Lawyers are some of the most hardworking people out there. They put in many more hours of work compared to those in other professions. In fact, what you might see on TV, like lawyers relaxing, chatting and enjoying lunch with clients, is not realistic. The truth is, lawyers work between 50 and 60 hours weekly on average.
In fact, the many hours law students spend to get their degrees are both preparation and practice for them to work hard. This is because of the many obligations these lawyers have to fulfill, and it is simply much more than just showing up in court to make some passionate speech to defend their clients. Here is a sample of an ordinary day for a lawyer in a private practice.
How lawyers start their day
The activities and list of tasks of a lawyer are largely dependent on his or her specialisation, or the area of law that they practice. This means an attorney who is focused on labour law or personal injury will spend more time in administrative hearings or courtrooms as opposed to those who work in real estate or business law.
Watch this video to see more about a day in the life of a lawyer:
What is common between many lawyers is the very early start to their workday, as you can expect them to be the first to arrive in the office in the morning, every day. The main reason for this is that they feel more productive when the office is not officially open for the day. This means there are no phone calls, client meetings, or court appearances so they could focus on the other tasks on their to-do list.
They choose this time to either respond to emails or other correspondence or read up on any messages or memos they received. Those lawyers who will head out to court afterward will use this time to review their cases and get ready for the hearing. They might also try to finish some other tasks they cannot accomplish when they are out of the office for the next few hours.
Lawyers also have to prepare a lot of documents related to their active cases, including motions, memorandums, pleadings and similar paperwork. This takes time and mornings are perfect for these tasks because it is quiet enough and their minds are still fresh and alert.
During business hours
If the lawyer is in the office at this time, it is easy to assume that they will be spending the time on the phone or at meetings. They may be talking to their clients, updating them on their cases, or also discussing cases with fellow lawyers. Depending on their specialisation, they might also be contacting other people related to their cases.
They might also be outside of the office, doing their research as part of their cases. For example, personal injury attorneys will need to visit the scene where the accident happened, collecting data and making their assessments.
Lawyers who are not part of big law firms might also be taking on more tasks nor directly related to the law. This can include marketing or helping find new clients, or hiring new attorneys and staff for the firm.
Lastly, attorneys might be taking this time to attend classes as part of their continuing education. This is important to stay up-to-date on recent laws and this is normally required by the bar association.
Beyond working hours
It is not uncommon to see lawyers working much longer than others. After being out of the office for most of the day, they might need to finish other tasks after business hours. This can include answering their emails or doing the necessary paperwork. Because of deadlines, they might not be able to put it off the next day as they will need to submit them on time.
The everyday responsibilities of a lawyer may consist of the following:
- Advising clients
- Interpreting laws and applying them to specific cases
- Gathering evidence for a case and researching public and other legal records
- Representing clients in court
- Examining legal data to determine advisability of defending or prosecuting lawsuit
- Presenting evidence to defend clients or prosecute defendants in criminal or civil litigation
- Preparing and drafting legal documents e.g. legal briefs, wills, deeds, mortgages, leases etc.
- Negotiating settlements
- Supervising legal assistants
- Act as agent, trustee, guardian, or executor for businesses or individuals
Lawyers are committed to their jobs
Even if they have to dedicate more hours to work every day, lawyers will aim to help their clients with their legal concerns. In some cases, their work can really change their lives, whether it is clearing them of charges or helping them get compensation. It is, in fact, this knowledge that their work affects other people’s lives that motivates them to work harder and at times, longer than others.
Author Courtney Lockett is a practicing lawyer, business owner and the principal of Lockett McCullough Lawyers. Her practice provides legal assistance to a wide range of clients both locally and internationally and specialises in assisting defence force personnel with private legal issues.