Law Firms

Many BigLaw firms are planning for a Sept. 21 office return, but will it happen?

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More than 40% of the BigLaw firms that have announced plans to return to their offices are aiming for a Sept. 21 start date, according to a new analysis of data by legal technology company nQ Zebraworks.

At least 32 of the more than 70 firms with public plans—including Cozen O’Connor; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; and Kirkland & Ellis—have chosen the date, while 13 other firms have chosen Oct. 21 for the return to their offices. McDermott Will & Emery; Ropes & Gray; and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati are among these firms. reported on nQ Zebraworks’ analysis of public BigLaw policies, which includes details about how firms will approach the return to their offices.

The majority of firms are planning to implement a hybrid model, with attorneys splitting their time between their homes and their offices. According to nQ Zebraworks, at least 25 firms, such as Dentons and Perkins Coie, are requiring attorneys to be in the office three days per week.

Baker McKenzie and at least 15 other firms are requiring them to come in four to five days per week.

A handful of firms, including Davis Wright Tremaine, DLA Piper and Katten Muchin Rosenman, are only requiring attorneys to work in their offices one to two days each week.

Bill Bice, the CEO of nQ Zebraworks, told that despite these current plans, many law firms have told him that they will either push back their return dates or loosen their in-office requirements.

“The dates don’t seem very realistic,” Bice said. “People in the firms expect it to be pushed back.”

A spokesperson for Dentons told the ABA Journal on Wednesday that while the firm initially chose Sept. 13 for its return to “regular, in-office work expectations,” tighter government protocols and renewed health concerns related to the delta variant changed the firm’s plans.

“As things evolve, we will continue to actively assess our return-to-office plans with the health and safety of our people top of mind,” the Dentons spokesperson said. “We are currently looking at a return-to-office launch in late fall or thereafter.”

The analysis by nQ Zebraworks also shows that at least 68% of the firms that have announced plans to return to their offices are requiring COVID-19 vaccinations. Beginning on Sept. 7, Dentons will be one of those firms, its spokesperson also said.

Bice told that he understands the need for the mandates, since they could help facilitate a quicker and safer return to working in person.

“Firms really want to have time back in the office,” Bice said. “There are competing pressures here. On the one side, people have gotten attached to remote work. But for many firms their culture and long history is tied to being in the office.”

See also: “How one law firm plans to embrace remote work—even after reopening its offices”

Updated Sept. 1 at 3:25 p.m. to include additional information about Dentons’ return-to-office plans and at 6:45 p.m. to reflect changes in nQ Zebraworks’ data.

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