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City law firms push ahead with return to office plans

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Legal life slowly returns to (a new) normal

City law firms have begun outlining their return to office and remote-working plans in light of lockdown restrictions easing.

The government expects to lift most coronavirus restrictions by late June, which is around the time many lawyers are likely to return to the office in some form.

Clyde & Co said it intends to introduce a “hybrid working model” once lockdown is eased, with most people working from the office for a minimum of two days a week. The new model is expected to take effect in the autumn.

The firm also plans to vacate one of its two London offices. From 1 May, all London staff based in Beaufort House will move into the neighbouring St Botolph Building, eliminating 82,574 square feet of office space.

Once the move is complete, London teams will book spaces in the office using the same system introduced when offices were reopened in the summer of 2020, with teams sat in ‘neighbourhoods’ and Covid-safety measures in place.

Rob Hill, partner and chair of Clyde & Co’s UK board, said: “Remote-working for a long period under the spectre of the pandemic has not been easy for anyone, but it has brought with it many benefits too, many of which our people have consistently told us they value highly.”

Hill continued:

“We also know that people miss working together in a physical office space and as a firm we are keen to maintain the very many benefits that face to face interactions and collaboration brings to us and our clients. We think our hybrid working model will allow for the best of both.”

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Pinsent Masons, meanwhile, has re-opened its UK offices, the firm confirmed last week. It continues to advise its lawyers and staff to work from home where possible, in line with current government guidance, but said those with a need to go into the office are able to do so.

Pinsents is also understood to have surveyed its people on their preferences for post-pandemic working arrangements, with early indications showing the majority anticipate a blend of home and office-based working in the future.

Ropes & Gray is similarly said to be surveying its London lawyers and staff for their remote-working preferences.

Meanwhile, Latham & Watkins is operating a system in its London office where lawyers who wish to go in can do so as long as it’s on a ‘one week on and one week off’ basis. They can apply for permission to come in at other times.

A number of firms, including members of the magic circle, are letting their lawyers and staff work from home for up to half of the time. This could mean, in practice, that they spend around two to three days in the office and the rest working remotely.

In other instances we’ve seen national law firms decide to shutter some of their offices and move all lawyers and staff working there to permanent remote-working.

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