while their colleagues in Bankruptcy are at the other end of the spectrum.

Hours Rating by Status:

Equity Partner 8.03
Of Counsel 7.33
Non-equity Partner 7.21
Junior Associate (1-2 years practice) 7.15
Senior Associate (6+ years) 6.80
Midlevel Associate (3-5 years) 6.73

On this, we’ll just quote Lat: “As the old saying goes, ‘making partner is like winning a pie-eating contest where the prize is more pie.’ It’s intended as criticism of partnership, but people seem to forget: eating pie is pretty awesome.”

Hours Rating by Firm

Top 5:

Haynes and Boone 8.73
Davis Polk & Wardwell 8.43
Cooley 8.38
Jenner & Block 8.24
Fulbright & Jaworski 8.00

Bottom 5:

Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson 5.42
Boies, Schiller & Flexner 5.81
Sullivan & Cromwell 5.92
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison 5.97
Arnold & Porter 6.13

Congratulations to Haynes and Boone, Davis Polk, Cooley, Jenner, and Fulbright. Condolences to attorneys at the bottom five — although it must be said that they are probably crying all the way to the bank. That group comprises some of the most prestigious and profitable law firms in the world, and many a law student would kill for a job at any one of them.

Finally, thanks to all of you who have taken our Insider Survey. If you’ve yet to, please take a few minutes and do so here.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone![1]

[1] Contingent on client demands and/or whether you’re reaching your billables target.

ATL Law Firm Directory
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