YOUR LEGAL WRITES: From an attorney to the apprentice

By Kathryn E. Brown | Feb 6, 2008


On the job training isn't what it used to be.

Typically, an associate enters a law firm armed with a doctor of jurisprudence, clerkship experience, and an eagerness to change legislation in a single bound. However, in the case of one particular law firm, attorneys spend more time in a classroom than a courtroom in their early days of practice, with an emphasis on lessons in executive leadership.

Reed Smith is an international law firm which serves financial, energy, trade, life sciences, technology and media industries. Referring to itself as "a global-relationship firm", Reed Smith's approach to legal and corporate matters begins with a keen understanding of clients' business goals. To accomplish the objectives of delivering high quality legal services and developing long-term relationships, senior partners developed "Reed Smith University" with the assistance of educators at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Wharton may be better known by its famous list of alumni, two of whom include Donald Trump and his daughter, Ivanka.

Reed Smith University is a firm-wide initiative to turn employees into better lawyers, better managers or better staff members than they otherwise would be. The partnership with Wharton is the first of its kind between a leading law firm and a top-ranked business school. The effort has paid off, as Reed Smith was recently recognized with first-place honors of Best New Corporate University and Most Innovative Corporate University -- competitions sponsored by the Human Resources IQ division of the International Quality and Productivity Center.

The breadth and depth of Reed Smith University may be the reasons behind its recent wins, in that the program comprises five different schools of executive learning. Reed Smith University's School of Law helps lawyers build and improve upon their existing legal skills; the School of Leadership is devoted to helping lawyers transform themselves into shrewd decision makers; the School of Business Development is positioned as rainmaking training, highlighting client needs and expectations; the School of Technology is poised to help lawyers understand and leverage the firm's investment in the Internet age; and the School of Professional Support is constructed to develop a first-class support staff to assist the firm's attorneys. Each school is chaired by a dean and organized by a team of administrators, and each program's curriculum is outlined in a university catalog that can be downloaded online.

Launched in the fall of 2004, Reed Smith conducts training year-round thanks to resources provided by Wharton's Executive Education department. John F. Smith, a partner in Reed Smith's Philadelphia office who serves as the University's chancellor, stated, "the overarching purpose of the University is to develop and support existing and emerging leaders across [the firm's] operations, in every department, practice, and geographic location through an extensive on-campus experience."

Dr. Lynn Phillips, senior director of Executive Education at Wharton commented that a partnership with a business school to develop leadership programs is relatively uncommon in the legal services industry. Wharton's role in the partnership includes the creation of the overall concept, course development for each of the five schools, professors serving as academic advisors, support for competency models, review of teaching styles and methods, and provision of Web-based services to strengthen academic programming. Reed Smith University's courses also provide law firm students with a range of credit options, including CLE and other professional training in accounting and paralegal fields.

Reed Smith boasts nearly 1,000 lawyers located in 14 cities in the United States, in addition to two cities in the United Kingdom. The firm's chief marketing officer, David S. Egan, who is principally responsible for branding and business development initiatives, is a 1979 graduate of Bethany College.

For more information about Reed Smith University, visit the firm's Web site at

Brown is the managing member of The Write Word LLC, a professional writing and editing agency based in Charleston.

More News

The Record Network