Reed Smith LLP - The Inside View

You don’t need to be made of steel at this Steel City native: “We’re a top law firm and we’re expected to do good work, but nobody’s an asshole about it.”

Time for a singalong: 'I’ve got 99 problems / but the sale of ownership interest in two cannabis companies ain’t one.' Sure, it isn’t as catchy as the original, but it demonstrates the legal capabilities of Reed Smith far better. The firm recently represented Jay-Z on the sale of a couple of cannabis companies to a Canadian SPAC (special purpose acquisition company), giving the rapper one less thing to worry about.

In fact, Reed Smith, with its many practices, might be able to make a good dent in Jay-Z’s long list of problems. There’s commercial disputes, life sciences and health, finance, energy and natural resources, insurance, corporate, real estate, entertainment, IP, and restructuring – and that’s not an exhaustive list. Our inside sources praised the firm’s rotational system by which incomers work across different groups, “allowing first-years to be a free agent.”

NEW: Find out more about lateral recruitment with Reed Smith.

Much like Jay-Z, Reed Smith is known for its reach around the world, with 33 offices globally (18 are in the US). Its largest US office is in Pittsburgh, where the firm was founded in 1877. Its good name in the Steel City is underpinned by tip-top Chambers USA rankings in Pennsylvania in litigation, corporate and bankruptcy. It pulls in dozens more rankings across the country in eight more regions, plus in the nationwide category (notably in insurance and healthcare), while on the global stage, the firm is known for its shipping capabilities.

The Work

The firm recruits juniors into most of its US offices, with the largest numbers in New York, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Chicago. First-years are simply classified as either litigators or transactional attorneys and get a spectrum of assignments: “You bop around from group to group trying to find what work interests you.” As they approach second year, juniors rank their preferences to join a group permanently and “they do their best to give you what you want.” It was a bit different this year because of the pandemic; the firm slotted associates into specific groups earlier than normal “as a source of security."

“Our usual deals involve private equity firms buying healthcare companies.”

The life sciences and health industry group has litigation, regulatory and transactional arms. Litigation is widespread across offices, while much of the transactional work is done out of Philly, DC, New York and theCaliforniaoffices (Century City, LA, San Francisco and Silicon Valley). Unsurprisingly, “a lot of the regulatory work happens in DC.” We heard there’s a subgroup dedicated to fraud allegations, “so if the government is prosecuting a client, we’ll step in to defend them.” Multidistrict litigation is the cornerstone of Philly’slife sciences disputes group, and often involves the defense of drug and device manufacturers in product liability cases concerning issues like drug side effects. On the transactional side, “our usual deals involve private equity firms buying healthcare companies.” It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that COVID-19-related work initially took over workloads for the transactional folks, who were kept busy researching regulatory issues for healthcare facilitates. We heard the group is now back to doing more of its pre-pandemic work.

Life sciences and health clients: AdvaMed, American Health Care Association, Goldilocks Therapeutics, Philips. The firm defended General Electric against allegations that its MRI scanners infringed patents owned by the University of Virginia Patent Foundation. 

The commercial disputes team handles all sorts of litigious issues, like mass torts and cases concerning the False Claims Act. There are some office specialisms: Chicago handles a lot of professional liability, breach of contract, privacy and false advertising, while Pittsburgh is known for energy and natural resources litigation. Juniors are likely to get involved in a fair bit of managed care litigation, representing health insurance companies in all kinds of contentious issues. This is one of the firm’s largest groups, but we heard case teams can be quite small. “Some cases only have three people on them but need seven, which means there’s a lot of work and pressure,” one litigator told us. “But it also means I’m not the bottom guy – I actually handle important things.” Responding to discovery, drafting letters and taking part in depositions and client meetings were all common responsibilities among our interviewees. In managed care litigation, we heard associates “do the first draft of pretty much everything that goes out the door and,” like vigilant watchdogs, “we’re the first eyes on everything coming in.” There were also the usual research duties to attend to, plus daily communication with partners – “I get to partake in high-level strategic conversations!”

Commercial disputes clients: PNC Bank,Johnson & Johnson Services, Honeywell, Greyhound.The firm represented German pharmaceutical company Bayer in a decade-long lawsuit as it sought $175 million in research and development tax credits that it was denied by the IRS.

“I’m the one asking the questions.”

In the energy and natural resources practice, the San Francisco team handles mainly renewables, with “lots of high-value deals across the US and in Canada.” The wider team does “a lot of project development,” which for one of our interviewees meant handling supply agreements and preparing contracts “for a big wind turbine company pretty much every day.” Sources agreed client contact is high, so step aside, Captain Phillips: “I lead the client calls now – I’m the one asking the questions.” Another associate enjoyed getting to prepare key transaction documents “without relying on a precedent. I like being able to flex that legal muscle!” Environment work falls under the energy umbrella, and is divided into regulatory and compliance, litigation and transactional. First-years typically work across all three, though our interviewees had been deep in transactions when we came calling, reviewing environmental assessments in sales and purchases. “We review consultants’ environmental reports and make sure they’re in line with the rest of the market,” one explained, “then adjust the reports to protect the purchaser from any future liability.” If issues arise, associates might also arrange further site tests, negotiate sale and purchase agreements, and help clients with insurance policies.

Energy and natural resources clients: CONSOL Energy, Volvo, Chesapeake Energy. Defended oil and gas business EQT Production Company against two breach of contract claims brought by a former contractor seeking $32 million in damages.

Transactional associates “mostly live in diligence land and quarterback the big deals,” which revolve around M&A and venture capital. Rookies get more drafting experience as they progress, while client contact comes into play when it’s time to organize the signature pages for closings. First-years were responsible for organizing practice area specialists in complicated deals, “so we get to learn even more than associates in other groups.”

Corporate clients: Verizon Communications, Moody’s, Avis Budget Group. Advised Santander in the $700 million sale of 14 bank branches in Pennsylvania to First Commonwealth Bank.

Strategy & Future

Global managing partner Sandy Thomas tells us: “Our objective is to be the premier global law firm with deep expertise in five areas: financial services, life sciences and healthcare, transportation, energy and natural resources, and entertainment and media. We’ve added almost 50 lawyers to those key groups in the past give years, across New York, London, Singapore, Chicago and other markets.” It’s not just practice groups which the firm is expanding, though: over the last three years, the firm has expanded its presence in Texas, adding bases in Austin and Dallas to accompany Houston. It also opened a Brussels office in January 2020.

Diversity & Inclusion

Following the racial justice issues in the US after the death of George Floyd, the firm launched its Racial Equity Action Plan (REAP) to improve the recruitment, retention and promotion of Black attorneys. Every office has a REAP taskforce that holds meetings, “then the information gets siloed up top to discuss at the firmwide townhalls.” The move comes a year after the implementation of the Hispanic Promise, the firm’s pledge to improve recruitment, retention and promotion of Hispanic lawyers. On the recruitment front, the firm partners with the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group to source diverse summer associates separately from the main OCI process.

We heard mental health could’ve been better addressed during the pandemic, though there are resources like a Mental Health Taskforce with trained first responders. Group meditation takes place on ‘Mental Health Mondays’ and associates were notified of complimentary therapy sessions during the tense 2020 presidential election.

Elsewhere within the firm, the Hispanic and Latino group annually “runs a month-long series of talks and fundraisers to recognize the community and its contribution to life in the US.” Among the firm’s other affinity groups there’s a Women’s Initiative Network (aptly named WINRS). One associate described their experience at the firm: “Never for a second have I felt like I’m treated differently because I’m a minority. My group is very understanding about religious holidays.” Another flagged, “just seeing rainbow flags in many offices felt supportive” – if you’ll pardon the pun.


“I didn’t want to be in a stuffy necktie firm where I couldn’t have a laugh with colleagues or be myself,” declared one source. Fortunately, another reassured us that “I feel like I can go to work not having to worry about wearing muted colors, or the color of nail polish I choose” – or necktie, we presume.

“I can go to work not having to worry about the color of nail polish I choose.”

As for having a laugh with colleagues, associates said “people genuinely want to grab coffee with you,” and interviewees scored the firm highly for its noncompetitive culture. “We’re a top law firm and we’re expected to do good work, but nobody’s an asshole about it.” In fact, “the hardest part about working remotely is not seeing my colleagues every day – some of the people here are my best friends.” There’s not been much virtual socializing during lockdown, but pre-pandemic “we did things like wine tasting, which was really fun.”

With so many offices to its name, interviewees said cross-office staffing sometimes “makes it a bit harder to connect with other juniors in your practice group, as they may be sitting in another office. Once in-person meetings are back en vogue, the firm should definitely continue to chase this path.” Attorneys were “really impressed” with the way the firm has handled the pandemic overall,praising it for “giving us as true a picture as possible.”

Hours and Compensation

Billable hours: 1,900–1,950 target; 2,000 requirement to be bonus-eligible

They felt there could be more transparency elsewhere, however, as we heard “salary clarity is an issue.” Following the initial hit of the COVID-19 pandemic, Reed Smith (like many firms) took safeguarding measures, cutting associate salaries by 6%. This ruffled some feathers, but the firm started taking steps to return to normal as 2020 wore on.

The billing target ranges from 1,900 to 1,950 hours depending on location. We heard from one associate that even though “I’m not even close to the target because of COVID-19, it’s not an issue.” To get a bonus, however, associates must hit 2,000 hours. There’s also a merit-based bonus for those who exceed that. Some wished they were allowed to bill the hours they used “to participate in mediations and hearings, and write client alerts.” On the plus side, associates can now bill 50 hours of diversity-related activities toward the target.

“They try to keep our weekends free.”

Associates noted that their typical working hours had become much more fluid while working from home, depending on deadlines. The average came out at around ten hours a day (just one soul reported doing a 16-hour slog). Either way, “they try to keep our weekends free.”

Pro Bono

Associates can also credit 140 hours of pro bono toward the billing target, especially when the pandemic first struck: “Loads of us loaded up on pro bono and have far surpassed 140 hours.” Reed Smith has plenty of projects on its books, but associates can bring in any matter they fancy so long as a partner signs off on it. The San Francisco office partners with the Transgender Gender-Variant and Intersex Justice Project on issues like helping prisoners prepare for parole. During the election cycle, Reed Smith tracked news and social media outlets for fake news and passed their findings on to an NGO which corrected misleading information. Excitingly, the firm also works with a Colombian pop star and their nonprofit organization.

Career Development

About a fifth of the associates we surveyed had ambitions to make partner, but some felt there could be “a clearer path to partnership.” All juniors are paired up with mentors as soon as they join the firm, “which can be tricky because you connect with people over time.” On an informal level, “partners will take an hour out of their day even when they’re extremely busy to help me with things, page by page.” Although some thought there could be “more training, especially when first hired,” most were “thrilled with the firm’s focus on pushing associates’ personal and business development.” The firm also runs the Reed Smith University, which delivers classes on legal skills.

Get Hired

NEW: Find out more about lateral recruitment with Reed Smith.

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

OCI applicants interviewed:  778

Interviewees outside OCI: 133

Reed Smith visits just under 50 law schools for OCIs and collects resumés from just under 20. Alongside this, the firm visits five 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, and the Bay Area Diversity Career Fair. The firm usually interviews 20 students per campus or job fair. 

Reed Smith often sends active alumni to particular law schools, or members of the hiring committee. 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: 292

All callback interviews were conducted via zoom in 2021.  Callback interviews still vary between Reed Smith’s offices. In San Francisco, for example, “you can expect to meet with eight different attorneys in pairs and wrap-up time with the recruiting manager” 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:  97

Acceptances:  60 (58 2Ls, 11 1Ls) 

Reed Smith's summer program runs for ten weeks, between May and July. Before joining, summers are quizzed 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 incomers 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, Sandy Thomas. Some offices also host additional training – a mediation simulation and M&A case study are the most popular every year. Some offices also pair summers with a dedicated writing coach to help tighten up their drafting. Social events vary by office but are available in the virtual setting and are organized via zoom.  Most summers are given offers and most accept them. 

Notable summer events: All virtual escape rooms, cooking parties, indoor plant workshops, paint nights, mini campfire event, wine tastings, trivia night, charcuterie board making

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

  • Head Office: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Number of domestic offices: 18
  • Number of international offices: 15
  • Worldwide revenue: $1,310,596,000,000
  • Partners (US): 470
  • Associates (US): 439
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Jen Ross, US Director of Legal Recruiting (
  • Diversity officer: John Iino Partner and Director of Global Diversity & Inclusion
  • Recruitment details  
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 46
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021:
  • 1Ls: 13, 2Ls: 53
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: CHI: 11, HOU: 5, LA: 7, MIA: 1, NY: 11, PGH: 9, PHL: 8, PRC: 2, SF: 7, TYS: 1, WDC: 4
  • Summer salary 2021:
  • 1Ls: $5,208-$6,667 semi-monthly
  • 2Ls: $5,208-$6,667 semi-monthly
  • Split summers offered? Case by Case
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work

 Reed Smith is a global relationship law firm with more than 1,700 lawyers in 30 offices throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Its lawyers provide litigation and other dispute-resolution services in multi-jurisdictional and other high stakes matters; deliver regulatory counsel; and execute the full range of strategic domestic and cross-border transactions. Reed Smith is a preeminent advisor to industries including financial services, life sciences, healthcare, advertising, technology and media, shipping, energy and natural resources, real estate, manufacturing and education.

Firm profile

 Reed Smith has been ranked consistently among the top law firms for client service and has been identified as one of the few large firms with a strategic focus on client satisfaction. Reed Smith has grown in large part because of its commitment to delivering high-quality service and developing long-term client relationships. Reed Smith is united by a culture that is defined by core values of quality, integrity, teamwork and respect, performance and innovation and improvement. These are further demonstrated through a firmwide commitment to diversity, pro bono and community support activity and the professional development of the firm’s lawyers.


Law schools attending for OCIs in 2021:
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 collection 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. The firm values people who are mature and engaging and who demonstrate leadership capabilities and community involvement.

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 rolespecific 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, cross-cultural training 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 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, 2021

Ranked Departments

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