What Are a Lawyer's Working Hours? (Plus FAQ and Salary)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Working as a lawyer can be a rewarding profession with high earning potential and good opportunities for career advancement. A lawyer's working schedule can be unpredictable and often involves working additional hours outside the office to meet client needs. Understanding these important aspects of the legal profession can help you determine if a career as a lawyer is right for you. In this article, we discuss how many hours lawyers work and why and the impact of working long hours on health.

What are a lawyer's working hours?

Typically, lawyers work full time, completing 35 or more hours every week. It's important to remember that a solicitor's hours indicate a client's needs. Solicitors usually work on-call, which means you may have to work on weekends, holidays and on short notice. The workload and working hours may vary depending on your speciality areas.

Related: How To Write a Lawyer Cover Letter (With Examples)

What other factors determine a lawyer's working hours?

Some variables within the legal profession that influence lawyer hours may include:

  • The size of the legal practice: Bigger firms often insist on more billable working hours but, within smaller practices, it's common for lawyers to cover different areas of law which require additional research.

  • The specialisation: A lawyer who focuses on conveyancing or who works in an advisory capacity is more likely to follow regular working hours. Corporate law can also mean busier periods at certain points of the month and the year.

  • The location: This factor may also determine a lawyer's work hours as city practices often demand longer working hours.

Your choice of whether to pursue a career as a barrister or a solicitor may affect your working week. Solicitors usually work from 9 am to 5 pm and have the weekends off. In contrast, barristers are often self-employed, which may involve a lot of flexible hours and extra time for research and preparation.

Do lawyers work on weekends?

It's common for law firms to be open on Saturdays. This may allow the firms to provide services for clients who aren't available during regular working hours. On Sundays, most law firms remain closed, but some services may still be available depending on the work between a client and their lawyer.

How much does a solicitor make?

A solicitor earns on average £43,966 per year. Working in an office, a courtroom, a prison or a police station are all possibilities for a solicitor. With enough experience, you could progress in your career and be able to join a private practice firm of solicitors as a partner. Other options include running an in-house legal department as a commercial solicitor or using your legal training in the armed forces.

Related: How To Become a Solicitor

What are a solicitor's main responsibilities?

Some tasks solicitors may complete during working days can include:

  • representing clients in court

  • meeting billable and financial hour requirements within a company

  • giving legal advice over the phone or by email

  • liaising with clients and colleagues

  • managing finances and preparing papers for court

  • instructing barristers or advocates to act for clients

  • catching up on paperwork

  • drafting confidential letters, contracts and legal documents

  • researching legal records and case law

  • attending meetings and negotiations

  • using plain English to explain complex legal matters to clients

  • keeping up to date with changes in the law

Related: 54 Common Solicitor Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

How much does a barrister make?

A barrister earns on average £39,304 per year. As a barrister, you might work in a courtroom, at chambers within a legal practice or office. It's possible that your working environment is emotionally taxing. There are many opportunities for career progression and, with experience, you might be able to work for firms that provide legal services in commerce, finance, or industry. You may also oversee a team or become a general manager. Other career opportunities include becoming a Queen's Counsel (QC), a judge, or an ombudsman.

Related: How To Become a Barrister

What are a barrister's main responsibilities?

Some of the day-to-day tasks you may perform as a barrister include:

  • taking on cases and meeting with clients

  • looking into the law in earlier instances that are comparable to yours

  • reading the statements and reports of witnesses

  • providing legal counsel and a written opinion

  • developing legal arguments and court papers construct out-of-court agreements

  • cross-examining witnesses

  • presenting cases to the judge and jury

Which skills do I need to be a lawyer?

Here are some skills to develop throughout your career as a solicitor or barrister:

  • extensive knowledge of court procedures and government regulations

  • outstanding writing skills

  • great verbal communication skills

  • active listening

  • analytical thinking

  • the capacity to think clearly using logic and reasoning

  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure

  • persuasion skills

  • the ability to utilise a computer and the most common software packages competently

  • knowledge of the English language to explain legal matters to non-experts

  • attention to detail

Related: 9 Essential Solicitor Skills

Is it possible to find a good work-life balance as a lawyer?

Here are some tips on how to look after your health and wellbeing after working long hours:

Maintain a healthy diet

To maintain high energy levels and mental alertness, regular nutritious meals are essential. Make time for a healthy breakfast and if you really are short on time, opt for a protein shake and sip it on the way to work. Cut out the processed food in favour of healthy salads and soups. You can buy pre-packed salads and organic soups at most supermarkets if you really don't have the time or energy to prepare them yourself. It's also important to avoid excess caffeine and alcohol and stay hydrated.

Find time to exercise

Regular exercise is great for relieving stress and keeping your energy levels high. Set aside some time every day for fresh air and physical activity. A short walk or run before work can help reduce anxiety. If you prefer, yoga and meditation are great practices for promoting positive mental health. There are many apps and online video classes to help professionals manage their stress levels.

Take regular breaks

Take breaks from your desk and go outside if you can, as this helps improve mental clarity and is a great mood booster. Also, rest whenever possible, as sleep is a powerful antidote to stress and mental exhaustion. Turn off your television, laptop or phone and have early nights when you can. Prioritise your leisure time, set boundaries and know your limitations.

Spend time with family and friends

It's important to set aside time for your friends and family regularly. Interaction is vital for positive mental health and well-being. Schedule a lunch date with a friend or meet them for a hike or walk in the park during the weekends.

How can I manage time more effectively during my working day?

There are a few tactics you can use at work to create a better work-life balance. Read the strategies below to help you manage your time effectively:

Delegate if you can

Look at your workload with a critical eye. Analyse if you're doing more than your fair share or if someone else can assist you in performing some tasks. You may choose to outsource work or ask administrative staff to help you do paperwork. Another option is to ask other lawyers to take on some of your work if it's too overwhelming. Make sure to ask for help when you need it.

Work efficiently

Using technology within the legal system can help reduce the workload and, consequentially, work hours. Advancements in technology mean you can now automate and execute many of your administrative tasks within shorter time frames. Familiarise yourself with these systems to avoid spending time on repetitive tasks.

Prioritise online meetings

Digital mediums have enabled lawyers to schedule online meetings and even court hearings. These measures allow lawyers to save time travelling and may help you become more productive during your regular working hours. Make sure that you take advantage of digital working by arranging online meetings whenever possible.

Keep your work meaningful

Although working long hours can be mentally draining, try to keep your work meaningful. Doing work that makes a difference in people's lives can make your day feel less exhausting. If your work is not fulfilling, seek specialisation in a different area, for example.

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