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Is being a lawyer a 9-5 job? If so, how can I change that?

I heard that lawyers take on a 9-5 job whereas some don't. How, if law is a 9-5 job, can I make it more flexible? Is self-employment an option? #lawyer #criminal-justice #attorney #law

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Subject: Career question for you

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Fred’s Answer

I am not a lawyer, but I am married to one in the U.S. The answer probably varies in the UK.

Like any job, the answer is "It depends". If you work form someone else, they set the rules. If they say "You have to work 9-5", then your options are a) take the job and work 9-5, or b) don't take the job.

Many places are allowing for greater flexibility, but from what I've seen, law firms are often not those. When my wife worked at a large firm, she was expected to BILL something like 35 hours a week. Since not everything you do is billable, she was working 60 or more hours a week - including both evenings and weekends.

If you work in a courtroom, as either a prosecutor or defender, again, your hours vary depending on the situation. When you work on a large case, you might have a lot of late hours. You go to court when your case is assigned, not when you necessarily want to.

You can have your own practice, and be your own boss. But a couple of things to remember: You get paid based on how much work you do...so if you only work four hours a day, you won't make as much as if you worked ten hours a day.

Also, you are paid by your clients. They can be quite demanding. Sometimes they call in the evenings, or weekends, or holidays. You have to decide if it's worth it. Will you take those "after hours" calls and keep the client, or are they not worth the hassle so you refuse their case/time requirements?
Thank you comment icon Thank you for your answer! I’m definitely going to do more research about it. Have a lovely evening :) Samira
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mitch’s Answer

One more thing: I was glad I went the solo practitioner route. The old saying that the law is a jealous mistress is true, whether you work for a firm or for yourself, but it's undeniable that if you work for yourself you do have more options (and the kind of law your practice will have more variety). I strongly recommend Jay Foonber's book "How to Start and Build a Law Practice." It's great reading someday when you're in law school, but I would suggest reading it much earlier, to get an idea if it's something you might like to do. It is probably available in any college bookstore.

mitch recommends the following next steps:

If you at
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the book suggestion, I’ll be sure to have a read of it, appreciate the advice :) Samira
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DENNIS’s Answer

Hi Samira: No being a lawyer is NOT a 9-5 job. Some times it's a 9 to mid-night job, or 9 to 8 am job. The job varies in intensity and it depends on circumstances. Fred's answer nails it. I practiced law in New York City for 37 years. Some weeks were easy some not so much. As a lawyer you represent clients and their needs come first. If you do criminal law, most people do not get arrested between 9 to 5. Prosecutors have to gp out in the middle of the night . Civil law depends on many things. Fred's wife has to bill her hours. Harder to do than you think. Billing 35 hours often requires 60 hours of work because there are things you can not bill for. I am "semi-retired" and have done work Saturday and Sunday on some legal issues effecting a client. So, no being a lawyer is not 9-5 but it is rewarding. Remember Samira - as my Mother use to tell me - you get out of things what you put in. Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for your answer! It’s very insightful and informative on the life of being a lawyer. Thank you once again, have a good day 👍😁 Samira
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mitch’s Answer

I have to agree with both Fred/Susan and Dennis. Except it often isn't 9 'til anything. That is, there are some pretty early mornings too. If you have a hearing in the morning (and sometimes you will have 2 or more hearings on the same judge's calendar, or, worse yet, on more than one judge's calendar, hopefully in the same courthouse), you can stay late and night to prepare, or got in very early, or both. In the law it's often all about being more prepared than your opponent. My father, who was also an attorney, used to tell me to always be better prepared than your opponent, and even better prepared than the expert witness you may be cross-examining on the witness stand. That takes time, and more importantly, efficient use of the time you have.
Speaking or time, you want to develop now the habit of punctuality. The best attorneys arrive early. Not only should you not be late, but you should be early to any meeting, hearing, mediation, arbitration, etc. that you can. You need to have a moment to catch your breath, get the lay of the land, gather your confidence by feeling that you "own" the space where you are and, most of all, have an unhurried meeting to put your client at ease (and yourself). When you rush in just in time (or late), you don't think as well, your heart is too fast and breathing not calm. You don't have time to be organized and you look weak. All of the requires just a few extra minutes for every such encounter, and it's worth it.
If you organize your time well, and be choosy as to the kinds of cases you take (if you are in solo or small firm practice), you can still have time for your self and your family. Schedule in time for activities and just to spend time with your loved ones like you would any client. You'll be happier and more at peace. It's tough, but worth it. A big firm will probably bring you more money, but will suck up your time greedily. Frankly, so will your solo practice, if you let it.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for your comment, Mitch. Very informative, will use this to guide me :) Samira
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