When are you going back to the office?
That’s the question buzzing through Biglaw right now. With vaccines widely available and very effective, the legal industry is starting to return to normal. But after more than a year away from physical offices, exactly what constitutes the new normal is a question still being worked out.
West Coast mainstay Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati shared their reopening scheme with employees with a focus on flexibility. In an email circulated by WSGR managing partner Doug Clark, the firm announced its re-opening plan that was shaped by the needs and desires of actual employees. The firm conducted a survey about reopening with an impressive 96 percent response rate. And according to Clark, that data is shaping the firm’s policies going forward. Among the lessons learned are:
Nearly one-third of employees want to go back to the office now; the rest would prefer to work remotely until later this year or indefinitely.
Longer term, the vast majority of employees want to spend at least one day a week in the office.
Nearly two-thirds of attorneys would prefer to eventually spend one to three days per week in the office.
So the firm is committed to a “flexible, hybrid work environment that permits people to maximize the ability to achieve a work/life balance and to retain some of the efficiency benefits we discovered while we’ve been in a virtual work environment” going forward.
But how will that actually work? Obviously, details are still forthcoming, but the firm is super clear: “No one will be required to return to an office during calendar-year 2021.” Beyond that, subject to local regulation from June 1 until September 20, 2021, the firm will start the reopening process, and all those who wish to go into the office will be permitted to do so. Then on September 20, 2021, the firm will reopen its U.S. offices with full amenities and services — but Clark was clear about his earlier caveat that no one will be required to go to the office in 2021.
In the email, Clark also announced the formation of the Office of the Future Task Force, to deal with question concerning a hybrid work environment. The firm will also continue to support remote work and will convert some of its office space into hoteling options to increase flexibility.
You can read the full WSGR memo on the next page.
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.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).