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Perkins Coie Says Lawyers, Staff Can Stay Home Rest of Year (1)

Sept. 14, 2021, 6:07 PM; Updated: Sept. 14, 2021, 9:43 PM

Perkins Coie is delaying its office return to 2022 as more law firms rethink their back-to-office strategies in light of the recent spike in coronavirus cases across the country.

The firm has postponed its office reopening until Jan. 3, 2022, spokesman Justin Cole said in a statement to Bloomberg Law, citing the resurgence of the pandemic over the summer.

“Our goal remains to protect the health and safety of all our attorneys and professional staff, while ensuring continuity of service to our clients,” Cole said. The firm had previously targeted Oct. 4 as its return to office date.

Many law firms that slated office returns shortly after Labor Day have since delayed those plans, citing the recent spike in Covid-19 infections. The moves have some law firm leaders concerned about how the possible long-term impacts of continued remote working.

In addition to pushing back its return to office date, Perkins Coie is continuing to mandate that attorneys and staff entering its office space be vaccinated, effective Oct. 1. The firm is also mandating masks in its offices for attorneys and staff, as well as visitors and clients.

Perkins Coie’s decision comes as a number of its tech clients have pushed back return to office dates. The firm’s longtime client Microsoft announced last week that it would indefinitely delay the reopenings of its offices in the U.S.

The Seattle-founded firm, which reported more than $1 billion in global revenue last year, is one of a handful of law firms that has moved its targeted reopening to 2022. Earlier this summer, Cooley told its lawyers and staff that it wouldn’t require them to return to the office this year.

Cahill Gordon & Reindel and Willkie Farr & Gallagher are also not heading back to the office until 2022.

The decision to delay until the New Year is a hot topic among some law firm leaders, said Lauren Drake, a partner at legal recruiting and consulting company Macrae Inc. Among a group of female law firm leaders in New York and Washington she meets with regularly, they are all looking to delay office reopenings, but haven’t yet set new dates because much of it rests with infection and vaccination rates, Drake said.

“They’re not quite calling it yet, but wanting to take a wait and see approach,” she said.

While firms and attorneys were eager to get back into the office and to some sense of normalcy in September, the delta variant has made people less comfortable with the decision to head back into the office, prompting many firms to push back their return dates, said Stephanie Biderman, a New York-based partner in Major Lindsey & Africa’s associate practice group

Return-to-office dates have always been a bit of a moving target, she said. While there are the competing pressures of mentorship, training, and collaboration pushing the return mentality, most firms have been operating successfully remotely for nearly 18-months, she said.

“What’s the difference if we do it 18 or 21?” Biderman said, referring to the number of months that lawyers have been remote. “At the end of the day, the firms want everyone to be safe.”

(Updated with comments from Drake and Biderman)

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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