Reed Smith Rolls Out ‘Innovation Hours’ Towards Billable Targets

Global law firm Reed Smith has rolled out an interesting new development in lawyer remuneration across its offices, rewarding lawyers for the time they put into innovation projects.

We have already seen other law firms provide junior lawyers with the chance to train with innovation teams, but this initiative is aimed at fee earners of different levels across the firm, including partners.

The rollout follows an earlier pilot, with the new ‘Innovation Hours programme’ recognising up to 50 ‘Innovation Hours’ towards billable-hour targets for fee earners.

The Innovation Hours programme pilot first ran from January to December 2017. Lawyers across the firm were invited by the firm’s chief knowledge officer, Lucy Dillon, and the London-based Innovation Hub manager, Alex Smith, to submit ideas for innovation projects within the firm.

This does indeed look like a very positive step as the reality is that not having the time to contribute to innovation, especially in areas such as machine learning training for NLP systems, is a key reason why new tech doesn’t get adopted or why piloted tech never gets fully used.

Lawyers are often scared of harming their careers by taking time out from billable work, and this new system clearly gives them the approval from the top needed to conduct such non-billable work.

Sandy Thomas, Global Managing Partner, said: ‘Innovation isn’t just a buzzword at Reed Smith – it is a part of our core values and culture. Our internal teams are provided with unfettered time to think and generate new ideas, and they have the firm’s commitment, facilities, technology and manpower at their disposal to develop these ideas into projects, all of which are supported throughout the process by individuals from our global Practice Innovation, Knowledge Management and Marketing teams who possess a wide range of expertise and resources.’

‘Following a highly successful pilot we’re looking forward to relaunching the programme on a larger scale,’ he added.

Among the projects that became part of the pilot period, Reed Smith lawyers worked on:

  • Breach RespondeRS app, a free app that simplifies the application of the patchwork of US state laws to let companies focus on protecting data and preventing further harm;
  • The automation of contracts and documents;
  • Reviewing databases of previous cases and outcomes to provide insight on trends in the managed care industry;
  • Working with a FinTech start-up;
  • Working on a blockchain project, including a response on behalf of the US Chamber of Digital Commerce to the EU’s ‘Opinion on Blockchain’, as well as a blockchain whitepaper.

Kari Larsen, co-head of the FinTech team, and who was heavily involved in the blockchain project, said: ‘The innovation hours pilot was tremendously helpful and allowed us to develop materials that have truly impressed clients, as well as provided the opportunity for us to work with a revolutionary company in its infancy. Due to the firm recognising innovation hours towards billable targets, we were able to recruit top-talent lawyers to contribute to these projects, while also increasing their exposure to new tech.’

Now, five new projects will be chosen for lawyers at the firm to get involved in under the auspices of the new Innovation Hours programme.

The lawyers involved in the pilot included (which as you can see, were from across its network) – 

Carolyn Chia, legal consultant, Energy & Natural Resources, Resource Law LLC, Singapore

Gerard DiFiore, partner, Global Corporate Group, New York

Terrence Fairfield, associate, Global Corporate Group, New York

Elizabeth Farrell, partner, Energy & Natural Resources, London

Matthew Gorman, partner, Energy & Natural Resources, Singapore

Pino Juliana, associate, Energy & Natural Resources, London

Kari Larsen, counsel, Energy & Natural Resources, New York

Gerald Licnachan, counsel, Energy & Natural Resources, Singapore

Angela Lu, associate, Global Corporate Group, New York

Alexandra Lucas, associate, Complex Litigation, Chicago

Mark Melodia, partner, IP, Tech & Data, New York

Marilyn Mollet, associate, Complex Litigation, Pittsburgh

Tania Teng, associate, Shipping, Resource Law LLC, Singapore

Philip Thomas, partner, IP, Tech & Data, London

Roberta Torian, partner, Financial Industry Group, Philadelphia

Anne-Marie Trachmann, associate, Energy & Natural Resources, London

Kate Whelen, associate, Energy & Natural Resources, London