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Bloomberg Law: Skadden Forces Lawyers Back to Offices Four Days Per Week

May 25, 2023, 1:21 PM | Exclusive | Justin Wise, Reporter

  • Firm had previously required Tues-Thurs office attendance

  • New policy comes as Big Law navigates post-pandemic

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom is requiring lawyers to show up in the office four days per week, the law firm confirmed Thursday.

Skadden lawyers must work in person Monday through Thursday, under the new policy. The elite New York firm, among the largest in the US, previously required attorneys to be in offices Tuesday through Thursday, according to a source familiar with the matter.

“Our modified hybrid work model will harness the best aspects of remote working while fueling innovation and professional development through more frequent in-person collaboration,” the firm said in a statement.

The policy comes as Big Law firms wrestle with office attendance policies after lawyers worked largely remotely throughout the pandemic. Some firm leaders have argued office attendance offer mentorship and training opportunities to early-career associates that can’t be replicated in a remote setting.

A cadre of Big Law firms, including Skadden rivals Davis Polk & Wardwell, Milbank and Simpson Thacher, have for some time been requiring attorneys to come into the office Tuesday through Thursday each week.

Simpson Thacher and Sidley Austin have threatened to withhold bonus money from associates who do not show up to the office three days a week. End-of-year bonuses at top firms last year stretched between $20,000 and $115,000, depending on seniority.


Younger generations are more likely to want flexible arrangements from their employers. A 2022 American Bar Association survey found 44% of respondents with less than 10 years of legal experience said they would leave their place of employment for one that offers greater ability to work remotely. Just 19% of respondents with between 31 and 40 years of experience agreed.


Lawyers are losing their leverage as economic conditions sour and some firms have laid off employees to cut costs.


Skadden’s policy change is a “reflection of who is holding the power right now,” said Michelle Fivel, a partner at legal recruiting firm Hatch Henderson Fivel. “Right now, the power is largely with the employers and this is the sort of market where it won’t hurt them, at least in the short-term, to institute policies like these.”

“These are the sorts of things associates and partners are paying attention to,” Fivel added.

Businesses across industries have been tinkering with hybrid working arrangements. Starbucks Corp. and Amazon inc. are among the major employers requiring three days in the office per week. Walt Disney Corp. in January began asking employees to come in four days per week.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. chief Jamie Dimon has said working from home “doesn’t work” for younger staff and those in management roles. Most financial services firms have so far stuck to a hybrid approach, Bloomberg News reported May 9, citing a Scoop survey.


To contact the reporter on this story: Justin Wise at jwise@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloombergindustry.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com




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