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How Many Hours Do You Work?

Only two days after I officially received my J.D. (whoopee!), I started studying for the bar exam (boo!). I’m doing the standard study course, BAR/BRI. But the reason I’m posting right now is to ask you a question.

How much time do you put into your job?

I’m curious what your daily number of hours are (on average), as well as your average weekly hours. Especially if you are a paralegal or a lawyer, I’d love it if you would share in the comments.

And now to explain this crazy series of thoughts… My bar review course consists of video lectures we attend daily, for about 3 hours each morning. The common question is how much time we should be reading and studying on our own. According to the study course company, we should “treat it like a job.” They suggest we do an extra 7-9 hours per day plus 10 hours on the weekend. I’m no math genius, but doing their recommended minimum would be 60 hours of preparation per week. What job requires that?!

The easy answer is, of course, being a lawyer. It’s perfectly normal for associates in big firms to work 60-70 hour weeks, month after month. For those guys, go ahead and put in your 60 hours of studying every week.

For me, I’m going to a public interest organization with normal people hours. I’ll be there from 8 to 5 with an hour for lunch. Using my spiffy math skills, that means I’ll be doing 40 hour weeks. There will definitely be exceptions, but that will be the general rule.

So if I treat bar exam prep like my future job, I should spend an extra 25 hours per week studying, outside of the 15 hours of lectures. That’s about 3.5 hours per day. I’m liking my job already!!

But back to the real question – what are your working hours like? Are you an 8 to 5’er? Or do you pull closer to 60 hour weeks? Or maybe you’ve nailed down Tim’s 4-hour week. Let’s chat!

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20 Responses to “How Many Hours Do You Work?”

  1. Stew
    May 24th, 2007

    I’m a paralegal with a standard 40-hour per week requirement, although overtime on various litigation can usually push this to 50-55 hours. Depending on my workload, I will take about 30 minutes for lunch or an hour for a lunch meeting. Most of the attorneys in my firm have similar hours.

  2. Pro Se Thoughts
    May 24th, 2007

    Dear Andrew, (the doc is in and I’m billing you $120/hr for this Dear Abby reply)

    You should put in whatever hours it takes for you to pass the bar exam. Everyone retains information at a different pace.

    As for me, I work from the time I get up to the time I go to bed, but that’s because I have to learn law the hard way. I have to learn it as I go, and do a lot of research on how to write documents. I didn’t get formal instruction. If I knew what I was doing, it would be easier. HOWEVER, I have ruled out a profession I don’t want to be. Can you guess? Would it be a lawyer? *evil grin*

    How do lawyers carry on a family life? If someone even talks to me while I’m trying to write a document or learn a law, I get frustrated. It requires too much brain cell use and noises break my concentration, but I put in as many hours as it takes to get the job done. If you were in my shoes, what takes me 10 hours might only take you one.

    When do you take your bar? Don’t forget to write about your experience. Inquiring minds want to know.

  3. Stormy
    May 24th, 2007

    Unless your future employer pays you a bonus for your performance on the bar exam, you should study enough to pass. You’re not heading into private practice, so I’m guessing you need the bar admission for something else? The summer I took the bar, I went to class in the morning, a mix of live and tape, played golf in the afternoon, studied a few hours in the evening, and had a great time. Passed with plenty of room to spare, so you could say I studied too much.

    Oh, and if you think your public interest job will truly be a 9-5er, good luck. I’d hope you’d want to be there more, because you want to do a good job, you want to believe in what you are doing, and want to be successful, however you define that. If you want to watch the clock, however, go ahead, many of us have found ways to have successful careers that way too.

  4. Lise
    May 24th, 2007

    Well, I am at work from 8-5 everyday with a 1 hour lunch. I am actually doing work maybe 75% of that time, as evidenced by the fact that I am writing you at 11am. It will get busier during the summer though. In a world of billable lawyer hours I think that it takes like 1.5 real hrs to bill a client hour as a starting associate. That will be tough, being productive constantly. But hopefully it will be interesting work. Sometimes engineering can be quite boring.

  5. Andrew Flusche
    May 24th, 2007

    Hi Stew,

    I’m glad you took the time to comment. I’m impressed that you guys have decent working hours. Your firm must have a bit better quality of life than most of the ones I’m with which I’m familiar. That is great for you!

    Thanks for commenting,

  6. Andrew Flusche
    May 24th, 2007

    Hi Pro Se,

    I think you’ve hit on something that law school actually teaches: reading & digesting statutes and cases. We don’t learn much about the law, but we learn and hone techniques to find answers in the law. As you’re experiencing, it’s not exactly an easy task.

    I’ll be taking the bar on July 24 and 25. You guys will definitely hear lots about it, since that is my life for the next two months. 🙂


  7. Andrew Flusche
    May 24th, 2007

    Hey Stormy,

    It sounds like you took a great approach to bar prep. And you’re exactly right – study enough to pass. That’s all any of us need. Virginia doesn’t even release our scores, so all I will know is if I pass or not. Thus, that’s the only goal that makes any sense.

    As for my particular job, I will definitely spend the time it takes to be effective and do a great job. But it is good to know what the expectations are up-front. And people there really do go home to be with their families, perhaps not right at 5, but not too late in the evening.

    I’m glad you asked about me taking the bar, since I’m going in-house. The plan is for me to actually work on some litigation, so I’ll need to be a full-fledged lawyer. And I would want to keep future options open anyway, since we never know where God might lead us. 🙂

    Thanks for commenting!

  8. Stew
    May 24th, 2007

    Thanks, Andrew!

    Our firm is rather small, with only a few attorneys, so it is nice to have the flexibility that some larger firms might not offer. Still, both large and small firms have their benefits and drawbacks. Since I like my job, I don’t really worry about the hours I work every week. I put in as much time as needed to meet our clients’ needs, but still manage to go home at the end of the day. I’m lucky that we don’t handle too many legal emergencies.

    And congrats on the JD! I completely agree with your point about learning how to study law v. studying the laws themselves. In the legal field, we are in fortunate positions where the routine “tests” are all open-book; its how to best find the answer that matters. Then again, having a mind like a steel trap doesn’t hurt… 🙂

  9. Andrew Flusche
    May 24th, 2007

    Hi Lise,

    It sounds like you’ve got a good handle on the billable hour concept. Those things are scary!

    I do hope you find associate work to be interesting. But I’m not sure many people would use that adjective for it. Let’s face it: partners give associates the dirty work they don’t want to do. Although most associates are getting paid handsomely for it, so there’s not much room to complain. 😉


  10. Chris F.
    May 24th, 2007

    Congratulations on getting your JD! I still wish I could’ve been there for your graduation ceremony.

    As far as how many hours per week I work, it varies. Typically I work somewhere between 70 and 100 hours per week. The actual number varies considerably based on the project (or projects) I’m working on and each project’s priority and deadline.

    I have determined that the reason it takes so many hours is the fact that I am actually working TWO jobs. My first job is taking care of my clients – completing their projects and dealing with all of their day-to-day I.T. issues. My second job is running my business – paying the bills, doing the books, dealing with banks and vendors, marketing, etc.

    Anyone that is thinking about going into any kind of single-person business, be it an independent lawyer or otherwise, should think heavily about how they are going to handle their second job of running their business. I have 2 full-time and 2 part-time employees now, and I’m still working all those hours. I don’t have a clue how I made it when I was working by myself.

  11. Andrew Flusche
    May 24th, 2007

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the congratulations, bro! I wish you guys could’ve made it up here too. Maybe we can make a trek down there before long.

    You’re right on the money about working two jobs. I guess if you split your hours in half, they’re pretty reasonable. 🙂

    Maybe it’s time to start outsourcing some of the daily grind of running your business. Obviously an in-house bookkeeper would be costly, but a virtual assistant might offer some help at a reasonable price.

    But your main point is the important one – small business owners must understand what they’re jumping into. You get to be the boss, but you’re also the janitor. 🙂

    It’s good to hear from you,

  12. alexis
    May 27th, 2007

    I work 9-5 and read from 7-12. If i’m lucky i get to plug in an hour or two before heading to work. I pulled this off from the barbri website:

    “BAR/BRI does not want its students to get overwhelmed by the amount of lecture material that will be covered in the course. However, it is not recommended that students take weekends off or plan vacations during the course. Instead, BAR/BRI suggests that students use weekends to review information covered during the week, concentrating especially on weak subject areas. Assess your own needs and dedicate your time accordingly. Because each student’s study needs are different, we will not structure a weekend study program for you. We will, however, provide students with a recommended study regimen to follow from the time the review course ends up until the time of the bar exam.”

    Nice blog you have!

  13. kokoesquire
    May 28th, 2007

    Andrew — nice website. I too am blogging for the bar while studying for the bar and working. Not doing Barbrik, I am using a self-study course called Micromash. Happy Studying!

  14. Pro Se Thoughts
    May 28th, 2007

    Andrew said: “reading & digesting statutes and cases. We don’t learn much about the law, but we learn and hone techniques to find answers in the law”

    Does anyone know of a blog I can read so laws are easier to understand than what I’m doing? I’m reading one word at a time on all the laws that I’m told apply to my case. I could spend full time reading laws and not get anything done on the case! Do law students have to read the entire set of laws that apply?

  15. Andrew Flusche
    May 28th, 2007

    Hi Alexis,

    I’m glad you like the blog. I hope you’ll become a regular reader.

    Working full time AND studying must be tough. I’m barely handling a part-time job while studying for the bar. Kudos to your work ethic!

    Take care,

  16. Andrew Flusche
    May 28th, 2007

    Hey kokoesquire,

    I thought about doing the self-study option. You must have some good self discipline to do that. I think it would be difficult to make myself keep up with the reading and studying.

    I like your blog, and I hope your studying goes well. Good luck!


  17. Andrew Flusche
    May 28th, 2007

    Hi Pro Se,

    I’m not sure what advice to give you on reading statutes better. Honestly, most law students don’t graduate with very good skills for that. I think it’s something that really gets polished once you’re practicing and parsing statutes on a daily basis.

    With that said, the only thing you can really do is read each law. You can use headings and subheadings to narrow your reading a bit, but then it’s time to just read away.

    Good luck,

  18. yasmin
    July 15th, 2007

    I don’t even know if this is a place to drop these few words…Too late here and I am very sleepy. However, JD- bar exam, Bar/Bri my in here caught my eyes when searching the net Would it be very stupid of an overseas lawyer ( currently LLM student) whose English is not mother tongue to dream of sitting for the bar exam within the next 2 years? Well, with two babies and a husband to serve I can manage to study 6,7 hours for 6,7 months utmost! Honestly do you think I am an idiot for considering the NY bar exam? I have been wondering it for a while now…!!

  19. Andrew Flusche
    July 16th, 2007

    Hi Yasmin,

    I don’t think your idea is stupid at all! In fact, I think anyone can do anything they put their mind to. From what I see, it looks like your English is darn good.

    I would recommend doing a preparation course, like Bar/Bri. They even have an iPod version where you can listen to the lectures from home. You’ll need probably 8-10 hours to study during the couple of months right before the exam. Of course, that depends on the student and retention of information.

    Let me know if I can help in any way!

  20. yasmin
    July 16th, 2007

    Thank you Andrew for the reply and thank you for encouraging me. I could count on your advices, could’nt I!

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