As the COVID-19 pandemic continues with no end in sight, a growing number of law firms on Friday announced plans to have the vast majority of their lawyers and staff begin working remotely.
Reed Smith’s workforce began working remotely Friday, according to a firm spokesperson. On Monday, lawyers and staff at Nixon Peabody, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, Schiff Hardin and Weil, Gotshal & Manges will also begin working remotely en masse—or in Weil’s case, in shifts. Baker McKenzie is closing all its offices across the United States and in Toronto. Other firms, such as Buckley, are enacting “optional” remote-work plans.
“Because we have a longstanding flexible working program including advanced technology for remote working, the firm’s operations will continue uninterrupted, while bringing the highest level of service to our clients during this difficult time,” Baker McKenzie’s announcement said.
Reed Smith and Pillsbury said their offices will remain open and manned by skeleton staff. Weil is taking a different approach—the firm is dividing its lawyers and staff into two groups, who will alternate working from home on a weekly basis. The firm is doing this so as to “reduce the number of people spending time together in close contact,” Weil said.
The announcements come as Big Law begins to switch in earnest to remote work following the international outbreak of the coronavirus. Many law firm leaders said earlier this week that they have remote-working protocols in place and believe it can work as a short-term solution.
None of the law firms have said how long they plan to keep these working arrangements up, posing a major test for an industry that is built on relationships.
In Washington State—the site of a major coronavirus outbreak—Davis Wright Tremaine said Friday that it has closed its Seattle and Bellevue offices after a 60-year-old staff member went home earlier in the week with flu-like symptoms and was found dead in her home Thursday.
Like the other firms, Davis Wright Tremaine is also implementing remote working for all of its employees starting Monday. The firm has just over 500 lawyers, according to ALM data.
Other full or partial law firm closures this week, including at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, were in reaction to confirmed cases or potential exposures to COVID-19.
“We will regularly evaluate our position based on the best available health information. We are keeping our workforce informed of developments, and we will of course keep our clients informed as well,” a Reed Smith spokesperson said.