The Truth About Lawyer Working Hours

Many people think lawyers work a normal nine to five, but the truth can be quite different. Lawyers in big law firms often face weekly schedules that exceed 60 hours of work. This blog post will reveal what really goes on behind office doors and offer strategies for managing those demanding hours.

Keep reading to uncover how lawyers balance their time without losing their minds!

The Reality of Lawyer Working Hours

Lawyers often face long days filled with client meetings, court appearances, and piles of paperwork. They usually start early and finish late. It’s common for them to spend hours after the office closes to catch up on work.

This means a lawyer’s day can stretch well beyond the typical 9-to-5 schedule.

Their time gets even tighter when big cases or deadlines come up. During these times, lawyers might work through lunch breaks or take work home in the evenings. Weekends aren’t always free either; many lawyers use this time to prepare for upcoming trials or finish important tasks.

The reality is that a lawyer’s working hour clock doesn’t stop ticking just because the office is closed.

Average Daily and Weekly Working Hours of Lawyers

In big law firms, people often work long weeks, about 66 hours. This means they might spend many hours each day at the office. Lawyers in smaller firms may not work quite as much but still log in around 42 to 54 hours every week.

Those who have jobs with the government usually stick to a standard 40-hour week.

Men and women lawyers also have different schedules. Women tend to work roughly 100 more hours each year than men do. Younger lawyers are at their desks longer than older ones too.

Now let’s find out if lawyers need to give up their weekends too.

Do Lawyers Work on Weekends?

Lawyers often work on weekends. They need to meet the needs of their clients and sometimes this means working outside of Monday to Friday. For example, a lawyer might have to prepare for a Monday trial or finish important paperwork.

Many times, they use weekends to catch up without new tasks piling on.

Long hours can lead to stress and tiredness. This is why some lawyers find it hard to balance work with time off. Big cases might require lawyers’ attention at any time, making weekends busy too.

After tackling weekend duties, lawyers face challenges in keeping their energy up for the week ahead.

Why Lawyers Often Work Long Hours

Lawyers often work long hours due to billable hours requirements, client service demands, and the catch-up cycle created by continuous legal proceedings.

Billable Hours Requirements

Law firms often measure a lawyer’s work in billable hours. This means lawyers track the time they spend on different tasks for clients and charge them for it. To meet their firm’s goals, lawyers may need to record many hours each day.

These hours include writing emails, doing research, and being in court. Firms set high targets for billable hours because this is how they make money.

Meeting these targets can push lawyers to work more than they should. They might stay late at the office or bring work home just to hit their numbers. The pressure can be tough because if lawyers do not meet their goals, it could hurt their job growth or pay raises.

Understanding client service demands helps explain why long hours are common in law jobs.

Client Service Demands

Meeting client service demands is a critical aspect of a lawyer’s job. Clients often have urgent legal needs, requiring lawyers to work long hours to provide timely and effective representation.

This constant demand for availability can contribute to high stress levels and challenges in achieving a healthy work-life balance, impacting the overall well-being of lawyers. The pressure to meet client expectations and tight deadlines often leads lawyers to work extended hours, which can take a toll on their mental and physical health.

Now let’s explore another crucial aspect: “The Impact of Long Working Hours on Lawyers”

Catch-up Cycle

Lawyers often find themselves caught in a catch-up cycle, where they work extra hours to meet deadlines or compensate for unexpected delays. This cycle can lead to prolonged periods of overwork and stress, contributing to burnout and mental health issues.

As the workload increases, lawyers feel pressured to put in more hours, perpetuating a never-ending cycle of catching up. Such relentless demands can negatively impact their well-being and productivity.

Moving on from the catch-up cycle, it’s crucial to understand how long working hours affect lawyers’ mental health and overall quality of life.

The Impact of Long Working Hours on Lawyers

Long working hours can lead to burnout, mental health issues, and problems with addiction and substance abuse among lawyers, as well as continuous anxiety. These impacts can have long-term effects on the well-being of legal professionals.


Lawyers often work long hours, which can lead to burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. This can result in reduced efficiency at work, feelings of cynicism or detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness.

Due to the demanding nature of legal work and the pressure to meet billable hour targets, many lawyers experience burnout, leading to an increased risk of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression as well as substance use disorders.

It’s essential for lawyers to recognize the signs of burnout and take steps to manage their workload effectively in order to prevent its detrimental impact on their well-being.

Mental Health Issues

Long working hours can harm lawyers’ mental health. The pressure and stress from long hours can lead to burnout, anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders. This negatively impacts their overall well-being and quality of life.

To help address these issues, it’s important for lawyers to find strategies that promote better work-life balance and prioritize their mental health effectively. By implementing healthy coping mechanisms and seeking support when needed, lawyers can mitigate the negative impact of prolonged working hours on their mental well-being while still meeting the demands of their profession.

Problems with Addiction and Substance Abuse

Lawyers face a higher risk of substance abuse and addiction due to the demanding nature of their work. Approximately 85% of lawyers report alcohol consumption, with 21% suffering from alcoholism, and a significant percentage using sedatives, marijuana, opiates, and stimulants.

This high rate is linked to the stress and pressure associated with long working hours in the legal industry.

Substance abuse among lawyers can lead to severe health issues such as burnout, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. It’s crucial for lawyers to recognize these risks and seek help when necessary.

Implementing effective time management strategies can aid in reducing stress levels while facilitating a healthier work-life balance for lawyers.

Continuous Anxiety

Long working hours can lead to continuous anxiety for lawyers. The pressure to meet billable hour requirements and fulfill client demands can create a constant state of stress. This ongoing anxiety can have detrimental effects on mental health, leading to burnout, depression, and an increased risk of substance use disorders among lawyers.

It’s crucial for legal professionals to recognize the impact of continuous anxiety on their well-being and take proactive steps to manage it effectively.

Strategies for Lawyers to Manage Their Time Effectively

Delegating work and using time blocks are effective strategies for lawyers to manage their time. Automating tasks can also help in improving efficiency and productivity.

Delegating Work

Lawyers can delegate work to paralegals and junior associates to manage their workload effectively. Delegating tasks such as legal research, document preparation, and administrative duties allows lawyers to focus on high-impact responsibilities.

This not only improves efficiency but also helps prevent burnout and reduce stress, contributing to a healthier work-life balance for legal professionals. Utilizing the support of qualified staff members enables lawyers to allocate their time more strategically, enhancing productivity while ensuring that essential tasks are handled proficiently.

By delegating work appropriately, lawyers can optimize their time and expertise while maintaining quality in the delivery of legal services. This approach aligns with the shifting landscape of the legal industry towards a more balanced working environment, emphasizing the importance of effective task delegation for sustainable career longevity.

Using Time Blocks

To manage their time effectively, lawyers can use a technique called “time blocking.” This involves setting aside specific blocks of time for different tasks or activities throughout the day.

By allocating focused periods for work, meetings, client calls, and personal activities, lawyers can enhance productivity and reduce distractions. Implementing time blocks allows them to prioritize essential tasks and allocate dedicated time for rest and relaxation.

Research suggests that using time blocks can help lawyers streamline their daily routines and achieve a better work-life balance.

Automating Tasks

To manage their time effectively, lawyers can benefit from automating routine tasks using law practice management software. This software reduces manual work, streamlines daily tasks, and helps in managing workload with ease.

Automated features such as calendaring, billing, document management, and case management not only save time but also minimize errors and stress associated with manual handling of these tasks.

Time tracking software integrated into the system captures billable hours automatically, enabling lawyers to focus more on their legal work while ensuring accurate recording of their working hours.

Tips for Achieving Work-Life Balance as a Lawyer

Prioritizing physical wellness, scheduling time for rest and sleep, and knowing your limits are essential for achieving work-life balance as a lawyer. By identifying peak productivity periods and implementing these strategies, lawyers can effectively manage their time and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Knowing Your Limits

Understanding your limits as a lawyer is crucial to maintaining a healthy work-life balance and avoiding burnout. It’s important to recognize that working excessively long hours can take a toll on your physical and mental well-being, leading to increased stress, anxiety, and potential health issues.

By acknowledging your limits and setting boundaries for work hours, you can prioritize self-care and prevent the negative effects of overworking. This includes being mindful of the number of billable hours you commit to, learning to delegate tasks effectively, and establishing clear communication with colleagues and clients about realistic workload expectations.

Identifying peak productivity periods can help maximize efficiency within reasonable time frames while scheduling regular breaks for rest and relaxation. Additionally, making time for adequate sleep, incorporating physical exercise into your routine, and engaging in hobbies or activities outside of work are essential strategies for maintaining equilibrium.

Scheduling Time for Rest and Sleep

Lawyers face demanding work schedules, making it crucial to carve out time for rest and sleep. Prioritizing downtime is essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance, as adequate rest directly impacts productivity and well-being.

Understanding peak productivity periods and personal limits allows lawyers to allocate specific hours for relaxation and rejuvenation, ultimately enhancing their overall performance.

Effective time management strategies, such as delegating work and using time blocks, can help lawyers create space in their schedule for essential rest and sleep.

Prioritizing Physical Wellness

Lawyers often work long hours, affecting their physical wellness. Prioritizing physical health is crucial to combat the effects of prolonged sitting and high stress levels. Regular exercise, nutritious meals, and sufficient sleep can help lawyers maintain their well-being despite demanding work schedules.

Furthermore, taking short breaks throughout the day and incorporating stretching or walking into their routine can alleviate the strain caused by extensive periods of desk work. By prioritizing physical wellness, lawyers can enhance their overall health and better cope with the challenges associated with long working hours in the legal profession.

Identifying Peak Productivity Periods

To identify peak productivity periods, lawyers can utilize effective time management tools, such as legal practice management software. This allows them to track their energy levels and work patterns throughout the day, helping them pinpoint when they are most productive.

Additionally, prioritizing physical wellness and ensuring an adequate amount of rest and downtime can contribute to recognizing peak productivity periods. By focusing on these aspects, lawyers can optimize their working hours for improved efficiency and effectiveness in their legal practice.


In conclusion, understanding the reality of lawyer working hours is crucial for both aspiring and current legal professionals. Long working hours can take a toll on lawyers’ well-being, leading to burnout, mental health issues, and physical exhaustion.

However, with effective time management strategies and a focus on work-life balance, lawyers can navigate their demanding careers while maintaining their health and overall satisfaction.

As the legal industry evolves towards a more balanced environment, it’s essential for lawyers to prioritize self-care and find ways to manage their workload effectively.


1. Why do some lawyers work such long hours?

Lawyers can work very long hours because of tough cases, lots of contracts, or when they help with big deals like an initial public offering (IPO).

2. Do all types of lawyers have to work long hours?

Not all but many types, like trial lawyers and public defenders, often stay late working on trials or helping people who cannot pay for legal aid.

3. Are there special rules about how many hours lawyers can work?

The Fair Labor Standards Act talks about overtime but does not always apply to certain jobs like that of salaried defense attorneys or prosecutors.