“On good days,” a Reed Smith trainee tells us, the firm’s UK office “reminds me of being a king/queen of London surveying the metropolis from his/her palace, or hanging out on a cloud with friends, a squirrel in the tree tops”. The firm’s London gaff, high up in the Broadgate Tower, is one of the most impressive around, with stunning views and generally excellent facilities. With a top-notch canteen (the food is said to be consistently “noms”), Reed Smith’s young royals could stay up in their metaphorical palaces/clouds/trees all day long if they wished.
And the shift to home-working did stop the firm from providing its newbies with service worthy of a king or queen. One trainee describes how the firm “couriered all trainees laptops, phones and desk chairs” with allowances for office paraphernalia and services such as broadband to usher in a smooth transition to remote life. The firm also has “numerous dedicated teams” to help trainees with a range of techy troubles including e-disclosure, document reviews and dashboards.
This has paid dividends when it comes to the quality of training during, with one rookie stating “the firm have gone the extra mile to ensure that training is delivered virtually and trainees receive good quality training”. There are some concerns that separating work and home life has become more difficult, but the firm is “generally good with accommodating plans you might have outside of work”.
And Reed Smith’s financial results confirm a strong response during uncertain times. Profit equity per partner is up an impressive 16% to $1.5 million (£1.09 million) and global revenue grew 5% to $1.31 billion (£948 million). Following temporary pandemic pay cuts, the firm quickly returned in December 2020 to its previous NQ rate of £90,000 before upping it to £107.5k in late 2021. Despite trailing the magic circle and some US competitors’ NQ rates, trainees believe it to be a worthwhile trade-off for a better work/life balance. As one rookie explained: “The salary is at the higher end of firms without the constant horrendous hours trainees seem to be working elsewhere in the City”.
The work is “very high quality and interesting” with the more arduous tasks being outsourced to its global solutions centre in Leeds. This is boosted by a strong sense of camaraderie amongst trainees who “often have catch ups, drinks and are generally really supportive”. It appears that a friend in Reed (Smith) is a friend indeed. And this is not just limited to trainee cohorts, with some “incredibly approachable” partners who “often catch up over coffee or have reviews over a lunch out” and have even been known to send some lucky trainees Christmas presents!
Reed Smith is especially strong in financial disputes, shipping and, somewhat unusually for a City firm, entertainment and media law. In fact, one of the firm’s London partners was recently named as a go-to music industry solicitor by Billboard magazine, no less, and the firm boasts expertise in other rock n’ roll subjects like sports, gaming and social media. And for those who are especially passionate about the environment, the firm offers a designated pro-bono environmental working group which supports various environmental causes.
Another strength is technology and innovation. In London, Reed Smith has a dedicated innovation hub and work classified in a special innovation category counts towards billable hours. The firm also offers an “innovation seat” to London trainees. Meanwhile in Leeds, the aforementioned support hub which opened in 2019 provides a “creative environment” for lawyers and support staff “to find new approaches to problem solving”, though some feel this system is not accessible enough to London. Currently, however, there are no plans to offer training contracts in Leeds, though.
Despite these niches, supervisors are known “to be conscious about giving trainees as broad an experience as possible” and help trainees “branch out and try something outside your typical area”. Juniors undertake secondments to the likes of Bauer Media Group, Reprieve and Liberty, and as Covid-19 restrictions ease, popular foreign secondment destinations such as Dubai and Singapore will most likely return.
Some of the firm’s short travel perks might make a comeback too. In the past, trainees have reported client visits to Hamburg on a big case, a trip to Seoul and a Korean shipyard for a week to take statements, and a week in Japan for business development and marketing. But you won’t miss out on the fun if you’d rather stay in the UK, with Reed Smith’s Christmas and summer parties where lawyers can enjoy the “beautiful views” that are the envy of other trainees.