Big Law firms are plotting their return to office. Here’s what lawyers are excited about — and what they’re dreading.

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As vaccinations continue to ramp up and infection rates drop in most US states, law firms are beginning to shepherd their employees back to the office.

Davis Polk & Wardwell recently said that it’ll be welcoming back lawyers and staff in its New York office in mid-May with an optional two-day “Spring Back to the Office” program, enticing employees with meal reimbursements. Sullivan & Cromwell took things a step further, informing lawyers of a mandatory return-to-office plan slated for July 7.

As excitement grows that they may soon see their colleagues in person — in the office kitchen and at swanky firm lunches — lawyers are weighing the pros and cons of ditching their makeshift offices at home. 

Working from home during the pandemic has been both boon and bane for many lawyers. While attorneys rejoiced at shedding their commutes, many found that the blurring of office and home only exacerbated their already-strenuous work lives. Young lawyers are suffering from burnout, with some telling Insider that they are “stretched beyond capacity” by the demands of non-stop at-home work.

Insider spoke with six partners and associates to learn how they’re thinking about returning to the office, from mentorship and training to incidents of bias. The associates who spoke to Insider requested to remain anonymous to protect their identities and careers at their firms.

Junior associates are more eager to return to the office than senior lawyers

A major concern with remote work has been its potential impact on mentorship and training. Without the casual water-cooler conversations or office drop-bys, associates — especially more junior ones — might miss out on opportunities to organically develop relationships with mentors and partners. This can have profound consequences on their career development.

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Some firms are more or less requiring younger attorneys to come in, according to a junior associate at a Big Law firm in Los Angeles, who requested anonymity. In an email sent to their lawyers, the firm “highly encouraged” junior associates to return to the office. “It seemed like it was pretty imperative to come in, for the mingling and camaraderie. I think it’ll be contingent on seniority,” the associate told Insider.

While many firms are taking a hybrid approach, allowing staff to work some days at home and others in the office, this flexibility could lead to a mismatch between junior lawyers who are seeking mentorship and senior lawyers who’d prefer to stay home.

There are “absolutely” differences based on seniority when it comes to a desire to return to the office, said Trace Schmeltz, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg. “The mid-level and senior associates are pretty content — they know how to work, and are happy to stay the course. It’s the newer ones who are more actively trying to make those connections.”

A midlevel associate at an Am Law 100 firm added that he’d “definitely” be concerned with the growth trajectory of first-years in particular. “So much learning is just immersive — it’s shadowing, listening, even overhearing — and that’s a lot of the stuff that you …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Finance


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