Legal Law

Biglaw Companies Proceed To Roll Out Vaccine Mandates, Delay Reopenings

The Delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire across the United States and the globe, and day by day, Biglaw firms are taking extra precautions to keep their attorneys, staff, and their families. Vaccination mandates are now becoming commonplace, and many firms are now pushing back their proposed reopening dates in light of the latest news on the coronavirus crisis.

Thus far, the firms that have made vaccination a requirement for those returning to the office include Akin Gump, Arent Fox, CooleyClifford Chance, Crowell & Moring, Davis Polk, Davis Wright Tremaine, Dickinson Wright, Fenwick & West, Fried Frank, Goodwin, Hanson Bridgett, Hogan Lovells, Hueston Hennigan, Lowenstein Sandler, McDermott Will & Emery, Mintz, Norton Rose Fulbright, Patterson Belknap, Paul Weiss, Reed Smith, Ropes & Gray, Sanford Heisler, Schiff Hardin, Simpson Thacher, Weil Gotshal, Wilson Sonsini, and Winston & Strawn.

Now, we can add another five firms to the list. Debevoise & Plimpton, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, Cozen O’Connor, Seyfarth Shaw, and Stroock & Stroock & Lavan have all recently added vaccination mandates to their safety protocols, and some of them will be delaying their full reopenings due to the Delta variant.

Debevoise announced last Thursday that all employees must be vaccinated to return to the office, beginning on September 30. Presiding partner Michael Blair noted in a memo that “[t]his requirement, which is strongly recommended by our medical advisors, will lessen the likelihood of community spread at the office, and the potential for a vaccinated individual to bring the virus home to family members who may be ineligible for a vaccine or have a pre-existing health condition.” Unlike other firms, Debevoise didn’t have to push back its full reopening date, because this is the first time we’re heard anything about their plans. Starting on October 11, the firm will require lawyers (and “some professional staff”) to work from the office one to two days each week, and starting on November 8, they will be required to work at least two-thirds of their time from the office.

Thanks to the new COVID surge, Faegre Drinker will be putting off the start of its hybrid work schedule, originally planned to begin on September 7. Now, the firm will start its new work model on October 4. On top of pushing back its reopening, the firm will now require vaccinations for anyone returning to the office. This new policy took effect on August 9.

Cozen O’Connor will be delaying its full reopening as well as the start of its hybrid work policy until September 20 (about two weeks after their original plans were supposed to commence on September 8). The firm will also be requiring all personnel to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after available vaccines receive full FDA approval. Until then, unvaccinated employees will be able to work remotely.

Seyfarth Shaw has a new vaccination mandate, and per Pete Miller, the firm’s chair and managing partner, “[O]ur number one priority has always been the health and safety of our people. The development of multiple vaccinations was a turning point in the battle against COVID-19 and, as the Delta variant gains a foothold, these vaccines remain the best way to protect each other.” Now, anyone entering the firm’s offices must be fully vaccinated or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, and unvaccinated personnel must test negative on a weekly basis. The firm’s reopening date is now September 27, as opposed to September 13, as was planned.

Stroock & Stroock & Lavan announced late last week that going forward, the firm will require anyone who intends to enter its offices to be fully vaccinated. The firm will offer paid leave for those who take the time to get vaccinated, as well as an additional four hours of personal time off for those who show proof of their vaccination. All employees must work from the offie at least three days a week upon its full reopening on October 4.

Will your firm be changing its plans when it comes to vaccination for attorneys and staff thanks to the Delta variant? Please let us know.

What has your firm announced as far as a reopening plan is concerned? The more information is out there, the more likely it is that firms will be able to establish a market standard for a return to the office.

As soon as you find out about the reopening plan at your firm, please email us (subject line: “[Firm Name] Office Reopening”) or text us at (646) 820-8477. We always keep our sources on stories anonymous. There’s no need to send a memo (if one exists) using your firm email account; your personal email account is fine. If a memo has been circulated, please be sure to include it as proof; we like to post complete memos as a service to our readers. You can take a photo of the memo and attach as a picture if you are worried about metadata in a PDF or Word file. Thanks.

Staci ZaretskyStaci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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