Cooley keeps optional office return for 2021, eyeing hybrid future

Cooley LLP office in Manhattan, New York. REUTERS / Andrew Kelly

  • Silicon Valley-based company will require vaccinations for all offices
  • The comeback plan contrasts with the harsher line reflected in Morgan Stanley’s letter

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Cooley, a Silicon Valley-founded law firm known for its clientele in the tech industry, said Tuesday it was not forcing U.S. lawyers and staff to return to the office for the rest of the world. year.

But starting on Labor Day, anyone who wants to enter Cooley’s 11 U.S. offices – including its lawyers, clients and guests – must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to an internal memo reviewed by Reuters.

In a message to all U.S. employees on his plans to return from office, Mark Pitchford, Cooley’s administrative and legal partner, said the firm would detail its post-2021 policies later this year. But he signaled that Cooley will take a hybrid approach, enabling both office and remote work.

“Essentially, we’ve evolved to such a point that our workplace of the future will not be totally remote or totally in person,” Pitchford wrote.

The announcement puts Cooley in line with another Palo Alto company, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, which said last month it also does not set a mandatory return date for its employees. Many other companies have set dates for office returns, but have offered part-time or flexible in-person hours.

It’s not just companies in Silicon Valley that are taking this approach. Chicago-based Katten Muchin Rosenman told her employees last week that while she fully reopens her offices after Labor Day, in-person presence is generally not required.

Still, the potential limitations of Big Law’s flexible future were highlighted on Thursday, when longtime Morgan Stanley general counsel urged his outside lawyer to fully reinstate their employees in the office, warning that lawyers working in the desktop “a significant performance advantage over those that don’t.”

Morgan Stanley’s harder line stands out even within the financial services industry, but it may reflect different expectations across industry sectors. Some big tech companies like Facebook Inc have focused on permanent remote work options since the pandemic.

While many have embraced remote work options, law firm directors have expressed concerns about the difficulty of training new lawyers and maintaining the culture of the firm without some degree of physical presence in the office. Cooley’s Pitchford also highlighted the importance of office time in Tuesday’s memo, writing that “the Cooley culture that we cherish – and which thus sets us apart from our major competitors – is the product of the trust and connections we have. developed over the years by sharing experiences in person. “

The approach taken by companies is likely to become a big recruitment and retention problem as the country goes through the pandemic and possibly beyond. An April survey by legal recruiter Major, Lindsey & Africa found that only 11% of law students born between 1995 and 2000 expect to be fully employed in the office.

(Note: This story has been updated to include reference to the office return policy recently adopted by Katten Muchin Rosenman.)

Read more:

Morgan Stanley CLO wants you to come back to the office – for good

Q&A: Wilson Sonsini’s optional office return in 2021, and what’s to come

David thomas

David Thomas reports on legal affairs including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @ DaveThomas5150.

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