“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 an top rated 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.
Indeed, when there is a big deal on they may find themselves hanging around rather longer. Not that work/life balance is too bad at Reed Smith, which records average arrive and leave times of 9:12am and 7:36pm in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2019-20. Insiders say that how much you work varies between departments, with one reporting: “In my last two seats, getting out at 7 pm was a real possibility. In seat one, I basically only went home for the weekends.”
What of the rest of the rookie lawyer experience? Well, it’s pretty good, with mostly very good training and decent work spanning the firm’s core specialisms in financial disputes, shipping and, somewhat unusually for a City firm, media law.
One current Reed Smith trainee describes it like this: “There is general induction training when you begin your TC, but also specific departmental training at the beginning of each seat.” Another adds that the quality of training “is really department-specific”.
Secondments are a strong point. According to our figures more than a quarter of Reed Smith’s young have spent time abroad and over half have done a placement with a client. The most popular destinations for the firm are Abu Dhabi and Singapore. There are also a fair few smaller trips. Rookies report 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. Meanwhile, client secondment destinations include some of Reed Smith’s big media law clients, major banks and corporates, and pro bono placements at the likes of Liberty and Reprieve.
Another strength is technology. In London Reed Smith has a dedicated innovation hub, featuring a glass wall with spectacular views across London to help inspire lawyers, and work classified in a special innovation category counts towards billable hours. A related benefit to this has been a flexi-working push, with the firm’s wider investment in IT allowing its London lawyers to work from home to a great extent. Another new development in this space is Reed Smith’s new Leeds support hub, which opened last year. The firm says that the centre will provide a “creative environment” for its lawyers and support staff “to find new approaches to problem solving”. Currently there are no plans to offer training contracts in Leeds.
The signs are that the benefits of the investment in innovation is already being felt. Reed Smith’s global revenue rose again this year, by 5% to $1.18 billion (£963 million), with $222 million (£182 million) of that coming from the firm’s London office (an 18% jump). Meanwhile, profit per equity partner is also up again, 7% this year, to $1.26 million (£1.03 million). With such strong financials, it won’t be long before London newly qualified solicitors — whose pay stands at £78,000 at the time of writing — are hustling for a raise.