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

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  • Firm will recruit in cities where it doesn't have an office
  • Quinn Emanuel has 13 U.S. offices
  • Other law firms have struggled with return-to-office policies

Law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan on Monday said all of its U.S. lawyers, including first-year associates, can work from anywhere in the country indefinitely.

The 875-lawyer litigation firm will recruit lawyers in places where it doesn't have an office, giving it an advantage in the U.S. legal industry's talent wars, said firm chair and founder John Quinn.

"By adopting this policy, we make it possible to recruit some outstanding new lawyers," Quinn said. Rising demand for legal work in the last year has forced U.S. law firms to compete aggressively for top lawyers, leading to widespread raises over the summer and several rounds of associate bonuses.

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The need for attorneys has also led some other law firms to hire outside their home markets, but Quinn Emanuel's move is unprecedented for a large firm, said Kristin Stark, a principal with law firm consultancy Fairfax Associates.

"There's simply not enough people in the market," Stark said. "They have to become much more creative in how they find those people."

In addition to aiding with recruiting, the policy could translate into lower expenses in the long term. Quinn said "it is inevitable" that the firm will remodel and down size its current office space. As leases come up, "we're going to look at how much space we utilize," he said.

Quinn Emanuel has 13 U.S. offices. Under the new policy, incoming associates will be affiliated with one of those offices but won't need to practice there in person.

Still, it isn't adopting a virtual model. Quinn said the firm wants to make it attractive for employees to come into its offices, emphasizing common areas and open spaces.

Quinn Emanuel will also have to make "an extra effort" and offer more mentorship and training opportunities to remote attorneys, he said.

Large U.S. law firms have been struggling with how best to bring employees back into the office as the pandemic evolves, including with the rise of the Omicron variant. Last week, Goodwin Procter told its U.S. lawyers and staff that working in the office will be "entirely voluntary" until mid-March, citing virus fears.

But Quinn Emanuel hardly mentioned the pandemic in its announcement Monday, instead describing its new policy as a chance to hire "the best litigators to join our firm, wherever their desks are." Quinn said the policy change is permanent, whatever happens with COVID-19.

(NOTE: This story has been updated with comments from Kristin Stark of Fairfax Associates.)

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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.