On May 24, 2010, Russell Beck, Stephen B. Reed, and Steve Riden opened their own litigation firm based on principles of integrity, collaboration, and service. Since then, Beck Reed Riden LLP has emerged as a premier boutique law firm known for its expertise and thought leadership in the areas of restrictive covenants and trade secrets law, employment law, and business disputes.
In commemoration and celebration of the firm’s 10th anniversary, the founding partners sat for an interview with the firm’s first junior associate (now senior counsel), Hannah Joseph, to discuss the early days of Beck Reed Riden, the firm’s milestones, and where the firm is headed. Here is what they had to say:
Hannah Joseph: We can start with a softball question. What made you want to open your own firm?
Stephen D. Riden: Russell, do you want to take this one?
Russell Beck: Sure. I was working in the Boston office of a large international firm, which was a terrific experience. But, ultimately, I realized that my practice would work better in a smaller environment. I happened to be talking to Steve Riden, who put the bug in my ear about starting a firm, which he said he would do with me. I then reached out to my former colleague, Steve Reed, who was interested in a new opportunity. So, the three of us started Beck Reed Riden.
Stephen B. Reed: Russell and I had previously worked together, so I was excited when he first proposed the idea. At the time that he reached out, I also felt that I was ready to take on the challenge of starting a business. So, the timing was perfect.
HJ: So, Steve Riden, you put the bug in Russell’s ear?
SDR: I guess I must have! I remember that we had several conversations about how exciting it would be to hang our own shingle. Plus, Russell and I had worked together for nine years by then, give or take. We worked well together, and I knew that we both shared a client-centered approach to practicing law and a desire to promote a collegial working environment. I knew pretty early on in our conversations that I was on board.
HJ: I joined the firm in 2013, so I missed BRR’s early days. What were they like?
SBR: It was just the three of us in a tight subleased space with a few established clients.
RB: We were a true start up! Back then, we were purely focused on efficiency, to get the firm up and running. We wanted to make sure that we were set up to maintain the same quality and effectiveness that clients had come to expect from us. We spent a lot of late nights mapping out how the firm would look.
SDR: That’s right. We were a complete bootstrap operation. It was also so exciting to build something from scratch: to figure out what we were as a law firm and exactly how we wanted to practice the law. We built the firm around a platform of efficiency. On top of practicing law, we spent a lot of time figuring out all the bits and pieces that go into running a business.
HJ: You have come a long way since then.
SDR: It’s incredible. We went from subleasing office space from another law firm to eventually having our own space with a thriving hive of activity and a roster of clients that I never would have dreamed of when we started out. And, when there’s no global pandemic, we still have lunch together every day.
SBR: We spent a lot of time on marketing efforts, which greatly helped us to grow our client base. Now we are nine attorneys plus support staff and, as Steve mentioned, we have a steady stream of challenging work.
RB: I would say that we’ve far exceeded our initial expectations for the firm.
HJ: Was there an “a-ha” moment when you knew that BRR might succeed?
SBR: I never doubted that BRR would succeed, so I’m not sure that there was an “a-ha” moment for me. When we were comfortable enough to leave our sublease “nest” and venture out into our own space – that was a particularly memorable milestone.
SDR: For me, the “a-ha” moment came after our first year of operation when we had grown our book of business enough to hire others to work with us. At the same time, we were continuing to get more and more work from an expanding client base.
RB: I’ve had a series of “a-ha” moments – “a-ha,” we survived our first year, “a-ha,” we can sustain incremental growth, “a-ha,” we will thrive as a boutique firm in Boston – which we have done now for a decade – and “a-ha,” our work with restrictive covenants and trade secrets has reached a national platform. I would say that some of my bigger “a-ha” moments were when our 50 State Noncompete Chart was cited by The Wall Street Journal, and then by The New York Times, and ultimately relied on by both the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Obama Administration. That’s when I felt like we’d really made it.
HJ: For readers who might be unfamiliar with our 50 State Noncompete Chart, it’s a comprehensive chart that tracks the noncompete laws of each state, and indicates – for each state – whether the state permits the use of noncompetes in the context of employment, which business interests are deemed protectable by noncompetes, the standard for analyzing the enforceability of a noncompete, whether the state exempts certain professions or industries from noncompetes, whether continued employment is sufficient consideration to support a noncompete, and whether the state is a reformation, “blue pencil,” or “red pencil” state.
RB: That’s exactly correct. I’m really proud of our 50-state chart. Nothing like it existed at the time we started putting it together. Now, we update it throughout the year. We have poured hundreds of hours into drafting and updating the chart and, in turn, it has helped to distinguish BRR as a leader in noncompete law nationally. We have also created a companion 50 State Trade Secrets Survey that provides a comparison of every state’s trade secret law and the federal trade secret law.
HJ: Speaking of accomplishments, what are you most proud of with respect to the firm?
SBR: Certainly Russell’s accomplishment in becoming a national thought leader on noncompetes and trade secrets. I’m also very proud of the fact that we’ve reached a high level of sophistication across all our practice areas, while maintaining a close working relationship with each of our clients, big and small. Our clients come to us knowing that we will provide fully customized solutions that take into consideration not only the legal issues at play, but also our clients’ individual goals and needs. Our approach is very practical, which is important.
SDR: I echo Steve’s sentiments. In addition, I’m very proud of the team that we have put together. We have this great team that combines senior attorneys, new lawyers, and staff at every experience level. Seeing new lawyers develop over the years is really gratifying and it speaks to the culture of mentorship that we have created at BRR.
HJ: I’m an example of that – I joined BRR right after law school and have grown up at the firm. I think we have a very strong culture of mentorship. In fact, we’re just about to launch a new internal training program designed to help junior associates develop practical skills and exercise best practices. Our culture of promoting open dialogue is one of the things I appreciate most about the firm – in addition to the many, many free snacks that we normally have on stock.
SDR: And because we don’t impose minimum billable hours requirements, we can set aside time to have those more general discussions that, in turn, inform our practice of law and ultimately lead to better work product. And, it’s true, we are usually very well-stocked in terms of snacks.
RB: I am also extremely proud of the environment that we have built at BRR. We have managed to do precisely what we set out to do: provide top quality legal work in an environment that has the closeness and cohesiveness of a family.
HJ: Would you say that these characteristics distinguish BRR from other law firms?
SDR: Certainly, at least with respect to our approach to minimum billable requirements. Because we don’t have minimum requirements, we are able to collaborate and work with efficiency. Our ethos is to get the work done, and to do it well – our steady stream of business and healthy appetite for being involved in the community ensures that we stay busy.
SBR: I completely agree.
RB: Me too.
HJ: So. We’ve made it 10 years. Congratulations! Where do you see BRR 10 years from now?
RB: These questions are hard. Probably largely the same as it is now, albeit a little larger. I always thought that somewhere between 10 and 20 attorneys is good for a firm’s long-term stability. We’re just about there, and I’d expect that we’ll continue to grow strategically, in ways that make sense. For instance, you won’t see us picking up a med-mal practice. We’re going to stay true to the areas in which we practice – trade secrets, restrictive covenants, employment, and complex business disputes – and possibly grow into areas that are complementary. We have also spent a good deal of effort making sure that we maintain a strong culture of collaboration and collegiality. So, any future growth will be a result of finding other like-minded people.
SBR: Hear, hear. I also expect that we will continue to elevate our profile as a national leader in restrictive covenants and trade secrets law.
SDR: As long as we get to continue doing what we are doing with a great team, I’ll be happy.
HJ: Good answers. Okay, last question. If you had only three words to describe BRR, what would they be? Mine are community-oriented, expert, and collaborative, so you can’t use those.
SBR: “Caring,” “dependable,” and “sophisticated.”
SDR: I’m also using “sophisticated.” Also, “lean” and “boutique.”
RB: I’ll also go with “sophisticated.” And “integrity” and “home.”
HJ: Congratulations on Beck Reed Riden’s 10th anniversary. We have come a long way and I can’t wait to see what the future holds in store. Thank you for your time today.
SBR: Thank you.
SDR: Thanks, Hannah.
Russell Beck is a litigation attorney with over 30 years of experience, nationally known for his work representing employees and employers (from Fortune 500 companies to “mom and pop” shops to individuals) in trade secret and noncompete matters. For the past decade, he has also taught the course, Trade Secrets and Restrictive Covenants, at Boston University School of Law. He was the lead advisor and drafter of the new Massachusetts noncompete law, and assisted several legislators with, and revised some of the language in, the new Massachusetts trade secrets law.
In 2016, he was invited to the White House to participate in the working group discussions that led to the development by the Obama Administration of a Call to Action on noncompetes. He authored the book, Trade Secrets Law for the Massachusetts Practitioner (1st ed. MCLE, Inc. 2019) (covering trade secrets nationally, with a focus on Massachusetts law), and the book, Negotiating, Drafting, and Enforcing Noncompetition Agreements and Related Restrictive Covenants (5th ed., MCLE, Inc. 2015) (covering Massachusetts noncompete law).
In addition, he created the widely-used 50 State Noncompete Survey (Employee Noncompetes, A State By State Survey) and 50 State Trade Secrets Comparison Chart (state and federal trade secrets acts compared to the UTSA), the former of which was relied upon by the United States Department of the Treasury Office of Economic Policy’s report, “Non-compete Contracts: Economic Effects and Policy Implications,” and by the White House in connection with the Call to Action and related report. He also monitors changes to noncompete and trade secrets laws around the country, as detailed on his award-winning blog, FairCompetitionLaw.com. In his free time, Russell enjoys photography with a focus on cityscapes. His favorite photographer is Ansel Adams, whose work he has seen on exhibition countless times.
Stephen B. Reed focuses on the defense of discrimination, retaliation, harassment, wrongful termination, wage and hour, and related claims. He has successfully litigated and tried cases in state and federal court, as well as before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the Maine Human Rights Commission, the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A large portion of Steve’s practice involves advising employers on issues involving the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and other state and federal employment statutes that affect the employment relationship on a daily basis.
Steve has reviewed and drafted countless employment and workplace policies since beginning his practice in 1992. Steve also advises clients on unfair competition issues, including the use and enforceability of noncompete, nonsolicitation, and nondisclosure agreements. He has successfully litigated cases on behalf of both employers and employees to either enforce or overcome such agreements. Steve also has extensive experience in traditional labor law. He has tried cases before the National Labor Relations Board and arbitrated numerous cases on behalf of employers. He has counseled employers on union avoidance issues and represented management at the collective bargaining table.
Steve has lectured and written on employment law subjects for continuing legal education and various business organizations. He is a frequent panelist on employment law issues at Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education. He was a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association subcommittee responsible for drafting the MCAD Sexual Harassment Guidelines. In addition to his family, Steve is passionate about international travel, wake surfing, and the musical Hamilton, which he has seen five times … so far.
Stephen D. Riden has extensive experience litigating business disputes involving breach of contract, fraud, unfair competition, trade secrets, and noncompete agreements. He has represented companies in a variety of governmental investigations. Steve also has substantial experience representing owners involved in intra-corporate disputes, including shareholder litigation and close-corporation control matters. Steve was selected as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in New England and Top 100 Lawyers in Massachusetts.
Steve is the President of the Board of Directors for the Boston College Law School Alumni Association. He is also the current Chair of the Board of Editors for the Boston Bar Journal. Previously, Steve was the Co-Chair of the Boston Bar Association’s Business and Commercial Litigation Section. Steve is the author of the first chapter in the book Damages, Interest, and Attorney Fees in Massachusetts Litigation. The chapter, supplemented in 2019, is titled “General Law of Damages in Massachusetts.” Steve is originally from the Lone Star State, and has perfected the art of making Texas Nachos.
Hannah Joseph is Senior Counsel at Beck Reed Riden LLP, where she focuses her practice on complex commercial litigation. Specializing in the areas of trade secrets law, restrictive covenants, employee mobility, and unfair competition, she regularly litigates issues concerning the use and enforceability of noncompetition, nonsolicitation, and nondisclosure agreements, and counsels employers and employees regarding the same. Hannah has been named Super Lawyers’ Rising Star in Massachusetts consecutively since 2016.
In 2015, she pioneered the Boston Bar Association’s Intellectual Property Basics Workshop Series (a program that continues today). Hannah regularly publishes and speaks on the topics of intellectual property law and restrictive covenants, including at the American Intellectual Property Law Association, Boston Bar Association, and Practising Law Institute. In addition, Hannah co-teaches the course Trade Secrets and Restrictive Covenants at Boston University School of Law alongside Russell Beck. Hannah graduated from Binghamton University in 2007 and Boston College Law School in 2013. When there is not a global pandemic, Hannah is an avid traveler and most recently visited Prague and Budapest.
Beck Reed Riden LLP is Boston’s innovative litigation boutique. Our lawyers have years of experience working with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and individuals. We focus on business litigation and employment. We are experienced litigators and counselors, helping our clients as business partners to resolve issues and develop strategies that best meet our clients’ legal and business needs – before, during, and after litigation. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help you. Read more about us, the types of matters we handle, and what we can do for you here.