Reed Smith launches women’s career forum and sacks female blogger

Reed Smithhas launched a new initiative aimed at encouraging women’s careers just days after the firm came under fire for sacking IP partner Denise Howells in the US.

Howells has become something of a legend in the US for pioneering law blogs in the US and coining the phrase “blawg”. Her blogs have championed the interests of women and mothers in law firms.

Her separation agreement prevented Howells from explaining the reasons for her departure but she said on her blog: “I do want to be clear about one thing: I’m leaving Reed Smith now because I was fired last week.”

She continued: “Firms still have a long way to go before being ‘flexible and creative’ transcends the realm of sound bite and recruiting/retention pitch, and enters that of core value.”

A Reed Smith spokesperson said: “Her departure had nothing to do with blogging or being a mother.”

The firm chose this as the moment to launch its Women’s Career Advancement Workshop in the UK.

The series of workshops is a concept which was launched in the US and aimed at supporting women’s careers at the firm. The workshops, run in conjunction with non-profit diversity consultants Catalyst, provide a forum for female lawyers to discuss their careers.

UK partner Alison Dennis commented: “Central management wants this to happen and has provided a very big budget to make it happen.”

She said the firm was committed to assisting working mothers progress up the career ladder, adding that she had worked part-time at the firm for five years and was made up to the partnership since she started working part-time.

Reed Smith chairman Greg Jordan said in a statement: “Reed Smith is committed to the advancement of our women lawyers.

“No global law firm will achieve and sustain true success without ensuring that all of its lawyers are able to make the fullest use of their potential.”

* For more on this story see next Monday’s edition of The Lawyer (July 24)