Reed Smith LLP - The Inside View

If you’re looking for a Steel City firm with sophisticated transactional and litigation practices, then keep reeding.

The associates we spoke with were all attracted to Reed Smith for different reasons. For some, it was the laid-back culture of the Chicago office – “the  big Pittsburgh market that still felt regional” – or a reception during call-back season that did the trick. Others were simply keen to “work with some of the top lawyers in the market,” and be part of “a sophisticated transactional practice.” And what a transactional practice it is. Our sister guide, Chambers USA, has awarded the firm top-tier rankings for its bankruptcy/restructuring and corporate/M&A and private equity work. It’s also considered the crème de la crème for insurance, energy and natural resources, general commercial litigation and privacy and data security. In fact, the firm is so highly regarded for the latter that it's even earned a ranking in Chambers Global for international privacy prowess. Further global accolades go to the firm's labor and employment, oil and gas, and niche ediscovery and information governance work. That won't come as a surprise to those who are familiar with Reed Smith's network of 15 international offices.

Suffice to say, whether you have a background in pharmacy, gravitate toward insurance, or you are just fascinated by the music industry, there are a myriad of industry focuses to choose from – and the “amazing opportunity to work internationally with clients from all over!"

Strategy and Future 

What is the formula for long-term success? According to Casey Ryan, the global managing partner of Reed Smith, “it’s in delivering excellent service to our clients while bolstering commitment to our communities.” There is no need to reed between the lines. The achievements of 2022 alone are evidence! “We achieved our second-highest revenue results in our 146-year history and a new record high in pro bono hours.” As Ryan explains, even though Reed Smith is “built around energy and natural resources, entertainment and media, financial services, life sciences and healthcare, and transportation, we are doing substantial work in the emerging environmental, social and governance space.”

“All seen. All heard. All valued. All included. All Rise.”

The success over the past year is also attributed to “the firm’s investment in feedback and mentorship, especially through Reed Smith Associate Advantage, a new development program tailored for lawyers in their first three years of practice.” This focus has also been placed on other core aspects of associate life such as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “Our DE&I mantra is All seen. All heard. All valued. All included. All Rise. The All Rise campaign has showcased the significant work we are doing, including completing the first year of our inclusive leadership development program, hosting our annual DE&I summit for clients and friends, and launching two new inclusion groups,” Ryan highlights.

The Work

Most associates described the free-market work assignment system as entrepreneurial; newbies typically find work through the informal networks they have created: “The firm is trying to implement a central system, but my group hasn’t introduced anything yet,” an associate explained. Litigation is home to multiple subgroups, including commercial disputes, life sciences and employment. Depending on the group, clients can include big banks, hospitals and schools. “I mostly work on breach of contracts and disputes between lenders, borrowers and government entities,” an associate described. In addition, associates help clients with administrative and federal actions taken on their licenses. There’s also a regulatory element: “We work on change of ownership deals, and get a chance to work on a couple of administration litigation pieces.”

Junior associates can expect to help draft briefs and prepare for depositions. They also handle communication between partners, senior associates, clients, and opposing counsel. Although our survey indicated that responsibility levels are lower at Reed Smith compared to the average firm, our sources confirmed that partners are comfortable with juniors having facetime with clients (provided a partner is present.) All in all, the department “is home to an incredible group of people, and the work is very interesting.”

Litigation clients: Carnegie Mellon University, PNC Bank, Bayer Corporation. Defended TheraCom, a subsidiary of AmerisourceBergen, against allegations conspired to violate laws concerning financial assistance for Medicare patients.

The business and finance department is home to the global corporate, real estate and state tax groups. One interviewee told us: “We work with Fortune 500 companies, major auto manufacturers, major retailers, pharmaceuticals.” Another source was pleased to report: “The firm is at the forefront of laying agreements between record producers and labels.” A corporate interviewee explained that “80% of the work involves private equity matters with companies across the country. They bring in their portfolios then help them acquire companies, and grow them.” As a junior associate, be ready to conduct research, issue write-ups and analyze clients’ data: “Less than a year after I joined, I was handed the reins for the research process.”

Business and finance clients: United States Steel Corporation, Blackstone, Dick’s Sporting Goods. Represented ALung Technologies in its merger sale to LivaNova, a London-based global medical products manufacturer. 

Career Development

When asked if there was anything that would make them leave the firm, one associate told us, “I know I could make more money, work fewer hours, find more prestige and get a clearer path to partnership at a different firm, but I find it very hard to believe that I would find a mix of all those things that strikes the balance I have at Reed Smith.” This sentiment might explain why 42% of the survey respondents had a desire to make partner.

“We took a break from billable work and got coached by the best writers at the firm.”

In terms of training, Reed Smith has an online database called Reed Smith University with lots of videos based on career development. There are also in-person training opportunities: “We have2-hour sessions about different aspects of the law, billing metrics, career success at a BigLaw firm, and how to mentor juniors.”  Another associate noted that “last year, we had a 3- or 4-day brief-writing boot camp. We took a break from billable work and got coached by the best writers at the firm.” Associates also emphasized that the informal and formal mentorship they get has been foundational in moving up and getting more responsibility. In terms of partnership “I have made it clear that I want to make partner and people are making sure I work on things to propel me,” an associate added. “As a female associate, leadership encourages our development. We’ve had meetings with the senior women. They provide clear guidelines for promotion and are willing to provide training.”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

A number of interviewees highlighted that the events of 2020 brought racial issues outside the firm to the fore: “Attorneys are sitting down and talking about big societal issues with organizations such as My Block, My Hood, My City,” a Chicago-based nonprofit that mentors young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Others thought the firm’s efforts in promoting diversity and inclusion were slowly coming to fruition: “I attended a recruitment event that was for 1L students from diverse backgrounds. Over 50 students showed up.”  Another source confirmed: “They are doing a lot to recruit at the junior level. At the higher level, however, they have issues retaining people. A few senior female attorneys are leaving, which is concerning, but the firm has talked to us and made it clear that they want to retain us.” To address this, firm leadership has made a point of reminding lawyers about a program that enables associates to go on a reduced schedule: “Women commonly take it because of families but they want to emphasize that this is an option for everyone who needs it.”

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: 2,000 target

There isn’t a typical working day at Reed Smith, but most associates do 10-12 hours when it’s busy and 8 hours during quieter times. According to our survey, 70% of the respondents felt that the benefits package makes the workload worthwhile. It should be noted that Reed Smith has a stricter billing policy than the average firm; if associates don’t reach the 2,000 target they get a discounted salaryand if they bring in the equivalent of less than 40% of their salary they won’t receive a bonus.

“You make the choice whether you want to work less and get paid less.”

This may sound harsh to some, but one interviewee reasoned: “You make the choice whether you want to work less and get paid less.” Another, however, pointed out that associates don’t necessarily have control over the amount of work that comes through the door. The good news is that associates can count 140 pro bono hours as billable. Sources were pleased to find that Reed Smith gives two bonuses, one which is guaranteed so long as associates hit their hours, and one which is discretionary.


Associates highlighted that the firm is experiencing a general shift in culture. When the firm matched the associate market salary, it also adjusted and increased the working hours. “When I joined, we had a below-market salary and a below-market billable hour requirement, which was important to me.” There are still, however, slight nuances in different offices’ culture: “Other offices focus more on hours and becoming a global powerhouse. In Chicago we care about all that, in addition to team culture and mentorship. We’re laid-back,” an associate said. In Philadelphia, “it’s the do-your-work-and-we’ll-respect-you-for-it type of culture. Our office attracts people that grew up here and stayed here. The way we treat each other is different from other parts of the US.” Whether it’s a social at the Grand Cru Chicago Gourmet for the foodies or a Cubs game for the baseball fans, “our culture promotes a small-firm feel, despite being a big firm.”

Pro Bono

From educating elderly clients on their legal rights to helping small businesses prepare their tax returns, the pro bono work available to associates is as diverse as the billable work. An online portal logs all available matters, although some partners reach out directly to associates with work. Incoming associates can expect to be involved in housing and voting rights matters, in addition to work with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund: “We help people to get their names legally changed. Juniors are able to take those cases on alone.” More experienced associates work on incredibly high-stakes cases: “We’re appealing to get people who had unfair trials off death row.”Asylumwork is also common: “The positive impact has been phenomenal.”

Pro bono hours 

  • For all US attorneys: 55,034
  • Average per US attorney: 59

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed:  990 

Interviewees outside OCI:  225 (screenings) 

Reed Smith visits just under 50 law schools for OCIs and collects resumés from just over 30. Alongside this, the firm visits the following job fairs: The Lavender Law Career Fair, the CCBA Chicago Minority Job Fair, the Philadelphia Area Diversity Job Fair, the Northeast Black Law Students Association Job Fair, the Patent Law Fair, and the Bay Area Diversity Career Fair. The firm usually interviews 20 students per campus or job fair.  

During the academic year, Reed Smith often sends active alumni or members of the hiring committee to a number of law schools around the country. Reed Smith also has an active network of 3L students who speak to younger classmates about their experience at Reed Smith. The firm tells us “we look for individuals who have shown a focus on academic achievement who have diverse backgrounds and varied experiences so showing that you’ve participated in law reviews and moot courts won’t hurt! “In addition to being impressive on paper, we’re looking for students whose communication skills and emotional intelligence make them memorable standouts after a long day of multiple screening interviews.” One source remembered “we would veer away from formulaic questions into a nice fluid conversation.”  

Top tips for this stage:  

“I found it helpful to have taken opportunities to intern as much as possible. It meant I had a few stories in my back pocket that were good examples of my legal skills, but also light-hearted.”  A second-year junior associate.  

“Be interesting and interested. Enthusiasm for the Reed Smith opportunity can help students stand out from the pool of academically-qualified candidates. Demonstrate your research on the firm’s offerings, and show your interest in being a part of what we do here in a socially savvy manner.” – Reed Smith.  


Applicants invited to second stage interview:  346 

Callback interviews vary between Reed Smith’s offices.  In Chicago, for example, “you can expect to meet with 4 attorneys in pairs and wrap up time by having an informal coffee with two junior Associates.”  

Over in New York, students attended callback evenings where they met with four attorneys “in a round-robin-interview format and then attended small group breakout sessions where they had an opportunity to connect with additional Reed Smith attorneys.” At this stage, the firm’s ‘must haves’ in a candidate are “strength of character, outstanding personal skills, demonstrated leadership and teamwork, a hunger for self-development, intellectual curiosity and a good sense of humor.”  

Top tips for this stage:  

“Find ways to connect with your interviewers. It comes down to being memorable as an intelligent, socially adept, hard-working person with a desire to work hard and learn new things. Share narratives about your background and experience that illustrates these characteristics and skills.” – Reed Smith.  

I wish somebody had told me: 'Don't be nervous about the interview – you earned it!’ Instead of coming in nervous, come in proud that you got an interview at a firm like this. It will change anybody’s outlook.” – A second-year associate.  

Summer program 

Offers:  119 

2L Acceptances:  56 (from Callbacks) -  3 (returning SAs) 

Reed Smith's summer program runs for ten weeks, between May and July. Before joining, summers are surveyed on their interests so attorneys can aim to have suitable projects lined up throughout the program. Work is assigned though an online portal, with recruiting managers and assignment coordinators on hand to help Summer Associates navigate the process. The firm tells us that the idea is for summers “to ‘sample from the work buffet, trying their hand at a variety of legal work across many client teams.”  

The firm’s Summer Associate Academy provides students with an array of training sessions on topics like diversity and inclusion, writing and research, and timekeeping. There’s also a Q&A with the global managing partner. Some offices also host additional training – a mediation simulation and M&A case study are the most popular every year. All offices also ensure summers have  a dedicated writing coach to help tighten up their drafting. Social events vary by office.  Most summers are given offers and most accept them.  

Notable summer events: Local sporting events, concerts, cooking classes, paint nights, trivia night  

Top tips for this stage:  

“Find the balance between professionalism and casualness to build a terrific reputation and strong relationships. Demonstrate intellectual curiosity; ask colleagues what they’re working on, and show enthusiasm for practice, people and activities that are of interest to you.”  – A junior associate.  

And finally...  

The firm has some final words of wisdom: “Have a strong sense of what drives you – promotion and advancement, challenging work, giving back, financial reward, purpose, professional connections, strong support systems – and ask questions during the recruitment process to determine if a firm truly offers what you need to be successful and engaged.”  

Reed Smith LLP

Reed Smith Centre,
225 Fifth Avenue ,
PA 115222

Main areas of work

 Reed Smith adopts a sector-focused approach and operates across industries including entertainment and media, energy and natural resources, financial services, life sciences and healthcare, and transportation. Working as a global team, its lawyers advise clients on domestic and international litigation and disputes matters, deliver regulatory counsel, and execute the full range of strategic domestic and cross-border transactions. Reed Smith focuses on future outcomes, where its clients and their businesses want to go and the issues that they might face – helping its clients manage not just the now but the next as well.
The firm drives progress for*:
• 60 of the world’s 100 largest companies
• All of the top 10 banks in the US, UK and the EU
• 9 of the top 10 life sciences and healthcare companies
• 7 of the top 10 shipping industry companies
• 2 of the top 5 chemical industry companies
• 2022 Fortune Global 500

Firm profile

 Reed Smith is a dynamic international law firm dedicated to helping clients move their businesses forward. With an inclusive culture and innovative mindset, the firm delivers smarter, more creative legal services that drive better outcomes for its clients. Its deep industry knowledge, long-standing relationships and collaborative structure make it a go-to partner for complex disputes, transactions and regulatory matters. With a team of 3,000 people (including more than 1,700 lawyers) across 31 offices in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Reed Smith operates as one global partnership to drive progress for its clients, for itself and for its communities. 


Law schools attending for OCIs in 2023:
Reed Smith visits numerous local and national schools for On-Campus Interviews. A full list of schools and OCI events can be found on the firm’s website here:

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Reed Smith does resume collections at a number of schools and connects with potential candidates through diversity events, employer receptions and through 1L fellowships like LCLD and client partnerships.

Summer associate profile:
Reed Smith is looking for summer associates who have a combination of top academics, practical experience, and superior analytical and writing skills. As a firm that has achieved Mansfield Plus status from Diversity Lab every year since the launch of the Mansfield Rule in 2017, Reed Smith is seeking candidates who prioritize inclusiveness and contribute to the diversity of thought and experience that benefit clients.

Summer program components:
Reed Smith offers law students first-rate work in a challenging and busy atmosphere where their contributions count from day one. Summer associates will become immersed in law firm life by completing assignments relating to actual client situations. Each assignment presents a fresh opportunity for summer associates to hone their research, writing, judgment, communication and analytical skills.

CareeRS is Reed Smith’s competency-based career development program with a focus on role-specific professional training and development, including mentoring, and more developmentally oriented assessments tailored to the needs of associates. The firm offers its summer associates numerous chances to participate in both formal and informal training programs, such as: managing partner’s forum, mediation and mergers and acquisitions clinics, law firm economics, and legal writing. Summer associates also have numerous opportunities to participate in pro bono and community service projects and become acquainted with our Women’s Initiative Network and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committees.

Please visit for more information about each of these initiatives.

Social media

Recruitment website:
Twitter: @reedsmithllp
Facebook: Reed-Smith-LLP
Linkedin: reed-smith-llp

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Healthcare (Band 4)
    • Insurance: Policyholder (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 4)
    • Litigation: Appellate (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Media & Entertainment: Transactional (Band 4)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
    • Healthcare (Band 2)
    • Healthcare: Pharmaceutical/Medical Products Regulatory (Band 4)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 4)
    • Healthcare: Pharmaceutical/Medical Products Regulatory (Band 1)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Energy & Natural Resources (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 4)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Insurance (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 4)
    • Healthcare (Band 4)
    • Insurance (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Technology: Outsourcing (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 5)
    • Advertising: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Cannabis Law (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
    • Derivatives (Band 4)
    • E-Discovery & Information Governance (Band 3)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 5)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Transactional) (Band 4)
    • Healthcare: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 2)
    • International Arbitration: The Elite (Band 3)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Privacy & Data Security: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Transportation: Aviation: Litigation (Band 3)
    • Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Finance (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)

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