Dechert opts for once-a-week office return as more businesses switch to hybrid

Signage is visible outside the Dechert LLP law firm in Washington, DC, United States, August 30, 2020. REUTERS / Andrew Kelly

  • Several major US law firms are keeping remote working as an option, at least for now
  • Dechert will ask lawyers to be in the office once a week until the end of the year

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(Reuters) – Law firms may differ on when to order lawyers to return to the office, but many seem to agree on one thing: in person doesn’t necessarily mean full-time.

At Dechert, lawyers and staff will be encouraged to spend at least one day a week working in person when the firm reopens its offices around the world on November 8, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

“We realize that some of our employees still have concerns and we will continue to be flexible,” she said in an email. The arrangement will be in place until the end of the year but could be extended, she said.

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison are preparing for a three-day-a-week comeback starting Nov. 1, according to an Oct. 19 memo reviewed by Reuters. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which plans to send lawyers and staff back to the office globally on Jan.4, said it would not impose any particular number of days.

“Lawyers are free to work remotely whenever appropriate, taking into account the needs of their clients and their teams,” said a representative of the firm.

Beth Cavagnolo of law firm management consultancy Vertex Advisors has predicted that a significant number of lawyers will be back in the office by the first quarter of next year, assuming there are have no major change in the COVID-19 situation. She said she expects most large companies to allow hybrid schedules, with lawyers being required to spend at least two or three days a week in the office.

Baker & Hostetler, like Gibson Dunn, will fully reopen its offices on January 4 in the hopes that many employees will maintain flexible hours in person.

“We believe the pandemic has taught us that agility is key,” said Baker & Hostetler president Paul Schmidt. “When we come back, we’ll embrace this agility, so we don’t really expect our lawyers to come back full time.”

Nixon Peabody has already reopened its offices on October 4, but the firm said it allows several flexible options, including hybrid, fully remote, and modified or reduced hours for some attorneys.

“I think the future of working in a law firm will involve a combination of office work and remote work,” said CEO and Managing Partner Stephen Zubiago. “It’s hard to predict what the split will be, but I think the future will absolutely be a combination.”

Read more:

A trio of leading law firms set office return dates in the coming months

More companies are putting off office return plans, in view of November or beyond

Law Firm Executives Catch Up As Virus Outlook Shifts

Xiumei Dong

Xiumei Dong covers legal industry news, with a focus on the strategy and growth of law firms, in-house legal counsel and the Washington, DC legal market. Contact her at [email protected]

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