Private practice is not all about profits and competition. Lawyers undertake pro bono work to share their expertise free of charge as a social good, and similar firms enshrine CSR goals in order to give back to the wider community. Over to our Experts panel…
What is Corporate Social Responsibility?
At Norton Rose Fulbright, Corporate Social Responsibility encompasses many areas. Our London corporate responsibility programme focuses on diversity and inclusion, pro bono and volunteering, sustainability, charitable activities, the Norton Rose Fulbright Sail the World Challenge and the anti-bribery and corruption standard. Thus, there are many opportunities for the firm to give back to the community around us while giving our employees the opportunity to take an active role in society.
As part of a global legal practice, we believe we have a responsibility to promote global sustainability and to contribute to the development of our local communities. Therefore, we place particular emphasis on conducting our business in a sustainable way.
We also participate in a range of charitable and pro bono programmes aimed at benefiting those in the global and local community who are vulnerable and in need of our support.
In London, we have a strong relationship with the charity Barretstown, which provides a programme of therapeutic recreation for children with cancer, leukaemia and other serious illnesses. We paint cottages and plant trees in preparation for their summer camp and advise them on property and other legal issues. We also participate in local programmes. For example, trainees volunteer at legal advice centres in Croydon and Tower Hamlets and all employees can volunteer to provide teaching assistance to local schools in Southwark.
Norton Rose Fulbright
Corporate Social Responsibility is a fundamental part of measuring success of firms and also from an applicants' perspective, this says a lot about the culture of firms regarding their strategy and focus. CSR is assessing the difference a firm makes to the lives of the people in our community - internally and externally - and beyond. All firms have different focuses whether that be: environment; legal pro bono; charity and / or the arts.
For legal firms, pro bono is an important focus as lawyers have a responsibility to ensure legal advice is accessible to all where it may not normally be obtainable.
It only takes a small amount of each individual's time for firms to make a great impact as a community so it is important to work for an organisation that has a strategy to ensure time is spent on such promoting activities.
Why do law firms have CSR programmes?
As a leading global law firm we have the capability to make a positive impact in all spheres of our operations. Delivering on this commitment is key to achieving our firm's ambitions. It impacts upon all that we do: working with our clients to deliver consistently outstanding legal services; our role as a thought leader in the broader legal and business communities and striving for workplace, environmental and social sustainability.
We believe that by setting ourselves high professional and ethical standards and acting responsible in our dealings with our clients, our staff and the wider communities of which we are a part makes us a better law firm, a better employer and a better corporate citizen.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is integrated within our firm strategy and our approach to managing our global firm and it means being the best organisation we can be. It is a reflection of our values in action; a core component of our culture.
Trainees have always been active and supportive of our wider CSR programme and in 2011 we launched the Trainee CSR Committee. The Committee, which has representation from all intakes, manages, organises, develops and implements a range of initiatives/activities.
Why do lawyers conduct pro bono work?
The majority of law firms are embracing Corporate Social Responsibility. Well-structured CSR programmes encompass community involvement, workplace, marketplace and environmental activities. These elements should work together in a complementary way, for example, supporting a particular non-profit/charity can be enhanced by combining pro bono legal support with charitable fund raising and volunteering.
It is very easy for firms to opt to spend limited time doing community work rather than providing pro bono legal assistance. However, as lawyers we are in a privileged position to provide legal advice and representation. In an age of austerity there is a growing unmet need for pro bono legal support from disadvantaged and marginalised groups/individuals. Lawyers have the capacity to assist organisations/people in a meaningful way to access justice, and potentially change lives.
The establishment of pro bono projects and initiatives will involve both time and financial investment. pro bono not only provides benefits for the client and/or the community, investment in pro bono may deliver business benefits in terms of improved legal staff recruitment and retention (staff want “to give back”), staff engagement, broader professional experience and a practical demonstration of the firm’s ethos and culture. In short undertaking pro bono is a win for those who need to access justice and for those who can help deliver it!