In August, the firm announced the formation of its 36-person Racial Equity Task Force. This group was tasked with marshaling the firm’s resources to carry out the REAP, Reed Smith’s response to recent events in the United States that have highlighted generations of systemic racial injustice against Black Americans.
The REAP is centered on three priorities:
- Internal well-being and learning, through which the firm commits to advancing recruitment, retention, and leadership opportunities for Black lawyers and staff.
- Pro bono and community engagement, including work for justice system reform, economic opportunity and defense against discrimination – with local and national organizations
- Client engagement, to invest in attracting and retaining Black lawyer talent, starting from law school recruiting efforts, to secondment engagements, to creating high-level relationship development opportunities.
“When we announced the formation of our Racial Equity Task Force and subsequent Racial Equity Action Plan two months ago, we knew our efforts required measureable results that would prove to our people and our communities that our commitment was real,” said Sandy Thomas, Reed Smith’s Global Managing Partner. “We have taken a deliberate approach toward ensuring everything we do in the name of racial equity makes a meaningful and sustainable impact.
“In putting together the framework for the REAP, we’ve had to critically assess all aspects of our firm, from how we attract and retain talent, to an examination of our pro bono efforts, to the scope of our client relationships. This process has brought new energy and focus throughout the firm, and we look forward to sharing progress in due course.”
To meet the objectives laid out in the REAP, Reed Smith has committed to the following:
Recruiting: 50% increase of Black lawyers across Reed Smith by 2024. The firm will take a strategic approach to lateral recruiting, to aggressively grow the number of Black lawyers in our business. Additionally, the firm will expand the field of law schools it targets, actively engaging with Black Law School Association chapters and school administrations, and working with clients to vet and recruit legal talent.
Retention: Improve Black lawyer and staff attrition rates consistent with firm-wide attrition rate by 2024. To ensure that Black lawyers and staff are afforded the opportunities they need to succeed, Reed Smith will institute a work allocation program to track the distribution of complex, high-value, high-visibility client work and put in place processes that ensure work is distributed consistently across the firm. Furthermore, the firm will enhance its extensive training and development programs focused on law firm economics, the path to partnership and client / business development – key elements for successful careers in large law firms. Finally, Reed Smith will examine its compensation structure to ensure that gaps in credit allocation – a longstanding issue among Black lawyers across much of Big Law – are corrected, and that promotions are made with intentionality toward desired results.
Leadership: Increase percentage of Black leadership in the firm by 30% by 2024. Reed Smith is committed to increasing the representation of Black lawyers across all areas of firm leadership, be it as office managing partners, practice group leaders, or other firm management roles. Additionally, it will increase the representation of Black staff in managerial roles across all administrative functions in the firm. To ensure that Black lawyers and staff are well-positioned to assume leadership roles, the firm will: (1) engage with leading universities and executive leadership organizations for management training and development programs and (2) develop a client mentorship program.
Expanded engagement with clients to uncover opportunities for Black lawyer development. As mentioned previously, client involvement in the execution of the REAP is an area of utmost importance to Reed Smith. In addition to pro bono efforts, the firm will also partner with clients on strategic secondment program designed to increase experience and connectivity with and for Black lawyers. It will also identify clients that are willing to invest in law school recruiting with the firm through shared summer programs and related intern activities. Finally, as part of its client / business development program, Reed Smith will develop creative collaborations led by top business generators within the firm and clients to create opportunities for Black lawyers.
National and local pro bono projects designed to positively impact the Black community. Pro bono is a significant element of the REAP, at both the national and local level. Reed Smith has committed to providing pro bono legal services to two national projects in the United States and one in the UK/EME that move the needle on racial equity issues relating to Black people and/or the Black community. Locally, each office throughout the Reed Smith network will engage in at least one local pro bono project specifically designed to address racial equity issues in local market/community. Although currently a leader among peer firms. The firm aims to increase pro bono participation by 10% and pro bono hours by 10% by the end of 2021. It will also give billable credit for hours engaged on approved REAP activities.
“The movement towards racial justice and the deconstruction of systemic racism has required every organization to ask itself whether it is doing its part to bring about change. We noticed that there is much that can be done in and by our firm and made the decision that setting measurable inclusion goals and creating real opportunity tied to the core of our business is critically important,” said Peter Ellis, Global Chair of Reed Smith’s Litigation Department and Task Force member. “Undoubtedly there is a lot of work to do here, but we will move forward with a sense of urgency, intentionality and purpose, as the stakes are too high for anything less.”
About Reed Smith
Reed Smith is a dynamic international law firm dedicated to helping clients move their businesses forward. Our belief is that by delivering smarter and more creative legal services, we will not only enrich our clients’ experiences with us, but also support them in achieving their business goals.
Our long-standing relationships, international outlook, and collaborative structure make us the go-to partner for the speedy resolution of complex disputes, transactions, and regulatory matters.
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