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‘Magic Circle’ Firms Tell London Lawyers to Stay Home Amid Virus

Dec. 10, 2021, 3:22 PM

Some of the U.K.'s largest law firms are instructing lawyers and staff to work remotely, responding to concerns over the Covid-19 omicron variant and government guidance.

Allen & Overy, Slaughter & May, Hogan Lovells, and Herbert Smith told employees to work from home starting next week, firm spokespersons said in emails. They join Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, the London-founded law firm that also advised its attorneys and staff to work from home indefinitely.

The vast majority of Allen & Overy workers in the London office will work from home starting Monday, according to the firm, which said will keep reviewing the situation as government guidance changes.

The U.K. government this week tightened pandemic restrictions and Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to work from home if they can. U.K. data show the omicron variant spreading at a significantly faster rate than the delta variant, though the severity of infections remains unclear.

Several major banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., HSBC Holdings Plc, Deutsche Bank AG and Standard Chartered Plc have to varying degrees encouraged London employees to stay out of their offices, Bloomberg News has reported.

Freshfields, Allen & Overy, and Slaughter & May are among London’s “Magic Circle” firms, a designation reserved for five of the largest and oldest law firms in the city.

Freshfields and Allen & Overy have increasingly turned their attention to the U.S., looking to add lawyers and pickup business from companies stateside.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com
; Ruiqi Chen in Washington, D.C. at rchen@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com; John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com