Microsoft announces the winner of the first UK law firm diversity programme

Reed Smith has been awarded both the top performer and most innovative law firm award in Microsoft’s inaugural UK law firm diversity programme (LFDP), an incentive-based programme which it has run in the United States since 2008.

The number of hours that Reed Smith lawyers from diverse backgrounds spent on Microsoft matters in the past year has increased by 12.5 percentage points to 56.9%, while overall diversity on its management committee has increased by 20 percentage points to 100%. Microsoft said that Reed Smith is “making great progress in diverse representation among its partners, with more than 43% diversity. Reed Smith is making critical achievements in diverse representation within its firm and the legal industry.”

The international law firm won the most innovative UK law firm award by a unanimous vote of the Microsoft strategic firms’ peers.

Microsoft launched the UK awards because despite its own progress in increasing attorney diversity, statistics from the Solicitors Regulation Authority show that while more than half of solicitors in the UK are now women, only 29% are achieving partner in firms with over 50 partners. Similarly, these larger law firms have the lowest proportion of BAME partners: only 8% with no change since 2017 (and the majority of that 8% being Asian, with extremely low Black representation). A Microsoft blog announcing Reed Smith’s win asked: “If the partnership and leadership in larger full service law firms do not reflect society, then how are we to make real progress on fostering diversity in the legal profession where diverse attorneys do not see themselves reflected and included in their organisations’ leadership?” It added: “The more we learn about diversity, the more we understand the vital role that inclusion plays.”

Initiatives that helped Reed Smith to gain this double recognition include:

Women’s Initiative Network 

Reed Smith launched a global Women’s Initiative Network that aims to effectively develop, reward, engage and attract female lawyers. The network’s PipelineRS programme helps female lawyers to position themselves for promotion to counsel and partner. Reed Smith also offers advice and information on what it takes to develop and own a practice, and helps women find the tools and resources they need to be successful. Reed Smith has also launched a programme to support parents returning from the birth of a child, called ReturnRS. 

Wellbeing and Lifestyle 

Reed Smith has also launched numerous other programmes. These include a Mental Health Task Force to offer help and support to staff and promote psychological wellbeing, a vendor programme to identify and quantify the diversity of suppliers who do business for the firm, an inclusion group called PRISM that champions inclusion, diversity and LGBT+ engagement, and a LEADRS group that nurtures talent and celebrates the impact made by staff with disabilities.