07 May 2021

Reed Smith expects all US offices to be fully reopened in September

Firm outlines phased return that will be supported by permanent flexible working arrangements

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Reed Smith has its headquarters Shutterstock

Reed Smith will fully reopen all of its US offices in September as it announces plans for a phased return to work and new flexible work arrangements.

The firm said all 17 US offices will be reopened by September 7th, subject to any local Covid-19 restrictions. In setting out its plans, it becomes one of the first major US practices to provide a detailed return-to-work blueprint, although Sullivan & Cromwell chair Joseph Shenker this week told Law.com that staff would be “strongly encouraged” to return to the office from 6 July.

The phased approach will begin this month, with the firm launching a ‘Welcome Back Wednesday’ programme in June when all US employees will be encouraged to work in the office one Wednesday during the month. That will be followed by a soft opening in July for employees to return by reservation only in order to manage capacity.

Sandy Thomas, Reed Smith’s global managing partner, said: “The move to flexible work represents a step forward in transforming our business based on the new understanding we have gained from our remote work experience during the pandemic. We have learned that we can serve our clients at the highest level in a work environment that includes flexibility, and that this arrangement offers significant benefits to our people as well.”

Under the new flexible working plans, lawyers will not be required to work a set number of days in the office, but they will be expected to maintain ‘some routine physical presence in the office’ such as for client and team meetings, office events, training sessions and practice group meetings. The firm also stresses the importance of shared office space for teamwork, mentoring and collaboration, particularly to provide support for associates and other junior lawyers.

Casey Ryan, Reed Smith’s global head of legal personnel, said: “Our working environment and the ways we support clients have changed significantly from the pre-pandemic world. We have adopted this flexible work policy with this new reality in mind and to capitalise on the best parts of what we have learned from remote working.”

To help work out how much time people need to spend in the office under the new flexible working arrangements, staff positions will be designated either office-based – essential staff that need to be in the office full-time – hybrid or fully flexible. 

Nick Bagiatis, Reed Smith’s chief operating officer, said: “We know what it takes to make a flexible-work programme a success. We have to continue to effectively and efficiently serve the needs of our clients, foster collaboration with colleagues and team members and ensure strong work practices and processes.”

A recent poll by The Global Legal Post found that more than three quarters of business lawyers are anticipating a permanent shift to home working once lockdown restrictions end, most of whom believe this will improve work life balance and productivity. But there was less agreement over the impact of this change on diversity and wellbeing, with more than a third of respondents worried that mental health – already the subject of concern within the profession – will deteriorate.

Meantime Clifford Chance has become the latest firm to finalise its long-term UK agile working policy, with lawyers and staff expected to evenly split their hours between the firm’s offices and working remotely, providing the role allows for it.