Dechert opts for once-a-week office return as more firms go hybrid

3 minute read

The Dechert LLP offices in Washington, D.C., U.S. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Several major U.S. law firms keeping remote work an option, at least for now
  • Dechert will ask lawyers to be in the office once a week through the end of the year

(Reuters) - Law firms may differ on when to order lawyers back to the office, but many seem to agree on one thing: In-person doesn't necessarily have to mean full-time.

At Dechert, lawyers and staff will be encouraged to spend a minimum of one day a week working in person when the firm reopens its offices globally on Nov. 8, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

"We realize some of our people still have concerns and we will continue to be flexible," she said in an email. The arrangement will be in place through the end of the year but could be extended, she said.

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Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison is easing into a three-day-a-week return beginning Nov. 1, according to an Oct. 19 memo reviewed by Reuters. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which is planning to broadly return lawyers and staff to the office on Jan. 4, said it won't mandate any particular number of days.

“Lawyers are free to work remotely whenever it is appropriate, taking into account the needs of their clients and their teams,” a firm representative said.

Beth Cavagnolo of law firm management consultancy Vertex Advisors predicted a significant number of lawyers will be back in the office by the first quarter of next year, assuming no major change in the COVID-19 situation. She said she expects most large firms will allow hybrid schedules, with attorneys required to spend at least two or three days a week in the office.

Baker & Hostetler, like Gibson Dunn, is fully reopening its offices on Jan. 4 with the expectation that many employees will maintain flexible in-person schedules.

"We believe that the pandemic has taught us that agility is key," said Baker & Hostetler chairman Paul Schmidt. "When we come back we're going to be embracing that agility, so we don't really expect that we will have our attorneys back full time."

Nixon Peabody already reopened its offices on Oct. 4, but the firm said it's allowing several flexible options, including hybrid, fully remote and modified or reduced schedules for some lawyers.

“I think that the future of working in a law firm will involve some combination of office and remote work,” said CEO and managing partner Stephen Zubiago. “It's hard to predict what the split will be, but I think the future is absolutely going to be some combination.”

Read more:

Trio of Big Law firms set office return dates in coming months

More firms pause office return plans, eying November or beyond

Law firm leaders play catch-up as virus outlook shifts

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Xiumei Dong covers legal industry news, with a focus on law firm strategy and growth, in-house counsel and the Washington, D.C., legal market. Reach her at Xiumei.Dong@thomsonreuters.com.