Summary: Have you ever dreamed about working fewer hours in a law firm while still practicing law and making a difference? Read this article to learn how you can.

  • Working in a law firm requires dedicated attorneys that serve their clients day and night.
  • Some attorneys aren’t able to (or don’t want to) dedicate 80 hours a work to practicing law.
  • Major law firms (and some small ones) often make it very hard to avoid working nights and weekends.
  • If an attorney wants to work fewer hours but still practice law in a law firm, he or she should follow one of these five suggestions.
     
How an Attorney Can Get a Reduced-Hour Position Inside of a Law Firm

There is a culture of fear inside of most law firms where attorneys are often quite hesitant to ask for reduced-hour positions. Law firms make money by charging clients by the hour and paying attorneys less money than they collect from the work that attorneys do. Law firms are profitable and make money to the extent that attorneys bill as many hours as they are capable of billing for as little money as possible. In an ideal world, attorneys would work for free and law firms would bill them out at high hourly rates.
 
A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

Because law firms cannot exploit people this way, they rely on paying them fixed salaries and creating a culture that makes them feel that they need to bill as many hours as they possibly can. In order to create this culture, law firms will fire people for not working enough hours, advance people primarily based on hours, and often make their offices as attractive as possible in order to keep attorneys there for as many hours as they can. Some law firms have baristas, snack bars, and other perks. Some give associates personal messengers to take care of errands like picking up prescriptions, which enables the attorneys to remain in the office and bill as many hours as possible. I even recently heard of the founding partner of one of the largest firms in the United States handing out a stimulant to other partners and associates during trials so they could work longer hours. “You cannot expect to succeed at this level unless you’re using something to help you get there,” he told an associate he was giving a pill to when the associate said he was tired.