LEK - really that bad?

I've been seeing a worrying number of complaints (on Fishbowl and others) about the lack of WLB and the toxic culture at LEK, ranging from 15 hour days to lack of breaks/autonomy to plan your own workflow each day. Would any LEKers like to offer their first-hand experiences, particularly as Associates/Associate Consultants?

 

Haven't worked there but a friend did - Didnt get a good impression of their culture as they were one of the first to actually fire people when covid hit, incl international students who had moved countries like 3 weeks ago. Then proceeded to tell those guys to come back in Sep-20 (so basically saved some money for 3 months maybe). 

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I am an associate, near AC. Yes, it is that bad. First of all, there's the hours: Monday - Wednesday 9am - 12am, Thursdays 6pm (if we hit "Out by 6"), Fridays ~6pm. At first you might go, that's not that bad. It's just grinding 3 days a week, and you don't travel. A lot of friends working in NYC and other big cities are also working until ~7pm, so late nights 3 days a week doesn't seem that bad. 

Let me just say, it is the quality of the hours, not the quantity of the hours that suck. I can guarantee you all 15 said hours of your day will be working synchronously, hand in hand, non-stop.

Day in life of an associate:

9am - 4pm: back-to-back expert calls you will either be leading or taking notes on, interspersed with internal MD calls;

30-minutes for lunch, anywhere from 11am - 3pm, whenever there's downtime. Any other downtime will be used for admin: working with the expert networks to source expert calls, LinkedIn cold outreach (because we undersold a case and don't have the budget to use expert networks too much)

4pm - 6pm: even though you've been in calls all day and your Consultant knows it, they will be all over your ass on the backlog of work they've tasked to you. "X - any update on this analysis?" "any luck finding this data from the data room?" You will be stressing away the next several hours trying to demonstrate progress

6pm - 8pm: It's 6pm, and the workday is just getting started. Now it's time to start working on the slides. You work efficiently to make slides as quickly as possible. 

8pm - 9pm: At 8pm, you've finished most of the slides. You send your team the obligatory "Grabbing dinner" message in the Teams chat. As a second year, I typically set boundaries and do NOT check my phone during that 1-hour. Good luck doing that as a lowly first year associate. 

9pm - 11pm: You finish up your slides, and tell your Consultant they are ready for review. Your consultant drops a fresh load of comments, so you work diligently to revise the slides

11pm - 12am: Since you've spent the last many hours on slides, you need to catch up on admin. Your Consultant is starting to message you "We need 5 more expert calls scheduled for tomorrow. We need to talk to 1 Senior VP who works at Toyota's tire division, and 4 VPs who work at Ford's maintenance division. Why do we only have 1 call scheduled for tomorrow?" Even though it's an impossible ask, you say "will do" and diligently source for experts.

When you're done with that, you write up all the "key take aways" from the day's calls, and send it to the whole team

12am - 12:30am: Now, you might be thinking "I'm done with all my tasks, I can log off now, right?" No, that's not the culture of our firm. You now need permission from your Consultant to log off. Try sending a message like "Is there anywhere else I can plug in?" If you're more ballsy, like me, you can write "I have finished my tasks and plan on logging off soon. Anywhere else we need urgent help?" Again, good luck doing that as a first year

In summary, LEK has made my life a living hell. I too came in with grand ambitions about how I could just be more efficient. How maybe there's downtime during the day and I can game the system. No, LEK will work you to the bones. And not good, rigorous training either. Just mindless work. And guess what? When you're looking at exit opportunities and people see LEK, most people's first reaction is "L... E... what?" As for all the perks, 6-month global exchange program? 2 year waitlist. Unpaid sabbaticals? On pause because we're short staffed. Externship opportunities? Good luck getting that. Remote work? By STRICT exception only. 

 

2nd year L.E.K. associate here. Agree on the hours assessment above. I would say my experience on M-W has been closer to 11pm or 1am than 9pm. Thursdays are often 8pm not 6pm and it gets worse the longer you are a high performer and people pull you onto their hard cases.

What makes the hours hard is twofold:

1.) You are constantly switched on all day, every day. Even while you do your own work, you have constant pings from your Consultant for status updates, pings from teammates for certain inputs that feed into their workstreams, if you are running interviews then you get to manage 2-4 expert networks which send five emails or more per day each. Then if you're unlucky and have tail work from a past case bleeding into the current case, you have to deal with a separate team too.

2.) A lot of times the work doesn't feel rewarding and there isn't enough 'camaraderie' to make up for it. Our clients are all remote on Teams and we never see them. Our teams are cross office so on about half of your cases, partners and managers will be in another office. Then we've also cut back on celebratory dinners and events so at the end of a case you don't feel like you accomplished anything, you just get scheduled onto the next case and do it all over again.

That all being said, I do like my job at L.E.K. and I perform well. What it has going for it includes:

1.) Comp. Nuff said there. It isn't McKinsey money but I also didn't get into McKinsey. My base is projected to go 95, 110, 135 to 185. That's double in four years and three times what I would have been making in my original intended career field.

2.) Specialization. I only work on cases in my sector of choice since I joined the firm and have already been recognized as a SME on some topics due to multiple cases in that area. I've done 14 cases in my industry in 1.5 years and am at the point where I can make a real difference on projects, not just treated as another body.

3.) Humility. Maybe a hot take but getting rejected by MBB and working with non targets keeps people humble. I made three final round interviews when recruiting and LEK was my last choice and only offer. I genuinely think that the associates are some of the nicest people I've ever worked with and there's no backstabbing or bruised egos. Most cultural problems stem from the MBA hires who are placed directly into management positions without knowing anything about consulting or managing.

 

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