How has social distancing affected law firms?
As of July 6, the majority of AmLaw 100 firms with whom we work remain operational in a remote environment. One AmLaw 50 firm is having discussions that are supportive of a remote environment with no office openings through the calendar year. Some firms opened their offices only to close them weeks later.
In jurisdictions across the U.S., law firms were categorized as “essential businesses”; thus, many small and mid-size boutique firms have continued to operate with their key staff and attorneys in offices each day. Many of these smaller firms operate in standalone buildings and not in 50 store high rise buildings, which generally allowed employees to abide by local social distancing protocols.
How has social distancing impacted lawyering as a profession?
Most attorneys are fully equipped to do their jobs at home via personal computers and/or employer issued technology. Attorney, staff and client meetings have continued to be held via phone and videoconference platforms and lawyers successfully conducted a trial back in May via Zoom. Federal and state courts around the U.S. are now slowing “re-opening,” which varies by county or circuit. Most proceedings remain virtual; however, several county courts in California, for example, resumed in-person jury trials in June.
The Impact on Law Firm Hiring
Many AmLaw 200 firms instituted hiring freezes; however, many firms have hired lateral associates in practice areas with significant demand including: bankruptcy, labor & employment and insurance. AmLaw 200 and boutique firms in the last few months have hired partners, associates and support staff entirely remotely. Additionally, many reported AmLaw 100 firms that have proceeded with their Summer Associate classes are conducting the programs 100% virtually.