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Weil and Latham draw harder lines on office return as firms chart reopenings

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Weil, Gotshal & Manges offices in Washington, D.C. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Big Valley Law Martin & Hahn, PLLC
  • Weil & Associates

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(Reuters) - Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Latham & Watkins are putting lawyers and staff on notice, both saying this week that they expect to see them back in the office by early fall.

Latham's chief operating officer said in a memo that the firm expects its employees to be within "commuting distance" by mid-September and to "have re-established their regular routine of working from the office," signaling a tougher stance on reopening than many of its peer firms.

Weil general counsel Mindy Spector took a similar tack. The firm plans to be more open to remote work than it was before to the pandemic, but she wrote in an internal memo that there will be a "full return" to U.S. offices on Sept. 7 after a "voluntary phase" over the summer.

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"We are relating this plan well in advance of the scheduled full return to allow everyone ample time to make arrangements for the return, as we know some people have spent the pandemic away from their home office and will need ample time to make plans for their return," Spector said.

Above the Law first reported the memos, which Reuters confirmed on Wednesday.

Law firms are mulling how to bring lawyers back to the office as COVID-19 vaccination rates rise and case numbers drop in the United States. The pandemic shuttered offices nationwide last spring.

Not all firms have announced office return plans yet, but those with public plans have largely stressed flexibility, encouraging rather than requiring lawyers to return and hinting that some aspects of remote work are here to stay.

Reed Smith said earlier this month that its U.S. offices will fully re-open in September but it won't require lawyers to come in every day. Sheppard Mullin's chair said that starting in September the firm will expect workers to come in some days, but that remote work will remain in some form.

This week Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom confirmed it's given lawyers and professional staff a "guidepost" to come in at least three days a week starting in September. It said it will be flexible with people who can't come in that often in September, and that it will consider lawyer requests to transfer offices if they want to move.

Skadden is also requiring its unvaccinated workers who haven't had COVID-19 in the past 90 days to test negative within 48 hours of their arrival to any Skadden office or in-person meeting.

Weil GC Spector said it may also require unvaccinated workers get tested. They'll also have to wear masks in the office and social distance from others, Spector said.

While Weil, like most of Big Law, isn't requiring workers get vaccinated, Spector said the firm's expectation is that "all Weil employees will be vaccinated against COVID-19."

Read More:

More law firms set office return dates as Big Law weighs flexible future

Skadden to lawyers and staff: Get vaccinated or get tested to come back to work

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Caroline Spiezio covers legal industry news, with a focus on law firms and in-house counsel. She is based in New York. Reach her at Caroline.Spiezio@thomsonreuters.com.

David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.

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