Here’s the choice: work full time for A$125K per year or work the magic circle version of full time for A$188K per year. This is the option available at Linklaters under a pilot program in their German branch. The salary figures here are applicable to first year Associates.

For one-third less pay, you can work ONLY full time, which is 40 hours per week in the program. Australian full time is technically considered to be 38 hours so the program’s full time is actually more than the Australian version of full time.

This leads to the frightening question: what is Magic Circle full time? According to unconfirmed reports, 11 hours per day is not unusual and that is for week days. Weekend work is in addition. The reality is that working hours are open ended. It is driven by client demands and internal competitive pressures.

Long work hours are a reality in top tier Australian firms and probably most firms of all sizes. We recently had an insight into this as a result of an investigation by WorkSafe into ‘overwork’ at KWM that was related to providing legal services for the Hayne Royal Commission.

The Linklaters initiative is a sign that long working hours in top tier professional firms is not going away, however careers paths are being established for those who want to work more civilised hours.