2019 Vault Rankings
“You are given a lot of responsibility early on as an associate”
“The people: they are brilliant, kind, and hardworking”
“The opportunity and responsibility”
“Compensation is way under market and not transparent”
“Lack of transparency in what it takes to advance”
A Pittsburgh native long intertwined with the city’s industrial kingpins, Reed Smith joined the crowd in globalizing via international mergers in the 21st century. With litigation at the forefront, the firm’s practice strengths also include cross-border transactional and regulatory work.
Steel City Origins
As is the case with a number of its BigLaw brethren, Reed Smith LLP’s rise to prominence can be at least partly credited to a symbiotic relationship with an American industrial tycoon. Attorney James Reed, who founded the firm in Pittsburgh with fellow 24-year-old Philander Knox in 1877, cultivated strong ties with the man most singularly responsible for giving Steel City its blue-collar identity: Andrew Carnegie. In addition to leading the firm’s representation of Carnegie at the peak of his empire-building, Reed served as a charter director of Carnegie’s U.S. Steel. Other industry titans followed Carnegie’s lead in enlisting the burgeoning outfit, and names such as Mellon, Heinz, and Frick soon graced the firm’s client roster.
Edwin W. Smith and other partners joined the firm in the 1880s, and in 1922, the firm adopted the name Reed Smith Shaw & McClay. During the New Deal era, Reed Smith established a securities practice; partner Ralph Demmler went on to become chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Across the USA
Domestic growth started in the 1970s, as Reed Smith began making strategic moves beyond Pittsburgh. It set up shop in Philadelphia and also Washington, DC, and in 1989, merged with DC firm Pierson, Ball & Dowd, thereby gaining a well-regarded health care practice. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Reed Smith turned its attention to New York (combinations with Parker Duryee and Hall Dickler) and New Jersey and also secured a combination with leading northern Virginia firm Hazel & Thomas. In 2003, Reed Smith opened four offices in California through its combination with Crosby Heafey. Further growth in New York came in 2008 via a combination with Anderson Kill, and that same year saw the establishment of a Chicago office through a combination with Sachnoff & Weaver. Most recently the firm has opened offices in Houston, Miami, and Austin. A Global Customer Center in Pittsburgh, separate from the Pittsburgh office, houses almost 200 “back office” staff personnel whose duties span the globe, as well as 100 Staff Attorneys and E-Discovery Attorneys.
Today, Reed Smith is a global firm, thanks to an international growth strategy that took off in the 2000s. A tie-up with UK-based Warner Cranston turned Reed Smith transatlantic. Reed Smith opened offices in Paris and Munich in 2005. A 2007 merger with Richards Butler greatly expanded Reed Smith’s London presence and added offices in Greece, the Middle East, and, one year later, in Hong Kong. Thanks to the UK mergers, the firm's London office is by far its largest. A Frankfurt office joined the ranks in 2016, and expansion in Asia has continued, with new offices opening in Beijing, Shanghai, and Singapore in the last few years.
Making Its Mark
While known for its litigation prowess, Reed Smith is a full-service shop, serving corporate and commercial clients on litigation, transactional, regulatory, and other matters. It also fields multi-disciplinary industry groups dedicated to clients in the life sciences, media and entertainment, energy and natural resources, shipping, and financial services sectors. According to the firm's internal stats, it represents more than half of the world's 100 largest companies, including top oil and gas companies, auto manufacturers, commercial and savings banks, and pharmaceutical distributors.
IN THE NEWS
Reed Smith has launched a new, redesigned Associate Life Initiative—a program to prepare the firm’s early career lawyers for advancement, leadership roles, and long-term professional success. Some of the new aspects include a mobile app for continuous detailed feedback from every lawyer with whom an associate works, a ramp-up hours policy following return from leaves of absence, first-year assignments from a general pool to work with various practice/industry groups, and reverse mentoring between junior and senior attorneys, among many others.
After a successful 2017 pilot, Reed Smith has installed its 2018 Innovation Hours Program, which recognizes up to 50 innovation hours toward billable-hour targets. Six projects were selected out of 30 submissions from attorneys across the firm; among the pilot projects was Reed Smith’s Breach RespondeRS app. This first-of-its-kind app simplifies the application of the patchwork of U.S. state laws to let companies focus on protecting data and preventing further harm. The app was developed in-house, with lawyers in the IP, Tech & Data Group collaborating with members of the firm’s Knowledge Management, IT, Practice Innovation, and Business Development teams.
The firm has selected five summer associates to be a part of its inaugural Legal Technology Summer Associate Program. These associates work on developing projects that use tech to improve legal services. Three associates have been selected from American law schools and two from British law schools. The firm looked to law schools with strong legal technology curricula to recruit its tech-focused summers. “We want to start developing lawyers that are not only great lawyers, but also understand how technology can deliver services efficiently and collaboratively and can offer new solutions for clients,” said Chief Knowledge Officer Lucy Dillion.
Reed Smith has announced the launch of GravityStack, a spin-off subsidiary technology group that will create and license the firm’s technology products and provide managed services to law firm and legal department clients. GravityStack, which is owned by Reed Smith, will act as an internal development incubator for new legal technology that it will design, test and license out to legal clients. Bryon Bratcher, head of practice support and now managing director of GravityStack, described it as a “data driven technology group trying to tackle the challenges that come up both in litigation transactions and compliance areas of law.”
This April, Reed Smith’s Women’s Initiative Network (WINRS) brought together over 100 practicing attorneys—including RS women lawyers and high-profile thought leaders in the industry—for a solutions-based forum entitled Women in the Courtroom Symposium. Featuring Judge Shira Scheindlin as keynote, participants examined the reasons for why women remain significantly underrepresented as counsel in the courtroom and how the judiciary, in-house counsel and law firms can work together to advance women to lead counsel roles.
Reed Smith Centre
225 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Phone: (412) 288-3131
Employer Type: Private
Global Managing Partner: Alexander Thomas
Total No. Attorneys 2018: 1,900
Philadelphia; Wilmington; Princeton: 1st year: $160,000; Summer associate: $6,667 semi-monthly
Pittsburgh: 1st year: $145,000; Summer associate: 6,042 semi-monthly
Richmond: 1st year: $130,000; Summer associate: $5,416 semi-monthly
All Other U.S. Offices: 1st year: $180,000; Summer associate: $7,500 semi-monthly
49 out of 54 (2Ls) (2017)
Century City, CA
Los Angeles, CA
New York, NY
San Francisco, CA
Silicon Valley, CA
Advertising, Technology & Media
Antitrust & Competition
Bankruptcy & Commercial Restructuring
Corporate & Securities
Data Privacy, Security & Management
Employment & Labor
Energy & Natural Resources
Export, Customs & Trade
Global Regulatory Enforcement
Government Contracts & Grants
Government Investigations & White Collar Criminal Defense
Life Sciences Transactions & Regulatory
Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Pensions & Benefits
Public Policy & Infrastructure
Records & E-Discovery
Securities Litigation & Enforcement