In this two-part series, we will explore a debate as old as, and about, time.

“Time and Hours”

A “hot-topic” in the legal industry that never seems to lose its heat is that of “time and hours.” I’m talking billables, non-billables, face-time, and flextime. In conversation with a group of young associates and articling students spanning the spectrum of a variety of Toronto law firms suggests that everyone has a different opinion and equally diverse explanations for those opinions.

What is the standard?

As young budding lawyer (or soon-to-be young budding lawyer), the concept of “time and hours” is a contentious and troublesome issue. Newbies are plagued with the classic questions: What are the industry’s standards? What are the firm’s standards? Does it matter? If it matters, is it worth it?

What is the “workday?”

Is it true that this generation and those that follow in our footsteps are expected to work 24/7? Despite general common law standards of employment standards, this may be the case. However, like anything in law, there is a balance to be had. There are industry standards (fluctuating based on firm size, practice, and geographic locations), firm standards (dependent on the culture, localized practice, and level of competition), and personal standards (variable on your individual sense of career advancement, work-life balance, happiness and health). There is no fixed answer. The work day is what you make of it. Take into consideration the often-conflicting factors at play, in concert with your own expectations. It is the latter that frequently gets lost in the new job shuffle.

Bottom Line

As with clients, it is the lawyer’s job to mitigate expectations, use these same skills to mitigate and manage expectations of senior lawyers. If you are not prepared to work 24/7, do not make yourself available. On the other hand, if your peers are available 24/7, be aware that your decision may have an impact on your evaluation review, or in hiring back decisions. Nonetheless, how you use your time at work and in life, are personal decisions that must be made in light of a professional context that gets paid by the hour.