Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

As law firms continue to invest in new approaches to boost diversity and inclusion among partners and associates, Reed Smith is expanding its internal efforts to include all administrative staff across the firm.

Chief diversity officer John Iino announced the change Thursday at a firm summit on diversity issues being held in Washington, D.C. He said affinity groups—created previously to promote the interests of lawyer talent within the firm—would now be open to all employees.

“We believe that mentorship, sponsorship, recruiting, and retention really cut across every facet of the firm, and this shouldn’t be limited to our attorneys,” Los Angeles-based Iino told The American Lawyer ahead of his speech.

The firm’s affinity groups will now be known as business inclusion groups and will be led by partners and associates as well as administrative liaisons. Inside the groups—for African-American; Asian-American; Hispanic; LGBT+; disabled; multicultural; and military veteran lawyers and staff—members will share common programming and goals, including recruitment, development and retention of diverse personnel. 

While other law firms have limited diversity programming incorporating staff, Reed Smith is one of the first to integrate support staff into an organized, firmwide initiative. But companywide diversity efforts are commonplace in the corporate world—and it was Reed Smith’s clients that helped prompt the 1,550-lawyer firm to evaluate its approach. 

“As I talked to some of the legal departments [and] their legal departments, diversity programs and committees are a part of a broader diversity and inclusion program for all employees,” Iino said. “So we said, why aren’t law firms doing this?”

Reed Smith introduced the new integrated groups in its London office several years ago, but had not expanded the program to the firm’s other international and U.S. offices—including its founding Pittsburgh office—until now.

“We present ourselves to our clients and to the marketplace as a team of 3,000 people,” said Nick Bagiatis, the firm’s Pittsburgh-based chief operating officer. “And we are from an administrative staff perspective more and more ingrained into business and the delivery of legal services than ever before.”

In addition to the expanded inclusion groups, Reed Smith, which rose from No. 120 on the 2017 Diversity Scorecard rankings to No. 82 this year, plans on conducting an inclusion survey for all employees at the firm.

“[We’ve] seen studies over and over again that show that diverse teams, inclusive teams, lead to better results,” Iino said. “[But] it’s not just our lawyers that are delivering and working on things every day, it’s our entire team.”

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