By Xiumei Dong
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Law360 (August 31, 2020, 4:38 PM EDT) —
Reed Smith LLP will let its U.S. employees continue to work from home through January, it announced Monday, joining a growing number of firms in prolonging flexible work options due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement to Law360, Reed Smith said it had instituted a mandatory work-from-home policy in March to support the health and well-being of its employees. But as the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States, it will extend the policy to at least the rest of the year and into the first month of 2021.
“More than 90% of Reed Smith lawyers and professional staff continue to log in remotely each workweek,” a firm spokesperson said. “We are serving our clients well without skipping a beat and will continue to do that remotely into 2021 in light of the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic.”
According to the firm spokesperson, lawyers in some U.S. offices can request to work from an office, complying with strict guidelines. Meanwhile, some of the firm’s offices in Europe, the Middle East and Africa regions have partially let employees return to work when it is safe and appropriate.
“Our focus remains on effectively managing our business in service of our clients and protecting the safety and well-being of our people during the pandemic,” the firm’s Global Head of Legal Personnel Casey Ryan said in a statement to Law360.
As to whether the firm is going to change its remote work policy permanently after the pandemic subsides, Ryan responded, “We have no doubt that our approach to remote working will change as a consequence of all that we have learned during this time, including about how well we can support our clients through the use of technology in a remote environment.”
Reed Smith, which operates more than 30 offices in North America, Europe and Asia, was the 12th largest law firm in the U.S. as of the end of 2019, with 1,243 attorneys and 469 partners in the U.S.
Like many firms, Reed Smith has taken a series of cost-cutting measures in response to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Over the course of March and April, the firm deferred certain partner distributions and bonuses, deferred merit pay decisions and bonuses for professional staff, and cut attorney pay. The pay cuts were initially planned to last four months, but the firm later announced that attorney pay would be reduced by 12% to 14% through the end of the year.
On June 8, the firm confirmed it had instituted a global hiring freeze on all professional staff through the end of 2020.
Reed Smith is among the latest firms to extend their remote work plans amid the ongoing pandemic. As the firms learned that their attorneys and staff can work effectively from home, many have altered their policies to make remote work a permanent option for the employees.
London-based Linklaters LLP last week announced a new global “agile working policy” to allow employees to work remotely up to 50% of the time as long as teams are told in advance and operational roles are fulfilled.
And last month, Kansas City, Missouri-based Husch Blackwell LLP launched its first-ever virtual office, called The Link, which is composed of an initial group of 38 attorneys and 12 legal professionals who will be teleworking indefinitely.
Barclay Damon LLP, a nearly 300-attorney firm based in Buffalo, New York, also announced a plan in late May to give all attorneys and staff the option to work remotely for the rest of the year. If that ends up going well, the firm is considering making telework a permanent option for all personnel, its managing partner John Langan told Law360.
–Additional reporting by Emma Cueto. Editing by Alanna Weissman.
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