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More Big Law Firms Add Vaccine Mandates as Delta Spreads (2)

Aug. 3, 2021, 2:46 PM; Updated: Aug. 3, 2021, 10:15 PM

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Crowell & Moring, Goodwin Procter, and Ropes & Gray are joining a growing group of Big Law firms revamping their return to office and vaccination policies due to an uptick in the spread of coronavirus.

Akin Gump chairperson Kim Koopersmith said in an email viewed by Bloomberg Law on Tuesday that the firm will be moving its target return to office date to Oct. 11 from Sept. 13, assuming that the date provides the requisite level of safety.

The firm is also limiting access to its offices only to those who have been fully vaccinated, according to the email, which was sent to attorneys and staff at all the firm’s U.S. offices on Monday.

The emergence of the Delta variant of Covid-19 in recent weeks has forced Big Law leaders to make difficult decisions on whether to push back office re-openings, many of which were scheduled for the summer or soon after Labor Day. They’ve also had to decide whether to require their workforces to get vaccinated in order to return to work in person.

Koopersmith wrote that for the time being attorneys and staff should avoid the office if they are “not two weeks post fully vaccinated,” but that the firm will reevaluate the vaccine policy when it reopens.

Masks will also be required in all common spaces and elevators in the offices, which includes in conference rooms and other group gatherings.

“I am hopeful that the advances in vaccines and knowledge of transmission will make this current wave short-lived and we will get through the current surge and begin to improve,” Koopersmith said.

On Tuesday, Crowell & Moring said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg Law that effective Sept. 7, all lawyers and staff who enter its offices must be fully vaccinated.

“We have developed policies and protocols over the past 17 months with the singular goal of keeping our community safe,” the statement said.

VIDEO: We answer the question on the minds of CEOs, in-house lawyers, and rank and file employees - can employers make their employees take the vaccine?

Goodwin Procter, which is set to reopen its physical offices in September, is also planning a vaccine mandate to return to office, according to an email from the firm viewed by Bloomberg Law. The email said that though 92% of the firm’s U.S. workforce is fully vaccinated, the firm is “concerned about the spread of the virus in our communities among those who are not yet fully vaccinated and the resultant breakthrough cases for those who are fully vaccinated.”

Once the FDA completes an anticipated approval of Covid-19 vaccines for regular use, the email said, Goodwin’s office will only be open to the fully vaccinated.

According to a memo viewed by Bloomberg Law Tuesday from Ropes & Gray’s leadership, the firm will begin requiring that personnel and visitors to offices and work-related gatherings to be fully vaccinated from Aug. 9 through the end of the firm’s entirely voluntary return to office phase. The next return to office phase, which was due to start the week of Sept. 13, may now be subject to a short delay, the memo said.

The memo noted that 98% of Ropes & Gray’s U.S. lawyers and 90% of its business support team have gotten Covid-19 vaccines. It implored those who are unvaccinated, but don’t have a bona fide medical issue or sincerely held religious belief causing them to hold off, to reconsider their decision.

“For those members of the community, we urge you to seek the advice of a medical professional, a spiritual guide or a trusted advisor with whom you can explore this very important decision in depth, with this virulent and aggressively contagious strain of COVID-19 in mind,” the memo said.

Crowell, Goodwin, Ropes & Gray, and Akin Gump have adopted approaches similar to those announced by other firms in recent days.

On Monday, Schiff Hardin and McDermott Will & Emery said they would each be delaying their office reopenings to Nov. 4 and Oct. 12, respectively, and requiring attorneys, staff, and visitors to be vaccinated.

Reed Smith, Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, Cooley, Hogan Lovells, Davis Wright Tremaine, and Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison have all said that they would require vaccinations as well.

(Adds information on Ropes & Gray's vaccine policy.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Meghan Tribe in New York at mtribe@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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