Open-office big law firms find out what works—and what doesn’t

diverse group of law studentsBiglaw employees across the country are reluctantly getting used to the fact that more is expected of them in the office — in some firms, much more. With several top firms now requiring their employees to sit behind their desks four days a week, West Coast firms that have resisted those moves are faring better and better.

But some of these fantasy firms — where a four-day office workweek “just isn’t part of West Coast work culture” — see problems surfacing when it comes to arranging meaningful face-to-face sessions for their younger employees. How are these problems resolved? The American lawyer has the details:

(Major, Lindsey & Africa recruiter Kate Reder) Sheikh said the most effective approach she’s seen is core days — where lawyers can agree on two or three days that bring an entire practice group or team together in the office can be.

“Ultimately, the majority of employees have ended up wanting to be trusted, doing their job where they are, and wanting community and mentoring from their team when they step in,” she said.

Junior and mid-level professionals in particular “want to be in the thick of things and learn as much as possible about the different areas of expertise in their practice group,” said Lorraine Connally, recruiter at Swan Legal Search. “At that level, they tend to be spongers and learn as much as they can.”

What happened to the Biglaw employee who didn’t feel like going to the office? According to Sheikh, there has been a kind of “metamorphosis” among the youngest members of Gen Z who are now entering the biglaw workforce. “The mood changes,” Sheikh said, “because they have different needs.”

And how will Biglaw be able to serve all generations of employees who all expect different things from their work experience at the same time? There will certainly be some learning curve here, but at least companies know what not make.

“What isn’t effective is telling people to come a few days a week and there’s no one else there,” Sheikh said. “Anecdotally, the experience people have is that they go into the office because it’s necessary or expected, and all of their meetings are on Zoom anyway.”

Much like her peers, Biglaw is still trying to figure this out, hoping things will turn out the right way sooner rather than later. For now, we know that attendance requirements make employees feel like they’re being punished, and it’s up to companies to make employees’ time in the office feel more valuable.

‘The mood is changing’: Flexible law firms struggle to get attorneys on the same page (American Lawyer)

Staci ZaretskyStaci Zaretsky is Senior Editor at Above the Law, where she has worked since 2011. She would like to hear from you. So feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments or criticism. you can follow her Twitter and threads or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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