Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an increasingly hot topic in the political and business community. It doesn’t appear to be such a major issue in the legal community, however. Law firms are not big polluters: they don’t tend to be in the market for products that might be made in sweatshops, while their employees are white-collar and generally well paid. But law firms should still worry about or invest in CSR for two simple reasons: first, the business case for investing in CSR is overwhelming; and second, the environmental case is seemingly unanswerable.

The term CSR is a recent addition to the business dictionary, but not a new idea. Joseph Rowntree was putting CSR principles into practice in the 19th century. In its original form, it centred on being an ethical employer, but in recent years it has developed into a set of recognisable principles governing how a business should treat its ‘stakeholders’ – employees, customers, suppliers and the local community.

Regardless, it must be pointed out that there are plenty of policies and practices through which law firms can address issues in order to promote CSR in their daily business. The main example in law firms is Pro-Bono work, where lawyers volunteer to work on a case without receiving any remuneration, a practice that started as early as the 9th Century in Great Britain. Students at law schools are also provided with the opportunity to carry out pro-bono work, which shows the value which it has: pro-bono increases firm morale and promotes business development for the firm as well as retain more productive lawyers. Thus, it is beneficial for law firms to consider pro-bono work if it is to remain competitive on the global market.