Law.com recently interviewed Reed Smith Global Managing Partner Sandy Thomas and Litigation Global Chair Peter Ellis for an in-depth article on the firm’s Racial Equity Action Plan, covering both its origins, its objectives and its impact within the firm and in support of the communities that the firm operates in.
Reed Smith global managing partner Alexander "Sandy" Thomas and litigation and dispute resolution department global chair Peter Ellis said the events of 2020 led them to create a Racial Equity Action Plan to help the firm, its communities and clients heal and make a lasting impact.
Reed Smith’s decision to partner with civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia on behalf of Ahmaud Arbery’s mother last month is only part of a Racial Equity Action Plan the firm developed in response to the social unease of 2020.
One after another, the killings of Black men and women by white police officers—or people acting as police officers—stunned, grieved and outraged the country.
“Our communities were hurting,” recalled Reed Smith partner Peter Ellis, global chair of the firm’s litigation and dispute resolution department who now leads the Racial Equity Action Plan along with global managing partner, commercial litigator and antitrust counselor Alexander “Sandy” Thomas. They talked about their work in a recent interview together with Law.com.
“I know we can all look back to the summertime when there was just a lot of pain,” Ellis said. “And that’s across communities. Not just the Black community. Our nation and our world was wondering where we go next. As lawyers, we know that we play a very substantial role in helping to steer what that next looks like.”
So, Ellis and Thomas said, the firm made a commitment to community action in response: increasing an already robust pro bono effort, expanding partnerships with firms and nonprofit organizations such as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and even signing on with plaintiffs lawyers like Merritt for a small fraction of a contingency fee agreement to work on civil rights cases such as the one for Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper. The partners said if the firm ever does collect from such a contingency fee arrangement, they will reinvest the proceeds in their pro bono work. The Arbery case was one where the firm saw a chance to “move the needle,” Ellis said.
Please download the PDF below to read the full article.