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How many hours do corporate counsel work each week?

New research reveals the volume of work being undertaken by those in-house every week, offering insight into the balance (or otherwise) achieved between work and life.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 29 October 2019 Corporate Counsel
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The 2019 In-House Counsel Trends Report, undertaken by the Association of Corporate Counsel Australia, was completed in August of this year by 363 respondents from across a range of industries, and aims to provide insight into “consistent and emerging challenges, working conditions and practices” of and for in-house legal teams across the country.

The need to maintain a healthy work-life balance has become increasingly recognised across the industry, ACC wrote in its report.

“Whilst there are a number of available options for in-house teams to use and support their efficiencies, work-life balance continues to be problematic for both individuals and organisations,” it said.


“Regardless of the uptake of outsourcing and technological solutions to assist with workflow management, extended working hours are still commonplace in legal teams, raising concerns regarding the health and wellbeing of many in the profession.”

According to the findings, 7 per cent of in-house counsel work more than 60 hours per week, which was the same as last year. Twenty per cent work between 51 hours and 60 hours, down from 22 per cent last year, and 40 per cent work between 41 hours and 50 hours per week, up from 38 per cent last year.

One-quarter (25 per cent) work between 31 hours and 40 hours each week, 6 per cent work between 21 hours and 30 hours weekly, and just 2 per cent work 20 hours or less weekly. All of these figure are the same as the 2018 findings.

“Despite greater attention to the importance of life balance in the industry, we see virtually no change when comparing this year’s survey results to last year's,” ACC wrote.

“It is interesting to note that whilst one of the most common reasons for moving in-house is the scope for flexible working hours and the potential of a shorter working week, the majority of respondents work excessive hours. This demonstrates that while there may not be uptake of work-life balance policies, there is the general acknowledgement that the desire exists within the Australian in-house legal profession for work-life balance, friendly employment.

“Of interest, part-time employment remains consistently low over 2018 and 2019, with only 8 per cent of respondents working less than 30 hours per week. This mirrors the trend in private legal practice where part-time work is scarce and lacking in incentives or rewarding workload.”

The report also found that the reasons why in-house legal departments will utilise a NewLaw firm have evolved over the past year, but there remain numerous barriers to choosing such firms for work

Elsewhere, it showed that the extent to which corporate counsel will go directly to barristers for their expertise, and their reasons for doing so.

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