There’s no such thing as a free lunch – or so the saying goes. But this week, law firms across the UK have been celebrating the work they do as part of Pro Bono Week.
Naturally, pro bono is Latin because, let’s be honest, lawyers love to chuck in a bit of Latin every so often. Actually, very often if we’re being really honest.
Doing work ‘for good’, which is of course how the phrase translates into English, also means doing it for free so it’s no small thing for law firms large or small to engage in. It’s also a brilliant way to pay back into the communities they serve and help those who can’t afford the standard legal rates.
But it’s not just law firms whose social conscience enables them to help people, organisations and even, on occasion, smaller businesses for free.
I believe setting aside a reasonable amount of time each year to enable MD Communications to support good causes on a pro bono basis is important – and that’s why we’ve done that every year since the business was established in 2010, and will continue to do so.
It’s always fantastic to say yes to an organisation that just needs some strategic communications advice, marketing or social media support or even, sadly, crisis communications work, to help them get through a sticky period and protect their reputation.
It’s even better when you can offer support before someone even asks for it – which we’ve been able to do on a few occasions thankfully.
Some of the organisations we’ve been able to help are in the professional services sector, like the 50-50 by 2030 campaign we helped the International Bar Association launch successfully on International Women’s Day in March, which aims to achieve gender parity at senior levels of private practice, in-house positions, the public sector and the judiciary.
We have also been proud to support the Interlaw Diversity Forum, which is working to foster inclusion for all diverse, socially mobile, and underrepresented talent working in the legal sector – aiming to level the playing field to enable people from all backgrounds to have successful legal careers.
Other pro bono projects have taken us outside the legal sector. From helping to launch the Parents Promise to promote more positive parenting for children when relationships break down to supporting Only Mums & Dads in ensuring more information is available to help those families during separation or divorce.
And sometimes, it’s just good to help organisations with a connection a little closer to home, including SEND Kids, which is a cause close to my heart.
The power of purpose
‘Purpose’ is sometimes an over-used phrase these days but when it comes to something like pro bono, it really does go to the heart of what our organisation is and what it wants to be.
The legal sector has a challenging reputation at the best of times. Promoting the superb, often ground-breaking work that lawyers do all year round without charging a penny is one way to keep on addressing that.
And it’s also a great way to showcase the kind of organisation you are to work for. Who doesn’t want the chance to do some good and make a difference every so often? Indeed, if people don’t want to do that, do you really want to work with them anyway?
The pandemic has brought people closer together. It’s shown us the true value of life and we’ve also seen how it’s impacted some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
COP26 and the climate emergency has also shown that it’s time to work together – and showcase the best of human nature and the best of our sector.
For me, and for many of my colleagues, there’s little better than the feeling of helping those who otherwise wouldn’t get the help they need. I wish we could do more but we’ll carry on doing what we can, when we can.