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May 27, 2021

Spring Quarterly Focuses on Best Practices for the Return to Work

At the May 19 Spring Quarterly, Wharton professor Peter Cappelli and a panel of leaders from the legal community discussed best practices around the return to in-person work.

An en masse return to in-person work seemed like a distant possibility as little as six months ago. But with vaccination rates rising and pandemic-related restrictions easing in most states, it’s now a rapidly approaching reality for the Philadelphia legal community.

That transition brings myriad questions, challenges and opportunities. At the Philadelphia Bar Association’s May 19 Spring Quarterly, Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli and a panel of leaders from the legal community shared insights about what’s next and discussed what they and workforce as a whole has learned from the past 15 months.

“If we had been told in March of last year that we would be out of our offices for a year and a half I think we would have expected that … we would be in economic collapse,” said Cappelli, who is also director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources. “And yet, somehow things worked remarkably well.”

Following his remarks, Cappelli introduced a panel of leaders from the Philadelphia legal community to discuss how they are responding to this transition within their own organizations and practice areas: Sarah E. Bouchard, Philadelphia office managing partner, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP; Butler “Buck” Buchanan, III, Philadelphia office managing attorney, Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin PC; Kristine L. Calalang, owner, The Law Office of Kristine L. Calalang; Alan M. Feldman, co-managing shareholder, Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner Weinstock Dodig LLP; Brenda Marrero, executive director, The Public Interest Law Center, and Mark L. Silow, chair, Fox Rothschild LLP.

Watch the full event:

Insights from the Panelists:

“Employee wellness is absolutely critical. You can be a very successful lawyer and want to be home for your kid or to make dinner…. We’ve had a year and a half of seeing people can be trusted, people can be productive under very autonomous circumstances. To go back to something super strict seems wrong to me.” -- Sarah E. Bouchard

“You don’t take things for granted. Knowing how good we had it for a lot of reasons before, when that’s all taken away, I began thinking, look I need to appreciate people, I need to appreciate my colleagues more, I need to appreciate my clients more – and people need to hear it.” – Kristine L. Calalang

“A lot happens for young lawyers by osmosis; when the person you report to is next door and the lights are on, the smallest question will be asked. If you’re at home, you might not ask it…. We’re trying to build the next generation of lawyers at the firm, and they could be missing opportunities because they’re not there. It’s important for them to see and have those opportunities.” – Buck Buchanan

“The key words to me that I’ve learned from this pandemic experience are flexibility and adaptability; that’s the name of the game because things change so quickly.” – Alan Feldman

“You really need to listen to your staff and what they have found valuable in having this flexibility and then balance that with your culture. My staff has made it clear that they want to come back when things can look normal again; they don’t want to come back to an office where they’re sitting at computers doing Zoom meetings.” – Brenda Marrero

“We’re going into a soft opening phase where we’re encouraging lawyers to come back and we’re looking at a hard opening right after Labor Day where the message will be, ‘We’re back.’ I don’t think being back is going to be like what it used to be. It will be more flexible, but I think we’ve got to let all this play itself out and see how lawyers and staff react.” – Mark Silow

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