Much to many lawyers’ chagrin, Wall Street firms are mandating office attendance left and right, with a handful even demanding that associates return to the office four days each week. But what’s going on at firms on the other side of the country? Are their attendance policies as stereotypically laid back and relaxed as West Coast life is made out to be? Of course, bro.
A number of Biglaw firms in California and other West Coast locales are allowing their attorneys to make their own decisions about when to come to the office, and it’s working out just fine for them. At some top firms, there are no attendance mandates to be had. Take, for example, Wilson Sonsini’s approach. The Recorder has the details:
“We won’t change our approach or mandate X number of days in the office for a variety of reasons, including that we don’t want to police attendance,” said Doug Clark, managing partner of Wilson Sonsini.
Instead of an across-the-board policy, practices and other small groups choose in-office days and the frequency of those days. “We like the fact that our teams can discuss and decide what works for them,” Clark said.
“If I had one wish, it’d be that I was in the office more and others were too,” he added. “But I think that’ll happen more. There are benefits to coming in and there are benefits to flexibility for people’s personal and professional lives. We’ll continue to try to strike a balance between the two.”
DLA Piper is following a similar plan, having put into place a “high-performance flexibility” initiative without any hard attendance requirements. It’s working well because it has allowed attorneys to create their own plans for remote versus in-office work — and it’s helping the firm to recruit and retain talent, too. “We recognize one size does not fit all,” global chair Frank Ryan told The Recorder. “We want to provide our people with a wide range of work choices, as well as the structure and consistency that ensures we’re working together seamlessly at the benefit of our clients.”
Other West Coast firms are mandating attendance, but they’re not policing who’s in the office and when. That’s what’s happening at California midsize firm Michelman & Robinson, which currently mandates three days a week in the office. The firm plans to move up to four office days in September, with an eye on five office days come January.
[T]he firm is attempting to coax attorneys back to the office through the fear of missing out, or FOMO, rather than any sort of punitive measures, which [chairman and co-founder Sanford Michelman] said would be out of line with the firm’s culture.
“I don’t believe in negative incentives,” he said. “We’re not taking attendance. We’re not treating people like they’re in high school, saying you owe us a day for missing a day. That’s like a detention. Culturally, it’ll get worse if you treat people like widgets.”
On the flip side of the coin, Am Law 200 firm Hanson Bridgett doesn’t have any attendance requirements at all under its “agile workforce” model. “Our perspective on return to work is a perspective about showing up for each other,” Kristina Lawson, the firm’s managing partner, told The Recorder. “We aren’t interested in a mandate. It’s not something that we believe is necessary or aligns with our values or culture.”
These firms seem to have found the right balance between in-office and remote work. What are your firm’s plans? To mandate attendance or not mandate attendance, that is the question Biglaw firms must answer. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a text to (646) 820-8477 if you know what your firm has in store for office attendance policies.
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 and Threads or connect with her on LinkedIn.