Back in May 2021, Ropes & Gray announced its vision for a return to work for attorneys, in three phases, effectively ending Biglaw’s preference for associates to spend the bulk of their time in the office. At the time, it was perhaps one of the most flexible post-pandemic reopening plans of them all, and it came from one of the most successful firms in the country.
Since that time, the firm has implemented two more phases of its reopening plan, encouraging associates to spend one to two days in the office each week (which started in February), and then three days in the office each week (which started in March). Now, Ropes is moving ahead in its return-to-office plan by mandating that associates spend three in-office days per week.
Why’s that? According to Julie Jones, the firm’s chair, it’s because “[t]hose who do not spend at least three days a week in the office are not getting the full experience of being a Ropes & Gray lawyer — whether it’s being mentored by a colleague, connecting and collaborating with teams, or becoming involved in our larger community.” Here’s some additional detail from her memo:
We have been reflecting on the benefits of having lawyers in the office at least three days each week, and we are seeing that a more coordinated schedule, with maximum overlap amongst colleagues, is key to creating the experiences that build connections and deliver on our teaching and mentoring promise. With that in mind, starting on October 3, we are introducing required office “anchor days,” and designating Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as the days we will be in the office — together. Of course, many of us will continue to be in the office beyond those days due to client or team needs or personal preference. …
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will be our anchor days because they are the days with the highest level of attendance over the last six months. We expect to see you in on those days, absent client and business development needs or occasional personal conflicts that arise in the lives of all professionals. As always, we ask that professionalism and good judgment guide our decision-making. As a global firm operating in 13 offices, we also realize that market-specific conditions may drive variations from time to time.
This makes Ropes & Gray the latest firm to mandate at least three days spent in the office, and the associates we’ve heard from don’t sound too enthused about it. But, let’s remember these lines from the memo Jones sent out back in 2021 when speaking about the firm’s reopening plans: “No matter what phase we are in, we endorse flexibility post-pandemic. We don’t expect that we’ll ever mandate a five-day a week in-office environment.” We’ll reiterate this: Ropes is not likely to require that attorneys spend five days in the office, and that’s still something to be celebrated.
Also recall that Ropes & Gray has two more upcoming remote weeks for attorneys in the future: Thanksgiving week (November 21-23), and the Christmas holiday week (December 27-30).
Best of luck to everyone as they return to a more regular office life at the firm.
(Flip to the next page to read the Ropes & Gray memo in full.)
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Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.