I recently spoke to a Trainee Solicitor, who is currently working within the London office of an American law firm. She’s enjoying her training there but is looking to relocate to Devon in the next few months. Talking to her about the expectations at her current firm, she told me that she regularly works until 10pm and that the culture there is that people very rarely leave before 8pm… which got me thinking…

…What are the expectations of the top firms here in Exeter and what hours are their solicitors actually working?

So, I asked two people, both NQ Solicitors here in Exeter, who I recently placed at the start of 2022 at two different Top 100 law firms. There is often the thought that to move to one of the larger firms, even in Exeter, you might need to “sell your soul” and that you’ll be working very late every night, so I felt that to hear the experiences from two people who have recently made the move from smaller / medium-sized firms to these large firms might give others an insight into the reality.

Person One said:

“7pm is the latest I tend to leave (outside of manic deadlines)! Often it will be earlier than 7pm (6:00-6:30pm). So, whilst it is not a mad rush for the exits at 5pm, my experience of this firm in Exeter is that it is sensible and fair, and certainly much, much better than London firms (based on what your contact has said, and from friends I know working there).

What has struck me is that there is no pressure or expectation to work late. If I don’t have much on, there is no expectation for me to stay for the sake of it. I have never felt pressured into doing very long hours like the London Trainee you have spoken to! I really commend my new employer for this.”

Person Two said:

“Hours wise, we only have to record 7.3 hours per day to hit target. They normally say aim for 1h non chargeable, and the rest chargeable. In practice, you can’t record every minute you’re at work, and so I find to get those hours in, including a decent break for lunch, I start at 7:50am (mainly because early suits me) and finish at about 5:30pm most days. 

There have been longer days, but mainly only where a case requires it, which so far hasn’t been often.”

So, while there are solid targets in place and there is a good solid workload, it sounds like the pressure and expectation on solicitors to work the long hours in Exeter, compared to London, seems like it’s a lot lower. To summarise, Exeter and wider Devon law firms continue to offer an attractive work-life balance, compared to the bigger cities.

If you’re thinking about a career move, or if you’d like to find out more about what other law firms in the area have to offer, please get in touch with James at Aspiria Recruit.

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