Reed Smith LLP - The Inside View

BigLaw on paper, though less so in culture, international Reed Smith is "still very much in growth mode."

“IF you're in BigLaw, you're a small cog in a big machine. Nobody knows who you are, and you will be working from sun up to sun down.” Such appraisals of BigLaw life are cynical, but they remain prevalent – and it's down to firms to challenge them. This particular view originated from a source adamant to avoid “going down 'that' route for the sake of it.” Similarly, another of our sources described being averse to “using BigLaw as a springboard for a career.” The fact thatReed Smith won the affection of such exacting associates only demonstrates the strength of its offering. “They were the first firm I interviewed with, and the more firms I interviewed with after, the more I realized how special they were,” one source explained. “It didn't feel stuffy or inauthentic.”

Add a bountiful business encompassing 1,800 attorneys and 28 offices worldwide, and any residing cynicism evaporates. Despite its existing magnitude, associates found themselves attracted by the fact that “Reed Smith is a firm still very much in growth mode.” The firm has planted flags in Frankfurt, Singapore and Miami in recent years, while also boosting its European head count by 10% after taking on more than 50 lawyers from KWM in September 2016.

The firm services clients in all sorts of matters, excelling in certain states across bankruptcy, insurance, finance, M&A, labor & employment and more general litigation. This work crosses industries including entertainment & media, life sciences, shipping and finance, and its full breadth of expertise wins it 43 Chambers USA rankings.

The Work

Summers chose broadly whether to pursue a path in litigation or business & finance, each of which houses a number of subgroups. Complex litigation is the biggest litigation subgroup, while others include IP, life sciences, labor & employment, and data security & privacy. Transactional associates split into corporate & transactional advisory, real estate, energy & natural resources, and financial services, among others. Despite the divisions, sources emphasized a degree of flexibility. “There are associates who, after trying litigation for a few months, are now fully transactional lawyers a year later.” Upon choosing either path, associates naturally gravitate toward a group which they are then placed into more formally after a few years. One junior who strayed into IP territory recalled “one project turning into two, two turning into five, five turning into ten until I was doing exclusively IP ligation.” 

"I felt like a fully fledged lawyer."

Complex litigation associates gain work via a free market, and cover a great breadth of work, especially since “the insurance recovery, labor & employment and IP groups can also draw on associates from the group.” Sources were happy to report that “juniors do everything. There is some inevitable doc review but a lot of that gets pushed down to our contract attorneys and discovery team.” The breadth of work meant associates could, for example, see a mix of “small, local, commercial real estate cases,” and “big national trials related to medical devices.” One junior recalled joining a “trade secrets, fraud and conspiracy case early on. The case had been fast-tracked to be tied up in nine months so I hit the ground running. I was writing outlines for all of the depositions, going through all the discovery and then before trial, preparing the witnesses. Sitting across the table and talking strategy with the partner, I felt like a fully fledged lawyer rather than a junior associate.”

A fair amount of due diligence awaits corporate juniors, but sources were happy to report ongaining “more substantive writing tasks as you get higher up.” Juniorsalso highlighted working on “more significant issues on the regulatory and compliance side,” throwing up opportunities for juniors to “coordinate solutions with clients, draw up benefit plans structures with partners and coordinate research on agreements.” One corporate associate described working with clients across the spectrum, “from local businesses to large international clients in deals ranging anywhere between $50 million to in excess of $1 billion.”

The energy & natural resources group offers incomers a blend of transactional and regulatory work, serving construction and utilities clients, wind turbine manufacturers, plus oil and gas producers and transporters. Juniors reported “conducting compliance training for clients, revising documents and refitting memorandums.” The work varies between office. DC provides a regulatory angle through work with theFederal Energy Regulatory Commission. The firm's Houston base, which has seen growth in recent years, provides associates with more of a “transactional slant,” whereas the firm's HQ in Pittsburgh takes on a mix of both, with a notable environmental practice included too.

Training & Development

The firm's training resource, Reed Smith University, operates both internally and with the help of external providers. It's also linked to CareeRS, a firm-wide career development program which follows a litigation or corporate track. After a typical first week of introductory training, associates continue with training classes one to two times a week. “The training tends to be more focused on general skills that are applicable across the board,” sources noted, adding that “we also have free membership of the PLI (Practising Law Institute) which has some more practice group specific training on it. It's very much on us to sign up for things.” First-years are also invited to pick their own careers advice mentors “who help put together a plan of what your first year is going to look like.”

Juniors carry out yearly self-reviews too. “It's not just something you can bang out in a couple of hours. Essentially you have to evaluate your performance in everything from business development to leadership skills. It can feel kind of laborious but it does make you sit down, really reflect on what you've done, and set up a game plan for next year. ”

Pro Bono

Associates can count 120 hours of pro bono work as billable, for individual cases or as part of the firm's formal program. Cases range from asylum, immigration, and domestic abuse to corporate governance matters and nonprofit mergers. Several juniors mentioned their involvement in the Name Change Project, which helps transgender people to change their names. That often sees associates pair up with local law students to help draft any necessary documents required by the court. “Pro bono is something that is clearly important to the firm because when you walk down the halls, each of the offices have plaques showing how much pro bono you have done,” one Chicago associate observed. “The firm has a lot of relationships with nonprofits and if you want go out and forge your own relationships, the firm will encourage you to do that.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 56,310
  • Average per US attorney: 59

Culture & Offices

As mentioned previously, associates found the firm's cultural merits clearly on show right off the bat. “After my OCI, I followed up by thanking one of my interviewees. They then spent an hour personally helping me to prepare for the callback, explaining what the firm was like and how to best prepare myself. My face hurt so much from smiling and laughing – there was just such a great energy.”

“My face hurt so much from smiling and laughing – there was just such a great energy.”

Collaboration in particular came to the fore in discussions about the firm's culture. Departments aren't “siloed,” and associates told us: “Thefirm does an excellent job of dividing the work, encouraging attorneys to meet each other by acknowledging expertise in other groups.” For a few associates each year, there's even the possibility of embarking on an international secondment to tighten those cross-border bonds. Still, sources identified some differences between offices. For example, the firm's LA office was highlighted as being a lot quieter, owing to the fact that “a lot of people work remotely.” Sources interpreted this as “good for those who like a flexible schedule, but bad for those who like having partners around.” Those in Chicago felt they had more of a “unique, small-firm feel,” owing to the fact that they “used to be a prominent Chicago firm before being 'acquired' by Reed Smith.” Across all offices though, sources agreed that Reed Smith is a place of “less criticism and more encouragement,” where juniors can “feel comfortable making mistakes and approaching partners.”

Most juniors reside in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Francisco and New York. A handful could also be found in each of the other California offices, as well as Texas and DC, with a few spread across the firm's Virginia and New Jersey offices. All juniors have their own offices except in New York, where space is significantly more expensive.


37.5% of partners are female or otherwise diverse at Reeds, reflecting an above-average commitment to diversity which recently saw the firm signing up to the Mansfield Rule. Similar to the NFL's Rooney Rule, this “mandates that law firms will be required to certify, with respect to specific appointments such as partnership, director and committee positions, that the considered talent pool is at least 30% women and minority attorneys,” according to John Iino, the firm's chief diversity officer. “Last year we set out our 2020 plan where we identified four specific strategic drivers: quality aligned with productivity, revenue, raising brand awareness, and the fourth is the recruitment and retention of diverse talent. When diversity is one of the firm's four strategic pillars you know that the attention on this is at the highest level.”

His impressive rhetoric is validated by juniors' own experiences, and they praised the strength of the firm's affinity groups. WINRS (Women's Initiative Network of Reed Smith) “has a huge presence in the firm,” one source explained, and provides “support through a backbone of strong women.” The group frequentlyputs on seminars on topics such as communication and networking. We also heard of juniors being sent to a number of external events, including leadership programs and statewide conferences. Even in regions typically considered less diverse, associates highlighted that “we do a lot to push LGBT initiatives.”

Hours & Compensation

Juniors must aim to hit 1,900 billable hours, but profit-sharing bonuses only kick in at 2,000. “They're not going to fire you if you don't hit that,” sources assured us, adding that “they will work with you to make you more productive and efficient.” Most juniors reported getting in between 8am and 9am, and leaving somewhere between 6:30pm and 8:30pm, with “few breaks where you aren't billing.” When really stretched, associates reported 12-hour days, andfor many associates a typical week included a few hours working from home in the evening, though sources stressed that most “try to avoid working weekends.”

The firm doesn't look too harshly on juniors taking time off: “I was worried about my reputation after taking a week off early on in the year but the partners encouraged me to do so – it definitely hasn't affected my reputation with the firm.” Similarly another associate happily reported “taking a couple of weeks off to recharge after a major trial.” One thing to note is the regionally dependent salary. New York falls in line with Cravath's $180,000 salary for first years, but other offices are less generous.

Strategy & Future

The firm recently opened a Miami office, a move that was “a reflection of our increasing amount of Latin American work, and the importance of our international arbitration practice,” says global managing partner Sandy Thomas. He adds that “the firm is one year into our four-year plan. We have a very specific spreadsheet which measures our progress against annual objectives.” At its heart is a sector-based strategy, which is focused on the life sciences & healthcare, finance, media & entertainment, energy & natural resources and shipping industries. “We want to deepen our expertise with those clients,” says Thomas.

Get Hired

As you have probably gathered from reading our Inside View piece, Reed Smith interviews are more relaxed than many – so hopefuls shouldn't feel too uptight approaching their OCIs. “What struck me was that the interviewers seemed to genuinely like each other," sources told us. "With other interview teams you could tell that they hadn't ever met and the process seemed like a burden, but with Reed Smith it seemed like they were excited to talk to you. It was much more of a dialogue than forced interview questions.” Still, global head of legal personnel Casey Ryan makes clear the firm is looking for candidates with a “serious work ethic. We look at how candidates spend their summers and the time between undergrad and law school, as well as any community or pro bono work – resumes are much richer and fuller these days.”

Coming to the interview itself, Ryan advises that candidates' research must be satisfactory. “You ought to have spent time researching the firm's history, strategy and client base. If someone doesn't know the baseline, it shows a lot about their interest and preparedness.” Ryan adds that it's “enthusiasm” that makes candidates stand out from the pool of academically qualified students. “People come in with canned questions: What's a typical day like? What's the summer program like? It's not a bad thing, but there's the opportunity to make a neutral question very spectacular.”

Reed Smith offers summers an “innovative summer program” that includes a mini MBA that's provided through 'Reed Smith University.' Juniors heaped on the praise for the program, remarking that “the practice group embraced me straight away and made me feel incorporated into the firm.”

Interview with global managing partner Sandy Thomas

Chambers Associate: Are there any significant highlights in the past year, you think our readers should be aware of?

Sandy Thomas: I would point to a few things. Firstly, we opened an office in Miami, which is very exciting. We combined with a group formerly part of Astigarraga Davis which is headed by José Astigarraga. As a group of international arbitration experts, they are a fantastic addition to the firm and a reflection of our increasing amount of Latin America work, and the importance of our international arbitration practice. Our second major highlight would be our hiring of a two-partner team for our energy and regulatory FERC team in Washington, DC. Colette Honorable – a former FERC commissioner – and Regina Speed-Bost came on board with us in summer – both have been great additions to the group. The hard work is in the integration but the process has been fantastic and a lot of fun.

Finally I would highlight the series of lateral acquisitions we’ve had in Europe at the beginning of the year from Winston & Strawn and KWM. It has really strengthened our tax and corporate team in Paris, which has doubled in size to be in excess of 80 lawyers; our regulatory and transactional group in London; and our competition capabilities in Germany. It has been a big shot of talent into the firm and we have been working all year long on the integration of those lawyers into the firm.

CA: How is the firm progressing with its four-year plan?

ST: The firm is one year into our four-year plan. We have a very specific spreadsheet which measures our progress against annual objectives. We are pursuing a sector-based strategy to deepen our capabilities in five different sectors: financial services; energy and natural resources; life sciences and health; shipping and transportation; and media and entertainment. We want to deepen our expertise with those clients. And all of those things sit alongside very specific financial performance targets. I think we have the firm rallied well around these objectives.

CA: Where does diversity sit within that plan?

ST: Diversity is critical among our core values and is front and center of our four-year plan. It's very simple: we do the best work with our most diverse teams. We were one of the original signatories on the Mansfield Rule but we were also one of the charter firms that agreed to structure the Mansfield Rule. We are constantly improving our efforts when it comes to diversity.

CA: What's at the heart of Reed Smith's culture?

ST: Our culture is all orientated around one word which I don't talk to partners without mentioning – collaboration. You often hear firms talk about how many lawyers they have but we like to talk about how many people we have. That is the Reed Smith family, not just lawyers – but all our staff. People get along here, and when we interview people we try to project that authenticity and emphasize that we have a team-based environment.

CA: Why does the firm place such a large emphasis on pro bono work?

ST: There is more to law life than the commercial aspects, and we know that here. We find the best way to foster a collaborative environment is to orient our people around shared values. And a big part of that is pro bono: helping those that can't afford legal services. A really good example would be the work we have done with our banking clients, trying to process name changes for transgender people. It's a great opportunity for young associates to work closely with partners and clients.

Interview with chief diversity officer John Iino

Chambers Associate: Do you think companies and law firms are increasingly waking up to the commercial case for diversity?

JI: I spend a lot of time meeting with clients, such as chief diversity officers of corporations or legal departments, and I try to understand what their goals are and help them by sharing with them what other companies are doing. What we are now starting to see is significant movement via the firm's clients pushing for greater diversity.

It all started back in 2005 when Rick Palmore, who was at the time the general counsel for Sara Lee Corporation, put together about 60 general counsels of major companies and created a plan called 'Call to Action: Diversity in the Legal Profession.' It aimed to create more diversity among large firms by pledging to make diversity a factor in choosing which firms companies hired as outside counsel. Of course, ten years later, it became apparent that frankly not a lot of progress had been made – it may have been due to the recession or a whole host of other things.

So in 2015, the American Bar Association put together a sub-committee of top general counsels to specifically address this and passed ABA Resolution 113 in 2016 which urges all providers of legal services, including companies and law firms, to adopt a pledge to increase opportunities for diverse attorneys. At the same time it also adopted The Model Diversity Survey, which is designed to be a benchmark for measuring diversity of law firms, asking for numbers on specific demographics, and for details on initiatives in place to improve diversity.

At least 50 companies have adopted the resolution. At a conference I spoke at recently, we all agreed that this has resulted in a change of behavior. A number of companies are now more aggressive in their demands. HP for example came out with a 'diversity hold-back’ mandate for firms that don’t meet diversity goals, threatening to withhold 10% of fees invoiced. Facebook has come out with a program requiring all its panel firms to have formal talent development programs for diverse attorneys by the middle of next year (2018); and if those plans don’t meet their standard, they are threatening to remove them from their panels, so it's really making law firms focus on talent development. I've met with a number of other companies in the pharmaceutical, transportation and financial services industries who are all now fairly advanced in measuring the diversity of the teams which law firms provide. For a while law firms have acknowledged that increasing diversity is the right thing to do, but now that it has started affecting the bottom line, management has become increasingly involved. White, straight, able-bodied partners are in the spotlight.

CA: Do you envision that law firms would ever turn to affirmative action? Something similar to the Rooney Rule in the NFL?

JI: In fact we do now have an equivalent of the Rooney Rule called the Mansfield Rule, which is named after the first woman admitted to the bar in 1868. Over 40 law firms have signed up for it. It mandates that law firms will be required to certify, with respect to specific appointments such as partnership, director and committee positions, that the considered talent pool is at least 30% women and minority attorneys.

As we think about leadership and promotions we want to ensure the talent pools being considered are a lot broader than they used to be, and we (Reed Smith) have complied with that rule in our latest equity promotions. Another benefit is that even if minorities or females aren't picked for the positions this year, it does identify candidates who have the potential for the next round who we can then groom over the next couple of years.  This year in particular we are seeing more affirmative movement and programs addressing diversity in the industry than we have seen in the previous five years.

CA: When would you expect to see a rough parity in numbers between men and women at partnership level?

JI: We did a presentation recently and one of the slides said that when you look at the number of female equity partners now among large law firms,  at the current pace you wouldn't see parity until 2081.

So many clients are saying they believe that the diversity of their workforce and the vendors they work with produces better results for their organizations. So we believe that having diverse decision makers and diverse teams working on matters will lead to better results for clients in terms of what they are looking for. 

At Reed Smith, we fundamentally believe that our culture and our firm is stronger because of our diversity. Last year we set out our 2020 plan where we identified four specific strategic drivers: quality aligned with productivity, revenue, raising brand awareness, and the fourth is the recruitment and retention of diverse talent. When diversity is one of the firm's four strategic pillars you know that the attention on this is at the highest level. When thinking about diversity in recruiting, you also need to be focused on retention because the cost of attrition goes right to the bottom line and is very costly. One of my goals is to see Reed Smith viewed as a very inclusive organization so all of our people feel they have a place here. People will feel included and people will be loyal. What a great place it will be when we have culture of inclusion and where people feel they are welcomed here because of who they are.

We have also since introduced monthly scorecards which measures the variation in ethnicity, sexual identity, gender, and disability at all levels across each of our offices and practice groups by not only headcount but also recruitment, retention and promotion. I'm happy to report that progress has been made in our latest round of equity partner promotions.

CA: Why has it taken so long for law firms to catch up?

JI: I think for consumer-facing companies such as British Telecom or Verizon, diversity is important because they have to understand that the customers they serve are as diverse as the faces of the world. How many people have a phone and take advantage of their services? Those companies have to make sure that their staff reflects their customer base. Contrastingly, in law firms the fact of the matter is that of the big clients who we serve, the CEOs and the boards of directors who we serve, are predominately white males. Because of this, law firms have historically been slow to change as they are mirroring the clients who they serve – the traditional country club set.  However, as clients are now driving change, that’s why we see law firms changing their look.

CA: Why do you have an aversion to labeling plans to improve diversity as 'initiatives'?

JI: When I first took over as Chief Diversity Officer, the firm had typically paired diversity initiatives with pro bono initiatives and I personally felt that diversity should not be associated with pro bono. Pro bono is charity and our work on diversity is not charity – it's an integral part of the business. So when, for example, they wanted to have our pro bono and diversity programs on the same page, I said no, maintaining that these are different things. I admire our pro bono programs, they are doing fantastic things, but initiatives to me sounds like a temporary thing – suggesting that it is something that we are only going to do for a limited period. You don't hear about training initiatives; you have a training program which is built into the business.  I think we should think about diversity and inclusion as part of the business and so I go at length to call it a program, and promote it as something just as important as branding or revenues.

Reed Smith LLP

Reed Smith Centre,
225 Fifth Avenue ,
PA 115222

  • Head Office: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Number of domestic offices: 15
  • Number of international offices: 12
  • Worldwide revenue: $1.119 billion
  • Partners (US): 448
  • Associates (US): 395
  • 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 2018: 46
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2018:
  • 1Ls: 9, 2Ls: 50
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: CHI: 10, HOU: 4, LA: 5, MIA: 1, NY: 8, PGH: 9, PHL: 8, PRC: 2, SF: 6, TYS: 2, WDC: 3, WIL: 1
  • Summer salary 2018:
  • 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 1,500 lawyers in 27 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 2018:
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 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, 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, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Healthcare (Band 4)
    • Insurance: Policyholder (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Litigation: Appellate (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 5)
    • Media & Entertainment: Transactional Recognised Practitioner
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
    • Healthcare (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 5)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 3)
    • Construction Recognised Practitioner
    • Environment Recognised Practitioner
    • Healthcare (Band 2)
    • Insurance (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 3)
    • Real Estate Recognised Practitioner
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • 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)
    • Insurance (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 4)
    • Advertising: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 4)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 4)
    • Government Contracts Recognised Practitioner
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Policyholder (Band 2)
    • International Arbitration (Band 4)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions Recognised Practitioner
    • Labor & Employment Recognised Practitioner
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 2)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies Recognised Practitioner
    • Transportation: Aviation: Litigation Recognised Practitioner
    • Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Finance Recognised Practitioner
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment Recognised Practitioner
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)