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Wake Up Call: Law Firms Tackle Office Returns, Vaccine Rules

Aug. 9, 2021, 12:18 PM

In today’s column, four firms on Friday added or toughened policies requiring lawyers and staff to get vaccinated to enter their offices; tensions are rising between vaccinated and unvaccinated workers at law firms; U.K law firm partners prepare for a possible tax increase.

  • Leading off, as Delta-variant Covid-19 cases keep climbing across the country, and many law firms’ back-to-office dates approach, Seyfarth Shaw, Cozen O’Connor, and Faegre Drinker joined the list of firms that will require Covid-19 vaccinations to get into their offices. Wilson Sonsini said it is toughening its existing vaccine policy.
  • Seyfarth Shaw said via email that, effective Aug. 23, it will require anyone entering its U.S. offices to prove they are either fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or have tested negative for the disease. The Chicago-based firm, which said unvaccinated attorneys and staff will have to get tested weekly to enter its offices, also delayed its firmwide return-to-office date to Sept. 27.
  • Cozen O’Connor said via email that all of the firm’s employees, in addition to following local mask mandates, must provide “photographic” proof they’ve been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks to be able enter its offices, effective Monday. The firm is also considering deactivating office ID keycard access for unvaccinated employees. It plans to announce a separate policy for non-employees, including clients and other visitors. Faegre Drinker is delaying its hybrid work model by almost a month. It’s also requiring vaccine proof to get into its offices effective today, while Wilson Sonsini has “reinforced” its vaccine requirement, a report says. (American Lawyer). Katten, questioning the effectiveness of global vaccine policies, said it doesn’t plan to require vaccines for its London office unless government guidance changes. (Global Legal Post)
  • With Delta-variant Covid-19 cases soaring all over the country, even as law firms prepare to return to in-office work, tension could “boil over” between vaccinated employees and their unvaccinated colleagues, a report says. (American Lawyer)
  • New Jersey state court judges and staff have to show proof of vaccination or get weekly tests for Covid-19 to enter courts. (New Jersey Law Journal) The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York reinstated a requirement to wear masks in all public and non-public areas of the courthouse. (New York Law Journal)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • U.K. law firm partners, accountants, and sole traders could face a tax hike next year under a government proposal that would change the date certain businesses report their profits. (Financial Times)
  • Remote working during the pandemic has forced changes on law firm culture under which ambitious young lawyers are expected to work long hours at the office if they want to advance. With many associates pushing to continue working from home post pandemic, that change could become permanent. (WSJ)
  • The legal sector added 3,300 jobs in July, according to new data from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS said employment in professional and business services overall is down by 556,000 since February 2020. (BLS.gov)
  • Troutman Pepper announced associate pay raises that match the Davis Polk standard. (Above The Law) Cincinnati-founded Taft Stettinius & Hollister raised associate pay for the third time this year, but it’s still below the standard. (Above The Law)
  • Some 67 law firms, in-house legal departments or government offices in Houston have signed the state’s updated 2021 Gender Fairness Commitment Statement. (Texas Lawyer)

Laterals, Moves, In-house

Legal Education

  • A law professor at at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School sued to block the university’s requirement for students, faculty, and staff to be vaccinated to attend the fall semester. (Law.com) Indiana University’s vaccine mandate faces a challenge at the Supreme Court. (National Law Journal)

To contact the correspondent on this story: Rick Mitchell in Paris at rMitchell@correspondent.bloomberglaw.com

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

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