Davis Polk announced its new return to office policy late last week. As the whole Biglaw world waits to see which reopening plan becomes the new normal, DPW adopted an approach that maintains a work from home element while mandating full office attendance on certain days to facilitate the in-office mentorship and business development opportunities that offices bring.
Unfortunately, this also requires rejecting the flexibility that many lawyers have come to see as the primary benefit of remote working over the past couple of years.
Beginning Monday, May 2, and for the indefinite future, we will follow the policy outlined below.
Lawyers are expected to work in-office three to four days a week. Attendance is mandatory on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for all practices and seniority levels.
It seems to me that “three to four days a week” and mandating attendance for three specific days means lawyers are going to work “three days a week.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that’s what’s going to happen.
On the one hand, there’s a value to guaranteeing that everyone is in the office at the same time. On the other hand, is there really a benefit to everyone being there the same three days a week? Could the firm accomplish the same impact holding one “all hands day” on, say, Tuesday and leaving it to lawyers and practice groups to work out their own best practices on dividing up the other days? Perhaps.
In-office attendance throughout the month of August will depend in part on the configuration of our law school recruiting needs during that time period, which is under consideration and will be communicated in due course. We will not have floating remote weeks this summer in light of the importance of in-office attendance to our summer program. Our floating remote week policy for the fall and winter will be announced in due course.
Whenever lawyers say they never want to go back to the office, events like the summer program should give them pause. This is where the firm relies on lawyers to build connections to the next generation and, ideally, convince them to return and pick up a share of the load. If lawyers go fully remote that’s just never going to happen. But it doesn’t necessarily overcome the question of whether or not mandating three specific days of attendance is the answer.
Everyone is watching everyone else as they navigate the return to office. Maybe this is the experiment that just plain works. Maybe it’s too much and the firm has to reconfigure the policy in September. Either way it’s going to be an interesting summer all across Biglaw.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.