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what is the daily schedule of a lawyer

what is the schedule of a lawyer from day to day

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Subject: Career question for you

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Mitchell’s Answer

It's a hard answer, since it depends on what kind of law you practice and what size of firm you are in (or if you are in solo practice), among many other factors. As one of the others who answered mentioned, if you have a certain area of law in mind, you might want to post again with that additional detail.
I can tell you that lawyers tend to be very busy. Some of them work normal business hours, but many work into the evening and some weekends. When I was in solo practice I often put in 50 or even 60 hours per week. When I had a trial that could increase to 70 hours on rare occasions. When working for small firms my hours were usually 8 to 5 or 6. When I had trials I might occasionally work 50 or 60 hour weeks. That would happen only once every 4 to 6 months.
When I worked for a public law office (attorney general) it was an 8 to 5 job.
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Fred’s Answer

It depends.

An estate planning lawyer is most likely going to have regular, 9-5ish hours, five days a week. A lawyer in a high power national firm may work 7a-8p, six days a week.

Trial lawyers may get called out to trial at the drop of a hat. If you are a lawyer for a rich jerk who gets in trouble at 4 a.m., you may get called by them at any time and be expected to respond.

I am not a lawyer, but have many friends who are, and I have personally seen all the above happen.
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Kim’s Answer

Anistatia,

I've worked around Criminal Defense, Civil Rights, and Immigration lawyers. There's not much predictability to how their days go. If they are working on preparing motions, it involves a lot of research, and reaching out to fellow lawyers sometimes who have expertise on a particular point. They meet with clients, review documents, prep them for trial, try to get a workout in over lunch. Work while traveling, work while at home after or before dinner, squeeze in their kid's football game, answering the phone the whole time, etc.

With many courts going electronic, they don't have to drop and run to court as much as they used to, but, there are still some in-person appearances. The attorneys I worked with were trial lawyers, so they spent time preparing for trial, and knew every tiny detail inside and out prior to going to court. For several cases at once. From my perspective, their lives were stressful, and I'm not sure how they kept their stomachs from going into knots.

Oh, and if solo practitioners, they also deal with drama amongst the staff, printers malfunctioning, paying the bills, etc.

If you have a particular area of specialization in mind, you might consider reposting the question, narrowing it down.

Kim
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Mary’s Answer

Hello Anistatia,

The nature of a lawyer's work schedule can vary greatly, depending on the specific area of law they practice. During my time at large law firms in New York City, where we specialized in commercial transactions, our workdays were often long and extended into late hours. We usually arrived at the office around 9:30 or 10, but it wasn't uncommon for us to stay well past midnight. Weekends were also often filled with work. Our clients' needs dictated our schedules, and we had to be ready to shift our focus to new tasks or deals that could come in at any moment. As a junior associate, a significant portion of your time would be spent reading and reviewing documents, as well as drafting contract language. If you're part of a deal team, you might find yourself in a live negotiation, spending your day in a conference room, taking notes and actively listening.

In contrast, my current in-house job has a more traditional "business hours" schedule, typically from 8 or 9 to 5 or 6:30, with minimal weekend work. Some colleagues may take midday breaks to handle personal tasks, but they make sure to complete their work by logging in again after dinner for an hour or two. As I work remotely, I spend a lot of my time on Zoom, consulting with internal clients or negotiating with external counterparts. A significant part of my day is dedicated to reading and responding to emails, along with reviewing and drafting contracts. Just like at a law firm, every day brings something new, and you need to be ready to adjust your priorities swiftly if an urgent task comes in.

Remember, no matter the setting, a career in law is dynamic and ever-changing. It requires dedication and adaptability, but it can also be incredibly rewarding.
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Shin’s Answer

Hi Anistatia:

Very interesting question. I can only speak from my own experience as a lawyer previously working at a large U.S. law firm - in the legal industry, working at a law firm is called private practice - and as an in-house counsel at a major U.S. investment bank. When working at a law firm, my daily schedule was largely dependent on assignments from clients. In general, the working hours as a private practice lawyer tends to be longer than the hours of an in-house counsel. However, as a private practice lawyer, I think I had more flexibility in when and how I worked. On a typical day in private practice, I would work from 9:00 to 21:00 but I would have the flexibility to go to the fitness gym for an hour to refresh during the day. Conversely, on a typical day as in-house counsel, I would work from 9:00 to 18:00 but with little flexibility during the hours in the office.
You may hear people often saying that you have more control of your time working as in-house counsel. This is true as you have more discretion in responding to your clients' requests when working in-house.
My general advice is to start your career at a law firm, even if you have an ambition to become an in-house counsel down the road. The experience and training that you will receive at a law firm is vitally important to build your foundation as a lawyer. Hope this helps.
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Caroline’s Answer

Hi Anistatia.

It depends on many factors so I would suggest discussing it when interviewing for positions.

Some questions that may help inform your decision:
- Are there deadlines and are they communicated in advance? (for example, regulatory compliance requirements which are scheduled and end-of-year/end-of-quarter deadlines which are expected; versus urgent matters)
- Where are your team members and stakeholders located? (for example, working with India and Europe typically involves working early, while working with Australia involves working later; versus only working with colleagues and stakeholders in the US)

The type of job and salary will also likely determine the number of hours worked and availability that one would commit to.
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Rose’s Answer

I don't think there is such thing as a "daily schedule", I think that regardless of what kind of law a lawyer is practicing, each day will be different. But to be more specific, it really depends on what kind of lawyer we're talking about. Also, do you want to work in-house, for a law firm, or something else? I studied law, passed the NY bar exam but am not officially practicing law. I work in tax at a Big4 firm. Personally, that was the best choice as in my opinion, if you want to work in tax, a Big4 is the best way to start your career. Happy to answer questions if you want to know why. Every day is different and it will never be boring. In terms of hours, if you work for a big law firm, the pressure is high. Depending on the firm, it is expected from lawyers to work day and night. Its typically not as bad in tax, I work evenings (not nights) but typically don't work during the weekends. If you work in-house, hours are typically a lot better, but its generally advised to not start a career working in-house, but rather to get some experience first.

Happy to answer any further questions!
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