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Reed Smith lawyers and support staff are going back to school. And not just any school. They’re going to Wharton. The executive education division of the famed business school at the University of Pennsylvania has entered into a partnership with the Pittsburgh-based law firm to form Reed Smith University (RSU), a project that includes a year-round curriculum to be taught firmwide across five distinct schools — the schools of leadership, business development, technology, professional support and law. Wharton officials said Reed Smith might be the first law firm to partake in the executive education program, which includes Fortune 100 participants such as Coca-Cola, Microsoft and IBM. It will kick off in October as some 30 Reed Smith practice managers, office managing partners and other firm leaders travel to Philadelphia to participate in a weeklong leadership course, which will be followed by another next May. The curriculum for that course will be designed by Wharton officials, but Reed Smith partner Michael Pollack, the firm’s director of strategic planning and a Wharton undergrad alum, said that the other four courses will be designed by both firm and school officials. Participation in those courses will not be mandatory but will be “strongly encouraged,” Pollack said, and will be available to lawyers and staff from all of the firm’s offices. Depending on the specific course, lawyers from far-off locales such as London and California can either participate through videoconference or will be flown in to Philadelphia. Pollack said Reed Smith officials talked to other business schools about entering such a partnership but decided that Wharton was the best fit due to its reputation and experience in putting together such programs. While he didn’t get specific, Pollack said Reed Smith would fork out “hundreds of thousands” of dollars just for the leadership coursework. Lynn Phillips, executive director of Wharton’s executive education program, said the school was intrigued by adding Reed Smith to its stable of corporate education projects because of its international presence — Reed Smith has nearly 1,000 lawyers with one of the largest London offices of any American law firm. “I just think it shows the growing need for business development and management skills in the legal profession,” Phillips said. “I think this shows that Reed Smith recognizes how businesses are oriented today and they want to make sure that its top talent has this perspective.” RSU courses will provide students with a range of credit options, including continuing legal education credits and non-lawyer continuing education credits for other professionals, including accountants and paralegal staff. Wharton will also provide speakers and materials for courses and participate in joint branding of programs and course materials. John F. Smith III, a partner in Reed Smith’s Philadelphia office, will serve as RSU’s first chancellor, coordinating all of the educational programming with Wharton officials and other Reed Smith partners. In an effort to evaluate the business development, technology, law and professional support courses, both Reed Smith and Wharton officials will analyze information before employing the use of subcontractors to gauge the performance of both teachers and students. Smith said there would be no grades doled out to participants. “When lawyers sign up for CLE classes, they go to the class, sign the forms and they’ve met their requirement,” Smith said. “We want to make sure we know what our people are getting out of the classes, so we’re going to bring people into the process to evaluate progressions.” Smith said the main purpose of RSU is to develop and support existing and emerging leaders across the firm. He said each course would have its own focus. The leadership program, for example, will emphasize developing and motivating leaders and future leaders; the business development course will provide instruction in managing and developing business relationships; the technology school will assist employees in gaining the full advantage of the firm’s technology investment; the professional support school will enhance the quality of support staff; and the law course will focus on expanding the legal skills of attorneys. In addition to hosting and teaching the leadership program and developing curriculum, Wharton’s role in the partnership includes professors serving as academic advisors and the provision of Internet-based services to support the academic programming. Deans from Reed Smith include Pittsburgh partners Arthur H. Stroyd and James J. Barnes for the law courses; Washington, D.C., office partner Elizabeth B. Carder-Thompson for business development; Pollack for leadership; Oakland, Calif., partner Mike C. Buckley for technology; and Oakland partner Terence N. Hawley for professional support.

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