Weil, Gotshal & Manges, Latham & Watkins, and Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel have laid out return to office plans that will see their lawyers head back in September, joining the many Big Law firms that have opted to reopen their doors this fall.
As vaccination rates continue to increase and coronavirus cases decrease across the U.S., several Big Law firms have announced return to office plans, striking different balances between in-office work time and the remote work time to which lawyers and staff have become accustomed.
Weil is planning on a full return to its offices in the U.S. on Sept. 7, according to a memo viewed by Bloomberg Law, but starting June 1 it will lift capacity restrictions for its offices in New York, Boston, Washington, Miami, Dallas, and Houston.
Weil’s Silicon Valley office will increase its capacity to a maximum of 25% now and plans to remove those restrictions on June 15.
All of Weil’s employees will be required to self-report their vaccination status to the firm prior to the full return, the memo said. It said there is an “expectation that all Weil employees will be vaccinated against Covid-19, barring any religious or medical proscriptions to vaccination.”
Anyone who is not vaccinated may be required to undergo periodic testing for Covid-19 and will be required to wear a mask and follow all social distancing and safety protocols while in Weil’s offices, the memo said.
The firm is also allowing domestic business travel to return to its pre-pandemic protocols starting June 1.
Latham is preparing for its attorneys to return in September, according to an email viewed by Bloomberg Law sent to all personnel by its chief operating officer LeeAnn Black.
“It is our general expectation that by mid-September, all Latham colleagues will live within commuting distance of their assigned office and will have re-established their regular routine of working from the office,” Black said in the email.
Though Black did not mention any vaccination requirements or procedures, she did underscore that flexibility would be key to Latham’s return to office as it is in the process of updating its office protocols and is consulting with medical experts from Johns Hopkins University.
In a follow-up email to Latham associates, partner Kathleen Walsh said the firm “intends to embrace the good things that have come from this extended period of remote working.”
Kramer Levin is also planning on a return to office later this fall for its New York and Silicon Valley offices, but not before Sept. 20, according to an email sent by co-managing partners Paul Schoeman and Howard Spilko and viewed by Bloomberg Law.
The firm is crafting a flexible work policy and is so far planning on having its attorneys be able to work some days in the office and others remotely, the email said. It clarified that until then, its offices are open on a voluntary basis.
“We are thankful for the progress made on the COVID-19 front, optimistic about the future and pleased that we can begin planning for our return to our offices in September,” Schoeman and Spilko said in a statement to Bloomberg Law.
“We want to provide ample time for our people to make this transition, and we are developing plans for there to be flexibility in where people work when we do return.”
A slew of other Big Law firms have had back to work plans released in recent weeks.
Ropes & Gray suggested in a recent memo viewed by Bloomberg Law that lawyers spend one or two days in the office starting Sept. 13, with a shift to a three-day-a-week recommendation coming in November. The memo said the firm doesn’t ever expect to ask its workforce to come into the office five days a week again.
“We have never been a place where we mandate things for lawyers,” Ropes & Gray chair Julie Jones said in a recent interview with Bloomberg Law. “That has been a great, great principle for the success of our business. We trust people to do what’s right, and that trust is returned, I think, with loyalty.”
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom announced this week that it would require its lawyers to work in the office three days a week starting in September and will require those not vaccinated to undergo Covid-19 testing.
Sidley Austin is eyeing a Sept. 1 return to office date for its lawyers and staff, after a “gradual and flexible transition” over the summer. Perkins Coie is planning on reopening its offices on Oct. 1, while also allowing for remote working.
Goodwin Procter last week said it also plans on reopening its offices on Sept. 13, pledging a flexible approach through the end of the year, though it is encouraging its lawyers to spend at least three days in the office.
Several other law firms, including Cooley, DLA Piper, Faegre Drinker, Fish & Richardson, Reed Smith, and White & Case, are planning on reopening at the beginning of September, but have also emphasized flexibility.