There are levels of deprivation in areas of the North East that should be unacceptable in 21st century Britain. As a firm that is owned by people, the majority of whom were born in the North East, we want to help tackle that situation. As a successful law firm we also feel strongly that we cannot view our business success in isolation from the broader North East community where we all live.
The main challenge for us is that, as an exclusively corporate law firm, we simply don’t have the skills to tackle the hard social issues such as inadequate housing, domestic violence, debt and child poverty. However, we hope that the corporate responsibility programme that we have shaped over the last decade still makes a worthwhile contribution.
Broadly, it comprises:
1. Our charitable fund to which we annually donate 1% of the firm’s profits and which then makes grants to local charities in which people in the firm or members of their families have an interest or involvement. We have donated in excess of £350,000 to that fund over the last decade.
2. Unpaid legal assistance to help charities in areas where we have appropriate expertise, e.g. on property, employment, commercial or governance issues and over the last 12 months the advice that we have provided has a value in excess of £100,000.
3. The encouragement of volunteering so that everyone in the firm is actively encouraged to take up voluntary positions as trustees of charities or governors of local schools or, indeed, anything else where their time is of some value to a community enterprise. As part of this programme, everyone in the firm is entitled to at least two days paid leave per annum for community activities.
4. The annual selection of a charity of the year by a voting process across the whole firm which we then support by a wide variety of fundraising activities.
So what has all this achieved?
First, there is no doubt that we have assisted a huge number of charities and other voluntary organisations, some of which would not have survived but for our support.
The use of our charitable fund to make donations to projects in which people in the firm or their families have an interest has undoubtedly increased employee engagement. In our last engagement survey 97% of people said that they were proud to work for the firm and each of them referred to our CR activities as a reason for that pride.
It has helped in our recruitment and there is no doubt that it is something which young lawyers take into account when deciding the type of firm for which they would like to work.
It has also helped with our continuing success as a major regional law firm. We have won a variety of national and local awards for our CR activities and these have all helped to enhance the firm’s reputation and its standing within the business community upon which we are dependant.
Hugh Welch is Senior Partner at Muckle LLP. He has over 30 years’ experience as a corporate lawyer in the private and public company sectors and has a particular interest in the development of philanthropy in the UK.