Cooley to let many attorneys work remotely under office return plan

3 minute read

Signage is seen on the exterior of the building where law firm Cooley LLP is located in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Cooley says those who can do their work away from the office may choose when to come in
  • Large law firms diverge in return-to-office plans

(Reuters) - Cooley will let many lawyers and staff decide whether and when to go into the office, its CEO said in a Wednesday memo that outlined one of the more flexible return policies from a large law firm to date.

The 1,500-lawyer firm will fully reopen its offices on June 1, offering a choice about where to work for those whose responsibilities can be carried out remotely.

The Silicon Valley-founded firm, known for its tech and life sciences clients, released its policy as law firms grapple with returns to office after widespread remote work due to COVID-19.

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Leaders at some firms are leaving the decision up to individuals or practice group heads, and others have encouraged or mandated specific days for firm-wide in-person work.

Cooley is aiming for flexibility with the recognition that "one size will definitely not fit all," Joe Conroy, chairman and CEO of the firm, said in the memo provided to Reuters.

At the same time, "there is something special about in-office interactions," he wrote.

Kirkland & Ellis is among the law firms expecting employees to be in the office a specified three days per week.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has said its U.S. lawyers can work from anywhere in the country indefinitely. Nixon Peabody's policy allows for a range of options including hybrid and fully remote.

Katten Muchin Rosenman recently said practice and department heads will work with individuals to determine when their groups will be in the office.

Flexible policies on remote work have also become a potential tool to attract and hold on to lawyers in a highly competitive hiring market.

"This is a talent business, and we want to recruit and retain the very best people," said Kathy Pakenham, chair of Cooley's business department and partner in charge of the New York office.

Firms bringing lawyers back are also taking a look at their physical office needs and cutting back on space, creating collaborative areas and implementing new technology-driven amenities.

Cooley has already created a "hybrid open space" model in several of its 17 offices, starting before the pandemic, said Pakenham.

That means the firm has "different areas for different kinds of work," she said, and some people work in open spaces rather than in an office.

Read more:

Cooley keeps office return optional for 2021, eyeing hybrid future

As Omicron fades, Kirkland office return plan could help set legal industry trend

Quinn Emanuel tells U.S. lawyers they can work from anywhere, forever

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

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Sara Merken reports on privacy and data security, as well as the business of law, including legal innovation and key players in the legal services industry. Reach her at sara.merken@thomsonreuters.com