Ropes & Gray, after delaying its office-return date this month, is asking lawyers to work in-person for one or two days each week starting Nov. 8.
“We have been focused on the earliest possible safe return to our U.S. offices,” Ropes & Gray chair Julie Jones said in an email to the firm. “We believe that being together is essential to our culture.”
The new approach will last until 2022, though lawyers will likely work remotely the full weeks of Thanksgiving and before New Year’s Day, Jones said.
Ropes & Gray is the eleventh largest firm in the U.S. by gross revenue, bringing in nearly $2.2 billion last year. Other major firms like Goodwin Proctor, Hogan Lovells, and Paul Hastings have also chosen early November for returning workers to the office.
The 1,300-lawyer firm previously planned to bring lawyers back to its offices on Oct. 18 but backtracked over concerns about the Covid-19 delta variant. Those who elect to work in-person have been required to be fully vaccinated since Aug. 9.
“Offices have been open for us during the course of 2020,” Jones said in an interview. “What we did over time since then was monitoring very important public health conditions and trying to make it increasingly comfortable and attractive to come in the office.”
Ropes & Gray’s updated policy is the result of focus groups with partners and conversations with associates, Jones said. “If you don’t sense a lot of surprise in your organization from a big decision, you managed it well, and there wasn’t surprise in our community.”
While Ropes & Gray lawyers have more than a month to prepare for their mandated return-to-office, many partners have already been working in-person.
“In September, office use increased more than 50 percent over August, and last week, nearly 70 percent of our U.S. partners were in the office,” Jones wrote in the Oct. 4 email. She told Bloomberg Law that about a third of the firm’s associates were also working in-person.
She added that the firm will create bespoke arrangements for individuals who have a difficult time meeting the new requirement, such as those who can’t find sufficient childcare.