Paul Weiss to require COVID-19 boosters as law firms monitor Omicron's rise

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP offices in Washington, D.C. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Paul Weiss extending holiday remote work period through Jan 24
  • Other firms also seeking to trim office attendance into new year
  • Law firm leaders can use year-end to reassess office plans for early 2022

(Reuters) - Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison is stepping up its COVID-19 precautions, requiring a COVID-19 vaccine booster for all eligible visitors and personnel in the law firm's offices.

Firm chairman Brad Karp in a memo to employees Tuesday rolled out a series of updated COVID-19 policies, which also included stretching a holiday remote work period—previously planned for the final two weeks of December—through at least Jan. 24.

Personnel may choose to come in during that time, Karp wrote, but attendance isn't required “unless critical client work project work requires your presence in the office.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday the fast-spreading Omicron variant is now the country's dominant coronavirus strain, accounting for 73% of infections in the previous week.

That rapid rise has left law firms scrambling to limit the virus' spread among lawyers and staff, including by allowing or even requesting a temporary return to working from home.

Debevoise & Plimpton on Friday informed all employees that they should work remotely until Jan. 7, citing concerns about Omicron. Several attorneys in Reed Smith’s New York office told Bloomberg Law that they have been instructed to stay off site for the next two weeks. A Reed Smith spokeswoman on Tuesday declined further comment on that decision.

Other firms, including Davis Polk & Wardwell, had already told lawyers and staff before news of Omicron emerged that they could work remotely in the final weeks of the year.

Beth Cavagnolo, a law firm management consultant with Vertex Advisors, said the timing of the current surge gives firm leaders a chance to reassess their COVID-19 policies and plans for 2022.

“I think that there's a little bit of a sigh of relief because we're at the year end, when a lot of lawyers are typically working from home and doing holiday things with their families,” she said.

Many large law firms already require office workers and visitors to be vaccinated, but New York-based Paul Weiss has gone further by requiring boosters. Karp’s memo said the shots will be mandatory for all in-person employees and office visitors eligible to receive them, but did not specify deadlines. (People who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines must wait six months to get a booster. The wait is two months for those who received Johnson & Johnson's vaccine.)

The memo said Paul Weiss is offering booster shots in its New York office for employees, their families, and clients.

Read more:

Omicron fears spark new delays for law firm office re-openings

Law firms torn on office returns as COVID-19 questions swirl

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com

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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.

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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