“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 A* rated canteen (the food is said to be “a little expensive but great quality”), 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 9:17am and 7:46pm in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18. 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 grade A 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 over a quarter of Reed Smith’s young have spent time abroad and 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 – which is overseen by the firm’s innovation manager – 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.
Reed Smith will be hoping that some of the cash going into machine learning and other new tech that promises greater capacity to do more work will help turn around the 4% fall in revenue, to $1.08bn (£839,000) in its latest financial results. Still, the firm remains a highly profitable place, with profit per equity partner up slightly this year to $1.11m (£861,000) and London newly qualified solicitor pay jumping a chunky £7k to £70,000.