Jones Day’s Washington office got an all hands New Year’s message welcoming them to 2023 with a few “resolutions” from office captain and former Trump administration solicitor general Noel Francisco.
The subject line was “New Year, New Us (Maybe).”
But it’s Jones Day, so we can go ahead and answer that with “maybe not.”
A New Year can mean new diets, new gym memberships, and even a new Managing Partner. But not all new beginnings are created equal. Start your 2023 on the right foot with
-The Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions Noel Francisco Wishes Jones Day Lawyers Would Make-
1. Come to the office.
2. Wear a suit every day. Weekends included.
3. Come to the office. You can do this.
4. Enter time entries daily.
5. Improve attendance in the office, one day at a time.
6. Submit fewer coffee machine complaints. What makes you think they’ll work this year?
7. Ask yourself who’s here because you’re here, at least once before bed and once before crossing the office threshold.
8. For all that is good and holy, come to the office.
9. Fewer vests, more vested interest in the dress code.
10. Attend the TGs like they’re billable.
Please join us in 740 from 5:30 – 7:00 PM to knock out #10 and start the year off strong. We hope to see you there.
This is very clearly tongue-in-cheek and it’s cute.
It’s also one of those gags that’s only funny to the extent it rings true to the audience. And whether Francisco personally is a hardliner on returning to the office or just stewing about it behind a forced air of laid back acceptance, he’s not alone.
There are a lot of senior lawyers who want everyone back in the office. Some want it so badly they’re willing to take on a reputation for retroactively pulling the rug out from associates at bonus time.
Firms still seem to conflate working from home because of the pandemic with working from home today. They are not the same. When the lockdown started lifting, attorneys wanted to work from home because they didn’t trust a return to office. They didn’t want contact of any kind.
The thrust of working from home in 2023 is flexibility. Attorneys spent the last couple years learning that they can perform many — some may say “most,” others may say “some,” but let’s go with “many” — tasks without going to the office. They’ve built their lives around this. They’ve adjusted living arrangements, and appointments, and child care, and countless other little things around the idea that they have some degree of flexibility over their schedules pending extraordinary work events.
For these people, it doesn’t matter if the firm says “come in three times a week” if those specific three days are set in stone. The firm mindset is that “three is less contact than five” but the associates are (by and large) not interested in contact anymore as much as being treated like professionals who can successfully leverage the firm’s remote work infrastructure for mutual advantage.
That’s the challenge over the next year. As much as 2020-2022 put firms in the position of building avenues for secure connectivity, the new obstacle is building hybrid models that satisfy the core demand for flexibility. It’s going to be about hoteling concepts and office redesigns and innovative training models. And if you want someone to come in when it’s not necessary, it’s time to figure out a way to make it enjoyable.
Associates aren’t coming back to the office five days a week anymore, but they’re also not trying to permanently hang their nameplate over their bed. It’s time to prioritize what really requires face time and what doesn’t, and respect that lawyers can figure out the difference. It’s a fundamental revamp of the philosophy of a law firm, but it’s where we are.
That’s the sort of thing that would make for a good resolution.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.