The truth about the law is that lawyers work long hours. Often this extends to nights and weekends. It’s common for lawyers to work up to 80 hours per week, and 75% of lawyers report frequently working outside of regular business hours — with the burnout to prove it.

There is little you can do about long hours when you are an associate. Early in your career, all you have to sell is your time: your billable hours pay you and generate a profit for the firm. 

But once you have a book of business, that changes. 

Or it should change.  

The economics change as you build a book of business. Rather than only having time to sell, rainmakers bring business to the firm. Their business-building activity is crucial to the firm’s economics, so the need for hours should shift to recognizing business earned.  

The shift to rainmaker should happen, but it doesn’t always happen. 

So, in this blog post, I’ll explore why rainmakers find themselves working nights and weekends and what you can do about it. 

Why Do Lawyers Work Weekends?

The law is complex; practicing law requires thinking and precision. Also, as a service industry, client needs, not traditional business hours, often dictate timelines. 

The unique combination of intellectual challenge, precision, and unpredictability takes time. Associates often work nights, weekends, and holidays simply because of the sheer amount of work that comes with the job. 

But the law isn’t limited to doing the work. There is also the challenge of finding the work. 

Rainmakers put time and effort into finding work and bringing it into the firm. Once engaged, someone must deliver. If, as a rainmaker, you have the support of staff and associates, you can let them do the hard, long-hour work.

Few rainmaking partners will tell you that nothing unexpected ever arises in their business – and nights and weekends happen to everybody.

But if you are a rainmaker who always works long hours and rarely has the flexibility to live your life, then something is wrong. 

Rainmakers Need to Recognize Their Value…and Their Firm Does, Too

So, most rainmakers work long hours because they don’t have enough support to do the work. 

It isn’t just legal work: you should have support staff, a billing department, and marketing people. They should schedule that webinar or write that article so that you can spend your time attending to your critical client needs. 

Unfortunately, many rainmakers find themselves stuck in a cycle where this isn’t the reality, and that’s why they end up doing the work and apologizing for missing everything from kids’ baseball games to holidays.  

If that sounds like you, here are some questions you may want to consider.

Does Your Firm Appropriately Value Business Generation?

Since your book of business is crucial to your firm’s success, it should be a key metric in evaluating your performance. However, the reality is that not all firms appropriately value business generation as highly as they should.

Law firms that value business generation invest in the essential resources and tools that support their partners. This includes hiring adequate staff and providing training and coaching. 

Training matters: I know plenty of lawyers who hand things off to associates only to have to redo it themselves (often over the weekend).

Moreover, law firms that value business generation also understand that business development is not a one-time effort but a continuous process. They support their lawyers’ efforts to build and maintain relationships with clients and prospects, and they recognize that these efforts may take time to bear fruit.

On the other hand, law firms that do not appropriately value business generation may focus solely on billable hours and may not invest sufficient resources in business development activities. 

Rainmakers in firms without support find themselves filling the gaps. They do the work to build client relationships and have to keep up their billable hours. 

This is also reflected in their compensation, so the next question is:

Does Your Compensation Structure Recognize the Value You Bring to the Firm?

As your career shifts, your compensation should shift from billable hours to origination credit.

If the firm’s compensation structure doesn’t reward origination appropriately, you may be overworked. You may find yourself bringing in the business and doing the work while the partner who initially brought in the client thirty years ago collects the fee while playing golf. 

Or, if your compensation is structured around billable hours, you may find yourself working long hours and sacrificing work-life balance to meet billing targets. That may be necessary as an associate but not as a partner with a book of business. 

If you are a rainmaker working long hours, does your firm reward partners for their ability to grow its revenue over time? Or does the firm focus only on billable hours? 

Law firm compensation models, of course, is a larger topic — I dove deeper into it in this recent blog post.

Is the Culture of Your Firm a Good Fit for Work-Life Balance?

The next question is whether or not the firm is a good fit. 

Do partners at your firm brag about how they haven’t had a weekend off in six years? Would you rather have a few weekends off? Then there might not be a fit. 

If your firm’s culture is one where working long hours, nights, and weekends is the norm and is seen as a badge of honor, but that isn’t the way you want to work, you may want to look for a culture more compatible with your values and goals. 

(Of course, if you like working long hours, by all means, enjoy it!)

Have you “claimed” your value? 

If you are frustrated with the resources you have to support you, your origination credit, and your work-life balance, this may be something to bring up to firm management. 

The bigger your book of business, the more the firm will want to keep you and make changes to support you.  

You may also find that the support problem is one you can help solve. Maybe you can develop the program to increase associate hiring. Or, perhaps you can make the business case for more marketing support. 

Sometimes the frustration comes down to miscommunication. If you are otherwise happy at your firm but need more control over your hours, then it is worth making an effort to solve the problem.

Ready to Explore Your Options?

If you’ve tried and can’t make it work at your current firm, remember you have options.  

Other firms will pay for your book of business and reward you for bringing in more clients. There are as many types of firms as there are types of lawyers – so if your firm isn’t the right fit for you, another firm is.  

And we can help you find it.  
So if it’s time for you to make a change, then let’s schedule a call.