Casey Ryan takes the helm as Reed Smith’s new global managing partner

When Casey Ryan became the global managing partner at Reed Smith LLP earlier this year, she became the first woman to hold the position in the law firm’s 146-year history. As much as that milestone means to her and the rest of the team, her focus going forward is the same vision that Reed Smith’s leaders have upheld throughout the centuries: to continue building the relationships that set the firm apart.

“There has always been a strong focus on client relationships, excellent lawyering and growth, but now there’s going to be an even greater renewed focus,” says Ryan, who also serves as executive committee chair. “The practice of law is changing, and to stay in front of that, we must continue to invest in our talent because law firms, like all professional service organizations, are [only as strong as] their people.”

Ryan is a prime example of Reed Smith’s commitment to investing in its people, having spent her entire legal career there. Since joining the firm as a summer associate in 1995 while attending Notre Dame Law School, Ryan has received countless opportunities to develop both as a lawyer and a leader in the firm. “I have always felt that this place is deeply committed to me and has provided me with opportunities to grow,” she says, “and I am deeply committed in return — making sure that others feel that same way and get those same opportunities.”

Ryan previously served as global practice group leader for the labor and employment group, then vice chair of the global litigation department and, most recently, as the global head of legal personnel and part of the senior management team since 2015. In that role, she oversaw the firm’s compensation, promotion, hiring and recruiting processes, “so you get to know the people and the practices incredibly well,” she says. “Knowing the people and their skillsets allows me to better connect people with clients to make sure that we’re getting the best lawyers on the right matters.”

Here’s how Ryan continues investing in the people around her to build the strong relationships that have propelled Reed Smith’s recent growth.

Growing around the world

Throughout Ryan’s nearly 30-year tenure at Reed Smith, she has watched — and helped lead — the firm’s massive growth.

“Over the years, the firm has grown from a regional mid-Atlantic law firm to a global powerhouse,” she says, “and a lot of that growth has happened in the last 25 years.”

With $1.41 billion in 2022 revenue, Reed Smith has steadily expanded, now with more than 3,300 employees (including 1,700 lawyers) throughout 31 offices on three continents. The firm launched its first expansionary moves beyond Pittsburgh in the ’70s and ’80s. As the acquisitions continued through the decades, the firm also established new offices to organically expand its geographic reach.

Reed Smith initially crossed the ocean in 2001 when it joined forces with a law firm in the United Kingdom, establishing its international presence. Since then, several key acquisitions continued to drive its growth — including a 2003 combination with a California firm that catapulted Reed Smith to one of the country’s 20 largest law firms, and a 2007 merger with Richards Butler, which added more than 250 lawyers in offices across London, Paris, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Greece and, later, Hong Kong.

Today, Reed Smith operates 18 offices across the U.S., including three in Texas and five in California, where the firm’s newest office opened earlier this year in Orange County. Meanwhile, the firm continues growing internationally, as well, maintaining its largest office in London with more than 300 lawyers.

“All of that growth has been very strategic and tied to where our clients need us to be, and that strategy has served us well,” Ryan says. “Some of the clients we have represented, we’ve represented for over a hundred years. The firm really focuses on and values relationships, and having a consistent client base demonstrates that focus pretty strongly.”

Connecting legal experts

With more than 3,300 employees spread across three continents, keeping the entire team connected and aligned is critical to Reed Smith’s success.

“Despite being global, we spend a lot of time together,” Ryan says. “We gather for retreats, and we bring the associates in for meetings. We really try to have the culture and expectations of the firm resonate regardless of what office you’re sitting at, so there’s a set of shared values that people can rally around.”

The work environment at Reed Smith is “highly collaborative,” Ryan says, so the firm expects lawyers and staff to work together in teams to best serve their clients’ needs. Throughout the recruiting, hiring and onboarding processes, many of which Ryan helped develop in her previous role, “We’re very clear and upfront about who we are and how we work together,” she says.

One key to fostering collaboration without borders is running the firm through global practice groups rather than geographic offices.

“People are working together across time zones, no longer constrained by four walls in a certain city,” Ryan says. “It frees up a lot of expertise for our clients.”

As remote work became more prevalent during the pandemic, Reed Smith’s associates grew more comfortable using collaboration technologies to work with colleagues around the world. These technologies allow lawyers and professional staff members to connect instantly around specific legal matters and practice areas, offering Reed Smith’s clients access to a globe-spanning breadth of expertise.

“The common denominator of their expertise or specialty makes a stronger offering to the client,” Ryan says, “but it also builds the culture of collaboration.”

Investing in individuals

In her previous role, Ryan developed and launched several innovative talent development programs that became essential to the firm’s closeknit culture and “unique to the Reed Smith experience,” she says.

Last October, for example, the firm launched Reed Smith Associate Advantage, an intensive three-year professional development program tailored to fast-track career success by honing the legal, business and leadership skills that young associates need to become exceptional lawyers.

The first year of the program immerses new hires in Reed Smith’s core values, strategic goals, practices and people. By working alongside mentors on client matters, associates participate in research and writing while learning the practical day-to-day essentials of the legal profession.

In year two, associates get opportunities to polish their communication skills through a formal writing bootcamp as well as a writers and speakers bureau that provides coaching for publication and presentation opportunities. Many firms don’t give lawyers the opportunity to publish or present until they reach the status of senior associate or partner, Ryan says, but this program starts honing those skills earlier. During the second year, associates also meet with client representatives to understand their businesses, with cross-cultural and foreign language skills training to help them connect with clients worldwide.

In year three, associates engage and interact through opportunities that include government externships with district attorneys and public defenders, and an innovation incubator that helps associates introduce new technologies and process improvements to the firm. The third year also includes a robust secondment program, which the firm introduced several years ago. This temporary transfer gives associates the chance to briefly work in another Reed Smith office to meet colleagues and clients face-to-face.

“Getting the chance to spend time together is meaningful, because they can better serve that client if they’ve met and worked together in person,” Ryan says. “I’m constantly thinking about how to make a big place feel smaller, and the secondments really build the glue that you want to exist between people.”

These programs help integrate and assimilate new hires into the firm, which is critical to keeping associates onboard.

“You can spend all the time you want recruiting,” Ryan says, “but if you don’t execute on the integration plan, then you’ve missed the entire opportunity.”

To ease this integration, Reed Smith assigns two lawyers to help each new associate — one lawyer located in their office, and another within their global practice group — who can answer questions and make introductions.

“It goes back to making a big place feel smaller,” Ryan says. “That helps them feel like they’re part of the firm sooner.”

Rallying around a shared vision

By investing in individuals through innovative associate initiatives and professional development programs, Reed Smith’s culture contributes to its strong employee retention. Like Ryan, many employees have called the firm home for decades.

“In a time where people move easily and frequently among employers, it strikes me that we have people who have been here for 10, 20, 30, or 40 years,” Ryan says. “I think that’s a reflection on the organization, and it tells you that we’re doing something right — and a lot of that comes down to relationships, both with clients and with each other.”

Although plenty of challenges pave the path of growth, Ryan looks at obstacles as opportunities to better serve the firm’s clients, whether by keeping up with advances in technology or recruiting the talent needed to drive the firm’s growth.

“We’ll continue to be guided by the principle of being where our clients need us to be,” she says. “Having a group of people who are relentlessly committed to and rallied around this vision is essential to this kind of growth and success.” ●


  • Grow where clients need you to be.
  • Foster collaboration between specialties, rather than geographies.
  • Make a big company feel smaller by investing in individuals.

Casey Ryan

Global Managing Partner
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