The pandemic has brought the legal profession through some very unexpected twists and turns. Whether it’s shutting down in-person work environments and moving to remote spaces for over a year and now trying to get back to the office and having to reschedule those plans and re-schedule them again, many companies try to do their best to get ahead with life while keeping all of their employees healthy and healthy.
Earlier today, we mentioned a leading law firm that will partially return to the office on November 1. We now know of an even more prestigious firm that plans to make a full comeback on this date.
Sidley Austin – a company that generated gross sales of $ 2,462,935,000 in 2020, placing it 6th in the latest Am Law 100 ranking – sent a note to U.S. staff on Friday letting them know they would return to the office on November 1. Here is an excerpt from that note:
We are aiming for Monday, November 1 for a regular return to the offices. … Our firm has adopted vaccination recommendations and health and wellness protocols, and our August survey of all U.S. staff indicated that approximately 93% of all staff (lawyers and staff) are fully vaccinated; this percentage has probably increased since then.
The progress our country, communities and business have made and continue to make in managing the pandemic leads us to believe that as a unique company, with your cooperation and support, November 1 is a Reasonable date for us to move to in- person office activities (albeit with an approach that will be more flexible in many ways than our pre-pandemic operations).
So how often will lawyers and staff need to be in the office? According to the management committee, before COVID-19, Sidley’s lawyers “weren’t supposed to keep to set office hours and really had good flexibility as to where and when they did their work.” Lawyers will always have this flexibility, but in the interest of professional development and face-to-face collaboration, the firm requests that lawyers “make a dedicated effort to spend the majority of their normal workdays each month (i.e. vacation and personal days) working from their assigned Sidley office and participating in office-related meetings and activities. Lawyers will still be able to work remotely “from time to time at their discretion”.
As for staff, they must work “regularly” in the office by November 1, on the understanding that the firm is working on ways to offer greater flexibility to promote a better work-life balance.
Sidley continues to ‘strongly encourage’ all staff to get vaccinated (read: there is no vaccine mandate in the company), and going forward, he will operate with the goal of maintaining compliance with the directive issued by President Biden for large employers. That said, unvaccinated people in the office will be required to submit a negative COVID-19 test before entering the office, each week.
What has your business announced regarding a reopening plan? The more information there is, the more likely it is that companies will be able to establish a market standard for a return to work.
(Flip the page to read Sidley’s memos.)
As soon as you know the plan to reopen your business, please send us an email (subject: “[Firm Name] Reopening of offices ”) or send us an SMS at (646) 820-8477. We always keep our sources on the stories anonymous. It is not necessary to send a memo (if it exists) using your corporate email account; your personal email account is fine. If a note has been distributed, be sure to include it as proof; we like to post full memos as a service to our readers. You can take a photo of the memo and attach it as an image if you are worried about the metadata in a PDF or Word file. Thank you.
Staci Zaretsky is the Editor-in-Chief at Above the Law, where she has worked since 2011. She would love to hear from you, so feel free to email her with any advice, questions, comments or criticism. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.