Cooley Says No Office Requirement for 2021, but Those Who Do Go In Must Be Vaccinated

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Firm leadership said “we have evolved to such a degree that our workplace of the future will be neither fully remote nor fully in person.”

By Jessie Yount

Cooley announced Tuesday that the firm is not instituting a mandatory return to office or a minimum number of in-office days for the remainder of 2021, according to a firmwide email signed by administrative and legal practice partner Mark B. Pitchford.

Personnel working in or visiting a U.S. office on a voluntary basis are required to be vaccinated by Labor Day, with some personal exceptions, the firm added.

Cooley’s announcement comes just days after Morgan Stanley CLO Eric Grossman told the company’s law firms in a letter that he wants their lawyers to get back in the office. Cooley has recently represented Morgan Stanley and other underwriters in several corporate transactions, according to deal data from Law.com Radar.

Although some legal department leaders have chimed in saying they have no intentions to follow a similar mandate on outside firms, the Morgan Stanley letter has garnered much attention from the legal industry and sparked discussions about the clash between in-office mandates and a ultra-competitive talent market where young lawyers are increasingly advocating for their own demand for flexibility.

The memo explained, “We are and will be more nimble and more creative. At the same time, the Cooley culture we cherish—and which so differentiates us from our primary competitors— is the product of the trust and bonds we developed over the years by sharing experiences in person. Essentially, we have evolved to such a degree that our workplace of the future will be neither fully remote nor fully in person.”

More information on plans for 2022 will be provided closer to the end of the year, the firm said.

Cooley is the latest of several firms to announce a vaccine mandate for those returning to the office. Sanford Heisler Sharp said beginning June 1 that everyone returning to the office is required to be vaccinated. Am Law 200 firms Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo and Davis Wright Tremaine have also said they will require people to be vaccinated before going back to the office. A number of smaller regional firms have done the same.