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October 27, 2009 11:00 PM

Reed Smith Rolls Out Competency-Based Associate Development Program

Posted by Ed Shanahan

By Gina Passarella, The Legal Intelligencer

Predictions of the end of associate classes have accompanied talk of larger shifts in the Big Law model in recent months. Those predictions are becoming more of a reality as Reed Smith joins only a handful of other Am Law 100 firms in instituting a talent development program that elevates attorneys through three different tiers based on a set of core competencies rather than by class year.

The firm has revamped its associate model, doing away with associate classes based strictly on entry date in favor of three associate groups that will have formal training from the time they enter the firm until they are ready to be considered for partnership.

The program, which the firm calls "CareeRS," was nearly two years in the planning and is not being implemented in response to the economic downturn, the firm said. It is officially being rolled out for associates this week across all of the firm's offices. The second phase of the competency-based program will be geared toward support staff.

The goal of the program is to provide a road map for associates detailing the specific skills required at each of the newly created levels--junior, midlevel, and senior associates. Associates won't be able to move to the next tier until they have met those requirements. Compensation will be tied to those competencies by 2011 as well.

Reed Smith's new competency model covers four main areas--legal skills, citizenship, business skills, and clients--with a focus on nine core competencies within those areas. Those competencies include mastering fundamental legal skills, support of the firm's culture, demonstration of leadership and business skills, and understanding and effectively managing client needs.

Each of the three associate levels will be tied to an "academy." The firm will continue its "Reed Smith University," which already offers 140 in-house courses. The new program will expand that training with courses and other opportunities tailored to the nine core competencies.

Nicky Dingemans, Reed Smith's global chief people officer, said in a statement that the program will help in reducing associate attrition and create higher client satisfaction.

The difference here, she said in an interview, is that it is a global approach focused on creating strong business people as well as strong lawyers.


Read The Legal Intelligencer's full report for all the details on Reed Smith's new program. (Subscription required.)

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