Greenberg Traurig’s leaders have hit the road in an RV on a cross-country journey to get face time with staff and attorneys from 30 offices as Big Law firms contemplate returning to in-person work that came to a halt at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Executive chairman Richard Rosenbaum and chief executive officer Brian Duffy kicked off their road trip on Saturday at an event in Miami, the firm’s founding city, and will make a journey in three legs that will take them from Florida to Texas and then from California to New York.
The pair will gather with attorneys and staff from Greenberg Traurig at outdoor locations at each stop, complete with masks, social distancing, and temperature checks, allowing colleagues to reconnect with each other—and the firm’s top brass— after nearly a year of remote work.
“We’re getting probably a stronger positive reaction than we would’ve expected to be honest with you,” Rosenbaum said in an interview. He spoke with Bloomberg Law on Monday in West Palm Beach, Fla. from the RV, named “Mel on Wheels” after Mel Greenberg, one the founders of Greenberg Traurig.
The firm has set up a blog and tracker for employees to keep tabs on their leaders, who, like true road trippers, say they will sleep in the RV the majority of the time.
“It’s a used RV,” Duffy said. “It’s way too small, but even that’s kind of fun,” he joked.
Duffy said Rosenbaum came up with the idea to travel via RV in the months following office shutdowns as they contemplated ways to keep the firm’s culture and connections intact as much as they could in a remote environment.
“I thought he was joking to be completely honest,” said Duffy, who noted that he and Rosenbaum don’t have any prior RV experience or expertise. “But it was creative, I thought it was innovative [and] the more he talked about it, the more excited he got, the more excited I got about it.”
The ‘Next Normal’
As Covid-19-related restrictions across some states ease and vaccine efforts ramp up, law firms have been contemplating how to navigate reopening their offices.
Nixon Peabody CEO and managing partner Stephen Zubiago said it is targeting July 6 as its firmwide return-to-office date, though it would be subject to applicable governmental orders and regulations that could impact that decision. Ropes & Gray and Goodwin Procter have also set targets for a fall reopening.
Greenberg Traurig has so far taken a wait-and-see approach on official office re-opening. Duffy said return to work for the firm will vary by office and market.
In the meantime, traversing the country in an RV to 30 offices makes a statement that Greenberg Traurig isn’t “a virtual family, we’re an actual family,” Rosenbaum said.
“The bottom line is the emotion and the togetherness that people are feeling I believe will get them back working together much more willingly and happily than if we sent out a memo,” he said.
There’s been discussion since the pandemic began about the cash that could be saved on office space by having lawyers work remotely on a more permanent basis. A few Big Law firms have already made moves in that direction.
Rosenbaum said staying mostly remote isn’t an option at Greenberg Traurig. “We look at it as, you’re giving up a lot for the savings, which is the basic fabric of the firm,” he said.
The isolation that work-for-home arrangements bring also wears on lawyers and staff, Duffy said.
Though there will be more remote working post pandemic, “people also want to be back in the office with their teams in some type of way and we think that’s right as a law firm,” he said. “We think that’s best for our clients and frankly best for our people.”
So as Rosenbaum and Duffy journey from city to city, listening to a playlist created by their Greenberg Traurig colleagues, the pair are hoping reconnect with their attorneys and staff in a way that will reinvigorate that desire to jump back into the office, once it’s safe to do so.
“One of the basic message points that we’re making virtually everywhere is that it is time to sort of turn the page and move into what we’re basically saying is the next normal,” Rosenbaum said.