29 Jan 2021

Reed Smith boosts diversity agenda with billable-hours credit scheme

Diversity and gender-related activities to count towards 50 hours of billable work

Reed Smith office

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Reed Smith is encouraging its lawyers to carry out diversity and gender-related work by rewarding them with 50 hours of credit towards their billable time targets.

The incentive scheme allows fee-earners and other timekeepers to spend time working on activities that fall under the firm’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Women Initiative Network and Racial Equity Action Plan (REAP) programmes.

Sandy Thomas, Reed Smith’s global managing partner, said: “Building an inclusive culture is integral to our business and should be rewarded and incentivised, not left to chance. Diversity is an area where Reed Smith has always been a leader in the legal industry, and this new policy is a real investment behind our own commitment and goals.”

Work and activities that qualify for credit include leading or organising events, activities or projects; serving in a leadership role on firm committees or sub-committees; developing or delivering training programmes related to gender or diversity issues; and participating in Reed Smith’s reverse mentoring programme or serving as a mentor to support diverse talent, among others.

Casey Ryan, Reed Smith’s global head of legal personnel, said: “Working on diversity initiatives provides an opportunity to lead on issues of import, build leadership skills and make connections, all experiences that benefit associates in the development of their lawyering and other professional skills.”

The latest initiative follows the introduction of REAP last year, which seeks to promote racial equity across the firm and its local communities. The firm also set a target to increase its number of black lawyers by 50%, as well as improve black lawyer and staff retention rates and boost the percentage of black lawyers in leadership roles by 2024.

Coca Cola this week announced a number of diversity targets for its US legal advisers, including a requirement that 30% of associates and partners working on each billable matter are diverse, half of whom must be black attorneys. Firms that fail to meet those targets over a six-month period will be hit with a 30% reduction in their fees until they achieve compliance. Coca Cola’s GC Bradley Gayton said that requirement will eventually rise to at least 50%, with the targets expected to be rolled out globally in the future.

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