SOLICITORS in the North-west of England enjoy fee earning work but are not too excited about practice management.

They work hard, on average 40 and 50 hours a week, and the majority earn between £25,000 and £50,000.

The findings form part of a major survey of lawyers' working lives by chartered accountants Gruber Levinson Franks. The findings show the region's solicitors are “generally happier” this year than in the last survey in 1993.

Of the 267 lawyers who responded, a quarter found practice management “a real bore”.

According to Gruber Levinson partner Anthony Tesciuba, North-west lawyers are “concerned with the competition from across the Pennines”.

But he said: “People who did well had some specialisms or ran practices extremely well.”

According to the survey, sole practitioners worked hardest for the least reward and half generated fee income of less than £75,000 and net profits of about £25,000.

Men had risen higher up the career ladder. Of the 87 senior partners who responded, six were women.

Lower down the ladder there was no distinction between the work and rewards of male and female partners.

Almost two thirds of respondents said they worked alone on cases, the rest delegated work to one or two assistants.

One in 10 sole practitioners and one in seven salaried partners worked over 60 hours a week. The longer hours equate with higher incomes. Working 60 hours or more increases the chances of generating annual fee income of £350,000.

Most respondents said they took work home. Only 15 said they never took work home.

In the 1993 survey, 25 per cent of firms did not have a computer. Two years later, that figure dropped to just 12 per cent. Just over 15 per cent were earning £25,000 and less. In the top bracket, just over 5 per cent earned more than £150,000.

Location influenced earnings, with all partners in rural areas earning under £50,000, compared to a third of partners in a city centre.

“Partners are as ambitious at 55 as they are at 35, with four out of 10 looking to be promoted to a more senior role,” said the report.

The last question asked what single thing would the respondent do to improve his or her firm. One, having had a particularly bad day, answered that he or she would change “my partners, my staff, my clients”.