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After more than two years of social distancing, the law offices of Faber Daeufer & Itrato are reopening on April 25th with a number of firm members returning to the Waltham, Massachusetts office, and others settling into a brand-new office space located in the heart of Manhattan. Faber Principal Lily Vakili explained that the reopening will involve a mixture of schedules with some people working in the office most days of the week and others maintaining a primarily remote working arrangement. “Faber has always approached work life balance in this manner, so, in a lot of ways, we are continuing what the firm did at its inception, a mixture of brick and mortar and virtual that is adaptive to our colleagues’ needs. The pandemic taught us all about the importance of being flexible, so it will be a bit of an experiment, but very exciting.”
That commitment to work life balance played a role in helping Faber successfully navigate the unique circumstances brought on by the pandemic. Historically, much of the firm’s work has been at least partially virtual, particularly for members living outside of the Boston area, which eased the burden of transitioning to remote operations during the pandemic. But firm leaders have always prioritized efforts to maintain a sense of shared firm culture and camaraderie. Vakili said that even when socially distanced, firm members were very intentional about staying in contact with one another and taking advantage of opportunities offered by the firm. “One of the ways we did that was through affinity and interest groups, such as the firm’s Philanthropy Committee and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee (EDIC). ” She said that EDIC subcommittees came up with a number of great ideas like book clubs and virtual lunch talks. “People very much wanted to maintain that more informal connection in addition to the work we do as a law firm. A staple of this firm has always been to recognize the individuality and diversity of people, and [those efforts] went a long way to keeping those ties in place.”
Faber Principal Mark J. Cooper is looking forward to working from the firm’s newly acquired New York office. A beautifully renovated art deco building with three exposures and plenty of natural light, the office is conveniently located across the street from Grand Central Station. “People arriving from Grand Central Station would not even have to go outside in order to enter the building,” explained Cooper. “It represents the institutionalization of the firm. Having a physical location, as old fashioned as it may sound, reflects the firm’s stability, growth and expanding reputation as a premier law firm servicing the needs of clients in the life sciences industry.” He said that with the firm’s continuous growth, the new location just makes sense. “The firm has grown and our client base in New York has grown, so the number of colleagues working in New York has also grown. This is a place where we can host client meetings and have training sessions. It is a place that puts us on the map in the biggest city in America.” Cooper added that the new location places the firm closer to emerging biotech life sciences financing sources, which opens up a wider range of possibilities for the practice as a whole.
“It was really important to be in a central location that is easily accessible to our clients and our colleagues,” said Vakili. “We want to make it a pleasure to come to work, which is language that we didn’t hear a lot before the pandemic, but many companies are now realizing the need for a commitment to culture and colleagues. This office is essential to building and maintaining that commitment.”
Though reopening plans have been tremendously exciting for firm leaders, making them also required a great deal of thoughtfulness. According to Cooper, leaders had to consider the number of people who were expected to work from the offices and how many designated office spaces that would require. He said that there were also serious conversations about immunizations, boosters, and Covid protocols.
“There was a lot of outreach and dialogue within the firm about how we all envisioned the reopening,” said Vakili. “It’s a bit of a new world for everyone, where we are all trying to learn and sort this out in a way that feels comfortable and safe.”
Even prior to COVID, Faber leaders constantly worked to create an optimal environment for the firm in general, and the addition of numerous new hires over the past two years shifted some of those priorities. The reopening will mark the first time that many of them will physically go into the office. “We wanted to give [our colleagues] the opportunity to work within a dedicated space,” said Vakili. “As we have grown, we have become particularly aware of the importance of training. While virtual is fine and we have certainly done that successfully, there is also tremendous value in training in person. That’s called collegiality, learning from your colleagues in a way that is not a preplanned conference call. This is part of what it means to be a colleague and work in an environment that is supportive of everyone’s full lives.”
Cooper also championed the informal training and mentoring opportunities that organically arise from working within a shared office space. “That face-to-face contact is really important for helping junior colleagues adapt to their new positions and develop their careers.” He spoke about the value of sitting in on client calls and observing transactions. “It will help them to have some form of personal contact with senior firm members. That is where you pick up knowledge that you may not learn otherwise.”
Both Vakili and Cooper are optimistic about the reopening. “People are excited,” said Cooper. “There is obviously some apprehension, and we want to be sensitive to that, but by and large everyone is very excited.”
Firm leaders hope to address that apprehension by offering firm members a high level of autonomy when it comes to their physical working arrangements. “Having the flexibility is fantastic,” said Vakili, “and I know that colleagues with young children have greatly valued the option of working from home. We are super mindful of that and that understanding will continue to inform what we do moving forward.”