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Tiffany Renee Thomas

Posted By CMCP, Thursday, March 27, 2014
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Tiffany Renee Thomas, Partner | Commercial Litigation Group
Northern California Reed Smith

by Mala Sahai, Alchemy IP & Tech Law

Very few six-year-olds arrive at the decision to practice law. But Tiffany did. While the other children around her gave future career options little more than a fleeting thought, Tiffany was beginning a long and steadfast journey to pursue her calling.

Fast forward and now Tiffany Renee Thomas joins the partnership ranks at Reed Smith LLP as a member of the firm's Commercial Litigation Group. Counseling and representing companies on all aspects of employment law, Tiffany specializes in cases involving claims of discrimination, harassment, defamation, wrongful termination, and workplace violence as well as actions involving leave and accommodations issues. Tiffany has conducted dozens of CLEs and management training seminars on proper workplace behavior, discrimination and harassment, social media in the workplace, and bias. Tiffany's professional work has garnered her annual recognition in San Francisco Magazine's Top Women Attorneys in Northern California feature and Super Lawyers Magazine's California Rising Stars list since 2012.

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Tiffany's interest in law took hold when she first saw her mother in action as a union representative for the employees of the Social Security Administration. Tiffany was completely in awe of the command that her mother had of the room while leading a training of other union representatives which including a mock administrative law proceeding. She carefully observed her mother training others on how to put together a case. The concepts of strategic thinking, interacting with different people, and the art of persuasion immediately clicked with Tiffany's personality. At the end of the training, Tiffany told her mother "I want to be like you when I grow up!" to which her mother responded "No, you want to be a lawyer." Taking her mother's words to heart, Tiffany dressed up as a lawyer for her very first Career Day at school. By high school, she was participating in—and winning—mock trial competitions.

After graduating from Stanford University with a bachelor's degree in political science, Tiffany earned her law degree at Boalt Hall School of Law (Berkeley Law). During law school, she spent her summers at Reed Smith in San Francisco. Upon graduating, she rejoined the firm and has been there ever since. Tiffany credits her longevity at the firm to amazing mentors, interesting and challenging work, a robust diversity and inclusion program, and the pleasure of being surrounded by people who are both smart and funny.

When asked for general advice for companies operating in today's climate, Tiffany emphasizes that particular attention should be paid to issues arising under the Family Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act. She encourages employers to be creative and flexible in their approach to the interactive processes and to resist the knee jerk reaction to say "no" in favor of a common-sense evaluation of whether any request is in fact reasonable in light of the circumstances. She also suggests that those engaged in the process be well-trained, proactive, and meticulous with documentation. Tiffany's philosophy is that if there is any question about whether an employee can be accommodated, legal should be involved early in the process because it is easier and more cost effective to accommodate than to litigate.

Tiffany's community involvement reflects her passion for practicing law, and has further honed and expanded her legal skill set. In her pro bono practice, she helps non-profit organizations by performing services that range from defending organizations in California Labor Commission proceedings to reviewing and updating employee handbooks. Tiffany also represented a pro bono client in a privacy act case against three government agencies for which the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in November 2011.

Recognized in 2013 as an honoree on the Lawyers of Color, Inc. Hotlist and recipient of the Minority Bar Coalition Unity Award, Tiffany is the newly elected president of Black Women Lawyers Association of Northern California (BWLNC). In addition to sustaining the momentum of BWLNC's success in broadening programming and increasing collaborative efforts with other organizations, her primary goal this year is to embark on a year-long project to explore, preserve, and celebrate BWLNC's rich history. Tiffany is excited to lead BWLNC members in learning more about their organization's past in order to collectively draw inspiration for the future.

Tiffany's drive, contributions, and achievements make her a wonderful role model to many different people. As for her advice to those who wish to follow in her footsteps, Tiffany proffers: (1) it is never too early to start mapping out your career; (2) it is important to honestly reflect on what one wants in a career and in life, and to understand their interplay; and (3) there is great value in forming and maintaining genuine relationships, not for some perceived end goal, but rather to embrace a process in which to learn, grow, and gain perspective. Six-year-old Tiffany would probably concur.

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