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Strategic Corporate social responsibility and law firms

Corporate social responsibility is the best strategic as well as financial path that most business can follow says Jeffery Hollender, CEO of Seventh Generation. The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has grown from being perceived as a stumbling block to profit and returns to a strategy applicable to all businesses alike. Companies have now woken up to the fact that their impact on various social, economic and environmental concerns can substantially reflect in their relationships with investors, employees and customers, hence in recent years more and more companies have become CSR complaint. All in all, CSR has now suddenly become good for businesses. Although a law firms need not worry much about the impact it has on the environment and economic spheres the impact they have on the social sector is immense. And if not the law firms themselves their client base most often do contribute substantially to the degradation in all these spheres. It is in these circumstances that CSR becomes most relevant to law firms around the world. Modern management measures which form part of CSR compliance calls for greater transparency and protection of the legitimate interests of staff at all levels, law firms are no exception; greater associate partner interaction increases the stakeholder feeling in associate and staff and can yield better results for a law firm. In addition to active pro bono work for people with limited means law firms should also have effective policies in place to ensure that their professional as well as support staff enjoy gender equality and job satisfaction. Major multinational companies especially those facing the risk of globalisation consider CSR not as a cost but as an investment, a long term strategy minimising risks linked to uncertainty and it is high time law firms followed suit, especially so, with the entry of foreign law firms looking very imminent. It is indisputable that consumers are genuinely interested in the overall way a company manages itself and fulfils its social responsibilities. Even the government takes adequate note of the social conduct of a company and provides several incentives to encourage others to follow suit. Enhanced reputation among the public and among fellow competitors would most definitely increase a firms capability to attract clients and partners. Besides, the very

concept of Socially Responsible Law Firms would to an extent help reducing the otherwise popular ill reputation attached to the profession. The business of law firms both litigation and corporate is very competitive. With major law schools of the country churning thousands of law graduates every year and law firms offering big bucks to pick the best legal minds, employee quality and loyalty are indispensable. According to a recent survey nearly 90 per cent of job-seekers have a strong preference for organisations with sound ethical and environmental policies, and are ready to work for them even on a lesser role or a lower salary. To quote Kelly Services Managing Director Kamal Karnath Employees take pride not only in what they do while at work, but in what their organisation stands for and how it is perceived by the entire community. Steps like improved working conditions and employee participation in decision making can go a long way in ensuring better productivity. With employers everywhere struggling to enforce noncompetition, non-solicitation, and non-disclosure clauses, employee loyalty would be a blessing to any law firm. Furthermore CSR initiatives would give a fillip to the firms relation with the local community and society at large. Establishing relationships with the local community, employees, educational and voluntary institutions is critical for a good law firm. A structured, more strategic approach towards CSR can do wonders for both the firm and society. Corporate Social Responsibility has evolved from being a philanthropists tool to become one of the best tools in marketing. Irrespective of the kind of business and the market conditions for it, no business would survive without a desirable social reputation. In the case of lawyers and law firms who generate business form the masses at large; a desirable reputation is all the more indispensable. Law firms play a major role in opinion forming in the society and are at all times a cross section of the intelligentsia of the society, and should actually be the pioneers in promoting all forms of corporate social responsibility. The fact that such measures will also be extremely beneficial for the firm and its activities is only an added advantage for a noble cause.