There is no shortage of compliance barriers and operational challenges for law firms as they formulate plans to get lawyers and staff back to the office after extended periods of absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Local health and safety mandates are first and foremost, of course. But quickly follow the new challenges of dealing fairly with a workforce that now expects remote work and flexible hours, providing meaningful opportunities for promotion and leadership to remote workers, and preserving the culture. of office and engagement within a newly distributed workforce and to ensure the business is technologically equipped to thrive in this new environment.
The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates recently approved two resolutions dealing with law firm “back to work” policies. While these resolutions lack prescriptive weight, they ensure that the ABA and state bar associations will have both leadership and educational roles in the continuing evolution of the legal profession in a post-conflict world. pandemic.
‘Return to work’ plans should not marginalize women, carers and minorities
Resolution 602 encourages law firms and bar associations to “tackle the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic within the legal profession on people of color, women, people with disabilities, those who identify themselves as LGBTQ +, caregivers and the elderly ”when formulating“ back to work ”strategies. The resolution was sponsored by the ABA Coordinating Committee on the Future of the Practice, supported in part by a committee survey (PDF) indicating that the burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic are felt more intensely by women and colored avocados, among other minority groups within the legal profession.
The report accompanying Resolution 602 urged directors of law firms to retain remote work opportunities for lawyers with caregiving responsibilities (mostly women, according to survey data) and to increase opportunities for part-time and flexible work. Remote, part-time or flexible lawyers should also be offered significant opportunities for promotion, management and leadership, according to the report.
The report also touched on COVID-19 vaccines, recommending law firms adopt return-to-work policies that allow “lawyers and staff who do not have access to the vaccine to return to the office if they comply. in addition the health and safety protocols ”.
ABA: Bar associations should take a leadership role
Resolution 603 (PDF) calls on all bar associations to play a leading role in promoting the safe return of lawyers and staff to their offices. The report accompanying the resolution notes that in addition to the workplace equity considerations that underpin Resolution 602, bar associations should lead the development of law firm “return to work” plans that take into account employee legal protections, health and safety considerations, “culture”, as well as Zoom fatigue and other side effects of remote working.
The House of Delegates meets twice a year to pass resolutions that establish official ABA policy on many legal and social issues. The approved resolutions guide the work of ABA member groups, establish institutional spending priorities, and provide policy direction to ABA government relations staff.
Bar groups offering ‘back to work’ programs
Several bar associations have already recognized the need to support members when they return to their offices and the prospect of face-to-face meetings with colleagues, clients and court staff.
This list is not exhaustive. Chances are there are similar programs in all jurisdictions, and more will be available soon.