Founded in Pittsburgh over 140 years ago, Reed Smith spent a century gradually evolving before beginning a series of mergers and acquisitions in the late 1970s that have created a firm pressing closer to the global top 30. Between 1978, when Reed Smith Shaw & McClay merged with Philadelphia firm Townsend Elliott & Munson, and 2000, the firm gradually expanded across the US into key cities such as Washington DC and New York. It did so through a mixture of
Founded in Pittsburgh over 140 years ago, Reed Smith spent a century gradually evolving before beginning a series of mergers and acquisitions in the late 1970s that have created a firm pressing closer to the global top 30.
Between 1978, when Reed Smith Shaw & McClay merged with Philadelphia firm Townsend Elliott & Munson, and 2000, the firm gradually expanded across the US into key cities such as Washington DC and New York. It did so through a mixture of greenfield launches and mergers.
At the end of December 2000, Reed Smith announced it was moving into the UK through a merger with City firm Warner Cranston. The 60-lawyer, 14-partner tie-up was badged as an opportunity for Reed Smith to strengthen its international presence through Warner Cranston’s overseas client base and for the UK firm to give clients access to the US.
The merger followed several months of rumoured talks between the City firm and US players, with others in the running including Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal (since merged into Dentons).
The Warner Cranston tie-up helped propel Reed Smith into the global top 50. A couple of years later it got even bigger when it merged again, with 215-lawyer California firm Crosby Heafy Roach & May.
The firm’s global expansion then accelerated as it opened in Paris and Munich in 2005. But perhaps the most significant move in Europe, dwarfing the Warner Cranston acquisition, was the January 2007 merger between Reed Smith and Richards Butler in the UK.
Richards Butler had a strong legacy in the shipping and insurance worlds and brought that to the merger, as well as gifting the enlarged firm offices in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Piraeus. Shortly afterwards Reed Smith Richards Butler also opened in Chicago through yet another merger there, with Sachnoff & Weaver.
In 2008, the Hong Kong operations of Richards Butler also combined with Reed Smith. Although the ‘Richards Butler’ tag was dropped only a couple of years after the merger, the firm is still known as Reed Smith Richards Butler in Hong Kong. The addition was the catalyst for further expansion in Asia and Reed Smith now has offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore as well as Hong Kong. Since 2012 the firm has also added bases in the Kazakhstan capital Astana, Frankfurt, Houston and Miami.
Now with 700 partners spread across the globe, Reed Smith has large litigation and corporate teams and generates revenue of just over $1bn.
Reed Smith has a large, international leadership team led by global managing partner Alexander (Sandy) Thomas. Thomas, who is also chair of the executive committee, was first elected for four years in 2013 and stood unopposed for re-election in 2017.
Thomas is just the 11th managing partner in the firm’s history. He replaced Greg Jordan, who had led the firm since 2001 but stood down in 2013 only a year into his fifth term to become head of legal at PNC Financial Services Group. Before becoming managing partner Thomas was the firm’s global litigation head.
Reed Smith put its current leadership structure in place in 2016, making changes which it said aligned “the firm’s senior management roles around its industry group strategy, as well as its existing and growing geographic footprint”.
The restructure saw the introduction of managing partner positions for the Americas, Europe and the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific. Chief legal officer Michael Pollack, who was previously global head of strategy, became the managing partner for the Americas.
Roger Parker was named managing partner for Asia-Pacific, moving from London where he was previously Europe, Middle East and Asia managing partner. However, he stepped down after 18 months and the firm appointed global corporate co-chair Denise Jong to replace him.
Global financial industry chair Tamara Box, who joined Reed Smith from Berwin Leighton Paisner in 2012, became the first Europe and Middle East managing partner in the 2016 shake-up.