Ride the Lightning

Cybersecurity and Future of Law Practice Blog
by Sharon D. Nelson Esq., President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc.

Big Law Firm Quinn Emanuel Says Its Lawyers can “Work From Anywhere” – Permanently!

January 11, 2022

Bloomberg Law reported on December 23 that John Quinn, the founder of Big Law firm Quinn Emanuel, has said that all its lawyers, including those fresh out of law school, can “work from anywhere” – permanently.

Will others follow? I doubt it.

It made a splash, for sure, but I can’t see the rest of Big Law taking this step. As the post notes, this decision may well “leave young associates untrained, unmentored, and unmoored.”

I’m not sure this will please clients. And I am not sure how any law firm can keep its workplace culture in a forever fully remote work force.

“You can call it a gimmick if you like,” Quinn said. “But if you want to work remotely, people will find a way. And we’re out there with it.” He says he intends to find talent wherever it might be. “There are lawyers who can make great additions to our firms who are outside of the 13 places where we have offices,” he said. “There might be someone who’s in Boise, Idaho who wants to do this kind of practice but wants to do it remotely.”

Quinn is under no illusion that other Big Law firms may follow his lead. “No other firm will adopt this [permanent remote work policy] because the legal profession is slow and conservative” he said. “They look backwards.” I am not sure that other law firms will take kindly to that remark!

There was an interesting take on this move from William Henderson, a professor at Indiana University’s School of Law, who said “There is powerful evidence from 20 years of AmLaw financial data, modeled by Evan Parker of Parker Analytics, that geographic concentration—[meaning] lots of lawyers clustered together in one or just a few big offices—is a powerful predictor of profitability. He added that complex matters require “high-bandwidth collaboration, which is what a big office provides.”

Henderson isn’t entirely negative about Quinn Emanuel’s remote work model though: “I applaud Quinn for experimenting,” adding “it will eventually work if the teams of litigators periodically come together for in-person meetings and training sessions.”

Quinn says he envisions that happening. “Initially, people will need to spend time in the office,” he said. “The specifics have not been worked out yet.” In any case, he emphasized that this will be a universal policy, covering including the most junior lawyers: “Everyone will be eligible. It’s not just for those who’ve been here for a certain number of years.”

There is a lot of unrest already in some large law firms, where younger lawyers have been known to complain that partners spend a lot of time working from home, which they say is not fair to them.

The post’s author asks, “is this forever remote policy an illusory perk like unlimited vacations, which Quinn Emanuel also offers?” Some associates have told her that unlimited vacations are detested because lawyers end up taking far less vacation time than the traditional four-weeks. “It’s a total scam because everyone is scared about taking vacations,” one mid-level associate told her.

The times are nothing if not interesting. It will be fascinating to see how this gambit plays out.

Sharon D. Nelson, Esq., President, Sensei Enterprises, Inc.
3975 University Drive, Suite 225, Fairfax, VA 22030
Email: Phone: 703-359-0700
Digital Forensics/Cybersecurity/Information Technology