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Reed Smith counts ‘sustainability hours’ towards billing targets

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New 25-hour policy considered to be ‘industry-first’

US law firm Reed Smith has rolled out a new policy that rewards its lawyers working on sustainability projects.

The policy was announced this week as part of the firm’s Global Environmental Sustainability Plan 2024 and one it considers “may be the first of its kind among global law firms”.

From next month the firm’s lawyers, including those based in the UK, can count up to 25 hours of leadership, advocacy, training and development work tied to environmental sustainability towards their billable hour targets. This allowance forms part of the firm’s existing 140 hours of billable credit set aside each year for non-billable work. Reed Smith lawyers in London have an annual billing target of 1,700 hours, our Firms Most List shows.

Casey Ryan, Reed Smith’s global head of personnel, said: “The expansion of the billable-hours policy to include sustainability projects is another enhancement of our Associate Life initiative, which enables our attorneys to work on issues of critical importance while building leadership skills and expanding their skill sets. These experiences will further support their legal and professional development and yield key advances in support of sustainability.”

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Qualifying work could include serving as a leader on the firm’s internal “Green Team”, organising or attending sustainability-focused meetings and initiatives, working on client partnerships or joining groups such as the Net Zero Lawyers Alliance, Reed Smith said in a statement.

For some time now law firms have given fee-earners credit towards pro bono work and other activities not necessarily related to client matters, such as diversity and inclusion, tech and innovation.

Back in 2018 Reed Smith was one of the first law firms to allow lawyers to be rewarded for time spent on innovation; they can set aside 50 hours for such projects. The firm, like others, also has a 50-hour allowance for D&I efforts.

Reed Smith’s two-year plan is focused on reducing carbon emissions by 20% by 2024 and making all products used across its global offices recyclable or reusable. The firm scored an A* for eco-friendliness in our latest Trainee & Junior Lawyer Survey.

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