Law firms: show us your human side
According to a new report, law firms wanting to recruit the best young lawyers must showcase how they make “the world a better place”.
You will hear no arguments from anyone at Black Letter Communications to the contrary.
The report, by legal consultancy Jomati, said the existing ESG (environmental, social, governance) framework would take on particular importance in the “build back better” post-pandemic world.
At the start of the pandemic we conducted our own research into how law firms had communicated their response to the pandemic. It showed that law firms could do a lot better.
When we released the research, I talked publicly about the importance of law firms showing their human side. Not least because the pandemic has seen so many of us place new value judgments on brands based on how they have behaved during the pandemic.
The way people choose the companies they want to give their business to is now being judged in a new way and this will apply to law firms too. Those that stood up, communicated effectively and contributed to the pandemic ‘battle’ will do well.
The Jomati report shows that it’s not just future clients need to think about too, but their new recruits.
The report says: “In the battle for talent, it is arguably advantageous for law firms to have a recruitment message which focuses on the firm’s role in helping to make the world a better place – rather than actively drawing attention to client projects that may attract the ire of environmental activists.”
Firms should think carefully how to position themselves on environmental grounds when recruiting, “particularly at the junior end” of the fee-earner market.
“Law firms, especially large commercial law firms, are not an obvious source of employment for those who wish to make the world a better place.”
In other words, put your money where your mouth is. Too few law firms do this, instead choosing to pay lip service to ‘doing good’ in a vain attempt to get some legal PR brownie points.
Yet, there is hope on the law firm horizon. Step forward Aria Grace Law. A dispersed commercial law firm that gives all of its profits to charity as part of its ethical commitment to share the wealth between clients, lawyers and society.
Aria Grace Law is unique in several ways. Its lawyers retain 90% of their fees – compared to 70% typically at other dispersed firms. After paying out its very low overheads, all profits go to charity. This is currently Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Its founder, former Norton Rose lawyer Lindsay Healy, says that its model boils down to spreading wealth, with clients, lawyers and society as one ecosystem. He wants to get away from the typical law firm triangle where the people at the top make the money and the people at the bottom do the work.
Aria Grace’s wider societal commitment extends to planting a tree for every transaction the firm completes and becoming the first law firm in the world to go through the Circulytics assessment designed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Companies including BASF, Ikea and Unilever helped to develop it.
The firm is also working towards becoming only the third law firm in the UK to secure B-Corporation certification. B-Corps balance purpose and profit, and are required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.
Another reason why I love Aria Grace Law (and there are many reasons), is because of its commitment to providing pro bono advice. Two very high-profile and worthy examples being their assistance to sub-postmasters appealing their criminal convictions as part of the Post Office Horizon scandal.
And as reported in The Times this week, their turning of the tables on IWG – the owner of Regus, the serviced office space people – in creating special-purpose vehicles for 26 small business owners, which means they cannot be pursued for failure to pay rent. A tactic long favoured by the office giant.
You see that’s the thing about good legal PR. It’s not just about saying you’re ‘innovative’ or ‘committed to giving back’, you have to show it, and Aria Grace do it in spades.
Most law firms lack the foresight to take the Aria Grace approach. But, doing good is good business. And while I don’t think the legal sector is in for a revolution just yet, I am sure we’ll start to see other firms take the Aria Grace approach over the coming years, which will go some way to achieving the “build back better” post-pandemic world envisioned in the Jomati report.