Legal Professions and Job Demands: Implications for Wok/Life Balance


  • Joan C. Williams

Document type: Encyclopedia Entry

Appears in: Work and Family Encyclopedia

Year: 2007


  • Career(s)
  • Culture
  • Overwork
  • Work and Family


  • Law


Among professional workers in the United States, work-life conflict often stems from an expectation of constant availability for work and a full-time work week that stretches well past 40 hours on a regular basis. No profession in the United States ingrains these expectations more than the legal profession. Studies of work-life conflict in the legal profession are important not only to those in the legal field, but also as examples of work-life issues common to all professional workers in the United States. Most research on work-life issues in the legal profession focuses on the experiences of attorneys who work in private law firms. In private law firms, the unit of measurement is the “billable hour”; the more hours a firm can bill clients, the more money it can bring in. As a result, attorneys who work in private law firms are evaluated and rewarded in large part based on the sheer number of hours they can work. Other types of legal practice, however, are by no means immune from work-life conflict. Billable hours may not govern the other major types of legal practice in which lawyers engage–that is, as “in-house” counsel for a business, in the public sector, or at a public interest organization–yet the expectations of long hours, constant availability, and devotion to work still pervade. While this entry, like the bulk of the research on the topic, focuses primarily on work-life issues at private law firms both big and small, it also briefly identifies work-life issues among in-house, public sector, and public interest attorneys.

Link:Legal_Professions-Job_Demands-Implications encyclopedia