In the media, we often see lawyers in suits gracing the court halls bringing criminals to justice. However, what we do not see is the kind of work that they do in real life. We also do not see how many hours they put in to fulfill their job demands. In this article, we will figure out how many hours lawyers work in Australia.
What Do Lawyers Do?
What a lawyer does on a day-to-day basis significantly varies. This would depend on their field of expertise, their type of practice, their position in the firm or organization, etc. In general, lawyers have extensive knowledge about the laws in the state or country they practice in. They then use this knowledge to help individuals or entities to work around with the law for whatever concern they have. To understand this better, we should first take a look at the different kinds of lawyers there are in Australia.
Criminal lawyers are the stereotypical lawyers we often see portrayed in the media. These lawyers either defend or prosecute individuals or entities who are charged with criminal activity. These are the lawyers you see in a typical courtroom drama. Meanwhile, corporate lawyers are almost the complete opposite. They specialize in navigating laws for businesses and large companies. They handle contract laws, mergers & acquisitions, corporate governance, etc. You don’t often see them in courtrooms as they are typically working in a normal office.
Family lawyers handle aspects of family law in Australia. Their work typically involves handling issues arising from divorce such as property settlement, child support, etc. They also handle adoption, parentage issues, prenuptial agreements, etc. They can both work in the office and appear in courts on behalf of their clients.
There are also other areas of practice that you may not be aware of such as Leisure and Licensing Law, Biotechnology Law, Retirement Villages and Senior Living Law, etc. Lawyers do not work solely in courtrooms. They can work from home, at the office, or be on-the-go, depending on what the job calls for them to do.
What Dictates How Many Hours Lawyers Work?
A lawyer’s practice area is the major contributing factor to their schedule. For instance, complex litigation is perhaps the most demanding and time-consuming area of practice. This involves large civil cases where large amounts of money are at stake. Moreover, this involves lengthy trials that would take months or sometimes even years. You can expect that in this area of practice, lawyers are expected to spend many additional hours to fulfill their obligations.
However, other practice areas may not be as time-consuming as others. For instance, sports and entertainment laws may be less demanding depending on the case and the client. Sometimes it can be vexing if you are dealing with big-name or high-profile clients. Family lawyers who specifically deal with divorce can greatly impact people’s lives but won’t necessarily be as demanding as other areas.
Whether or not a lawyer belongs to a firm also highly dictates his or her working hours. If a lawyer is working for a big-time law firm, you can expect him or her to shell out additional hours to keep up with clients’ demands. Of course, whether or not a lawyer works full-time or part-time also affects the work hours.
How Many Hours Do Lawyers Work a Week?
Now that you have a good grasp on a lawyer’s typical workload, it’s time to find out how many hours exactly does a typical lawyer work? Typically, a novice lawyer will have to work a normal 9-5 job (8 hours per day or 40 hours per week). In private practice, he or she may spend additional hours to meet the clients’ expectations and demands. This can range from additional 5-20 hours per week.
Thomson Reuters recently conducted a study and found out that there is an increasing time demand placed on legal professionals in Australia. They reported that the majority (57%) tend to work an additional 10 hours per week (on top of their contract hours). Meanwhile, 21% worked an additional 15 hours per week; and 11% worked extra 20 hours.
The Association of Corporate Counsel Australia conducted a study in 2019. According to the study, 7% of in-house counsel’s working hours are over 60 hours per week. Meanwhile, 20% of them worked for 51 to 60 hours per week. Forty percent of in-house counsel worked 41 to 50 hours per week. Only 2% of them worked 20 hours or less per week.
How Flexible Is a Lawyer’s Schedule?
Based on what has been discussed earlier, lawyers typically work many hours more than most professionals. Thus, we can infer that most lawyers’ schedules aren’t too flexible. Unfortunately, many lawyers are unable to find a good work-life balance because of the demands of their field.
Some law firms are pushing staggered hours for those in the legal field. This entails that a lawyer can work a full week during hours that are most suited and convenient to the person’s schedule. For instance, a lawyer can opt not to do a straight 8-5 or 9-5 job for a week. He or she can arrive at the office at 6 in the morning and leave at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. However, it’s important to note that not all firms give this option to their lawyers and that not all lawyers have the liberty to do this.
Fortunately, according to an Australian Financial Review survey in 2017, 10% of partners have flexible hours which is an improvement from the previous year. It seems that more and more law firms are embracing a flexible work arrangement for their lawyers.
Lawyers, barristers, or solicitors are some of the hardest working professionals in Australia. They work anywhere from 20 to 80 hours per week depending on their clients’ and firms’ demands. It goes without saying that lawyers are unable to achieve a strict 9-5 job as in other professions. More often than not, a lawyer has to put in extra hours per week.