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In a few years’ time, Reed Smith hopes to be the first major law firm staffed entirely by alumni of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Not that the 1,000-lawyer firm is shedding its JDs for MBAs. But it is committing itself to specialized management education for lawyers by partnering with one of the nation’s most prestigious business schools. The jointly developed executive education program will be known as Reed Smith University and will include five schools, covering leadership, business development, technology, professional support and continuing legal education. John F. Smith, the Philadelphia-based partner who will serve as the first chancellor for the “university,” said the firm plans to develop courses for all of its employees, including lawyers, secretaries, paralegals and other staff. He said the program is a response to the business challenges the Pittsburgh-based firm had increasingly confronted as it has grown rapidly through acquisition in recent years. “That growth prompted a great deal of thinking here about how we cultivate the kind of leadership skills we need,” Smith said. The program, which Smith said had a “six-figure” annual budget, will begin in the fall with a one-week, on-campus course for more than 30 of the firm’s senior partners, including practice leaders and office heads. Michael Pollack, another Philadelphia partner and the firm’s director of strategic planning, will serve as dean of the firm’s School of Leadership. He said the fall courses will address topics including strategic thinking and managing across practice groups. He said partners will be given tools to evaluate their own leadership skills and styles. Though the fall leadership courses will take place on-campus, the firm is still working out details of later courses, including where they will take place. Reed Smith held discussions with many other top business schools, including Harvard, Stanford and Columbia. All were interested in pursuing a program with a law firm, Pollack said, but Wharton provided the best program for his firm. “All the business schools were pretty excited,” he said. “They feel law firms have not availed themselves of these opportunities.” William Dunworth, the relationship manager at Wharton for Reed Smith, said a number of law firms have talked to the business school in the past, but Reed Smith was the first to go ahead with a program. “This could be the start of a trend,” he said. Wharton provides custom educational programs to about 100 companies, mostly large corporations. Lynn Phillips, the senior director of executive education at Wharton, said a law firm would present new challenges but the Wharton faculty would also draw on its experience in other professional services industries. “Law firms are seeing the same trend as major corporations,” she said, “They’re seeing the need to boost the managerial side of what people do.” How to imbue lawyers with a greater understanding of the business needs of their firms as well as their clients has been a major challenge for rapidly expanding firms in recent years. Reed Smith, like many other firms, already hires a large number of non-lawyer professional managers to head its administrative departments. Many firms have made extensive use of outside consultants to address business development issues. Though Reed Smith may be the first U.S. firm to have embarked on an educational program, London’s Clifford Chance has sponsored a research and training program for lawyers and law firm staff at Oxford University’s Said Business School. Editor’s note: For more details on the Reed Smith-Wharton plans, see The Legal Intelligencer article Reed Smith Lawyers Head Back to School.

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