Bloomberg Law
Jan. 27, 2021, 5:35 PM

Reed Smith Lawyers to Get Billing Credit for Diversity Work

Stephanie Russell-Kraft
Stephanie Russell-Kraft
Special Correspondent

Reed Smith is offering lawyers up to 50 billable-hours credit for work done to promote diversity and gender equality in the law, following several other firms in rewarding activities that have historically not been included in quantitative performance tracking.

All of the firm’s lawyers and other timekeepers can now receive credit for planning diversity events, serving in affinity group leadership roles, developing training programs, participating in mentorship programs, and attending client-sponsored diversity- or gender-focused events, the firm announced Wednesday. The policy takes effect immediately and is retroactive to January 1.

The move is an effort to increase the firm’s overall diversity by encouraging lawyers to take part in diversity and inclusion efforts. The legal industry still lags behind much of the corporate world when it comes to the representation of women and people of color, who disproportionately lead diversity initiatives without being credited for it.

“Building an inclusive culture is integral to our business and should be rewarded and incentivized, not left to chance,” global managing partner Sandy Thomas said in a statement.

Law firm diversity consultant Paula Edgar said the billable hour credit will “compensate attorneys of color, women, and other attorneys who have often done this work in addition to their billable hour requirements previously with no compensation or recognition.”

The credit will also encourage other attorneys to participate in diversity initiatives, according to Edgar. The policy “signals an expectation and understanding that diversity and inclusion is an individual leadership competency expected of firm attorneys in the same way that business development, professional development, and pro bono initiatives are expected competencies,” she said.

Several other firms have also implemented similar policies in recent years. In 2015, Miller Nash Graham & Dunn began offering up to 150 hours of billable credit for associates per year for hours spent on diversity and inclusion efforts. Dorsey & Whitney began offering associates up to 50 billable hours for diversity related work last year, and Hogan Lovells announced a similar policy for all U.S. counsel and associates last week.

Reed Smith said the idea for the diversity billable credit came from “several sources,” including an internal firm hackathon and suggestions from its associates.

The billable hour credit was also included in a guide published last month by Diversity Lab, an legal industry diversity incubator that is tracking law firm diversity policies. Diversity Lab CEO Caren Ulrich Stacy said she expects another 20 or more firms to announce similar policies in the coming months.

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