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Goodwin Procter Eyes Mid-September for Flexible Office Return

May 18, 2021, 7:44 PM

Goodwin Procter has said lawyers and staff will take the next step in their return to office Sept. 13, pledging a flexible approach through the end of the year that will include some lawyers sharing space in a “hoteling” setup.

While the firm does not expect to return to working from the office five days a week, its lawyers are “encouraged” to spend at least three days per week at their desks starting in mid-September, according to an email sent to attorneys on Tuesday by managing partner Mark Bettencourt and obtained by Bloomberg Law.

Goodwin has taken a flexible approach to the complex task of getting lawyers and staff back to the office after more than a year of widespread remote work.

Big Law firms have taken varying approaches, but few so far have mandated full-time returns to the office. Sullivan & Cromwell has said lawyers are “strongly encouraged” to return on July 6, according to The American Lawyer, marking one of the earliest return dates.

A handful of firms have targeted Sept. 7, the day after Labor Day, for tentative returns to more normal office life. Those firms include Cooley, DLA Piper, Faegre Drinker, Fish & Richardson, and Reed Smith. Most Big Law firms have stressed their return dates will include flexibility.

Goodwin Procter does not expect to implement a rule specifying how many days lawyers should be in the office, and the email directed them to discuss with their teams what is optimal. Bettencourt wrote the firm expects to be “particularly flexible” about its office policy at least through the end of 2021, when it will revisit the issue.

Lawyers who work from the office fewer than three days a week, however, should not expect a dedicated office and may have to use shared spaces, the email said, noting additional details would be shared on the “hotel” model.

As for staff, Goodwin Procter expects most to be working three-days-a-week starting in mid-September. They will need permission to work remotely more than twice a week, according to another email sent to staff and viewed by Bloomberg Law.

Both emails said that although Goodwin does not plan to require vaccines for return to work, they are strongly encouraged.

Goodwin Procter was among the first Big Law firms to start hiring associates in cities where it does not have traditional office space. That type of hiring has stressed regional firms who haven’t typically matched the high salaries paid by the largest firms.

Goodwin Procter’s revenue rose more than 11% in 2020 to $1.49 billion while its profits per equity partner were up more than 10% to $2.88 million, according to the latest Am Law data. It is one of the fastest-growing firms in Big Law.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roy Strom in Chicago at rstrom@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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