A report on corporate social responsibility initiatives from solicitors' firms, including the "Lions' Den" challenge, on which the final whistle has just blown

The focus on businesses balancing economic development with social and environmental ethics has never been greater. And Scotland’s law firms are rising to the challenge. Members of the profession have long contributed to the wider community, for instance through involvement in a local charity, or by carrying out transactions on a pro bono basis. Now formally termed corporate social responsibility, or CSR, solicitors are more involved than ever before.

Local potential

Will Relief Scotland was held throughout November, with solicitors across the country waiving their fees for drawing up wills in exchange for a donation to charity. The organiser, Oban solicitor Graeme Pagan, says it was a great success and a tribute to the solicitors who took part. Likewise, the Schools Law Project – which involves solicitors sponsoring and, sometimes, visiting schools to help pupils understand the law – continues to grow. Last month the Society’s past president David Preston visited his former school, Hillhead High School in Glasgow, for a question and answer session with pupils. To date, 200 firms have taken part.

Dragons into lions

Perhaps the highest profile recent initiatives saw a number of leading firms – Biggart Baillie, DLA Piper, HBJ Gateley Wareing, McGrigors and Tods Murray – taking part in the “Lions’ Den” challenge run by the Prince’s Trust Scotland. The competition was launched in May and ran to the end of November. It involved the participating firms each attempting to raise £20,000 for the Prince’s Trust. Supported by Duncan Bannatyne from television’s Dragons’ Den, a number of entrepreneurs provided the teams with a starting sum of £3,000. The firms responded by raising more than £310,000 through a series of events, several of which had an environmental theme. Biggart Baillie hosted Scotland’s first National Green Day, while DLA Piper launched “A Tree for Two Cities”, a planting scheme to help individuals reduce their carbon emissions.

Andrew Ley, the partner who is leading the HBJ Gateley Wareing scheme to sell carbon credits to businesses across Scotland, says: “The project is undoubtedly a challenge but is proving to be hugely enjoyable, particularly as it focuses on two subjects very close to our hearts – the Prince’s Trust and the environment. Preparing for the launch of the scheme certainly prompted numerous changes at HBJ Gateley Wareing, which will complete its own carbon audit and sign up to a carbon emission reduction bond.”

Other events included a children’s art competition launched by Harry Potter actress Katie Leung for Tods Murray, and McGrigors’ “Add a pound” campaign. Andrew Todd, from McGrigors, explains that a number of leading retailers have agreed to ask customers to donate a pound to the campaign. Todd says: “Our involvement will not only assist the Prince’s Trust in its tireless campaign to help Scotland’s young people, but also opens our eyes to the plight of those who don’t have access to such support. The response we have had from our colleagues and potential partners has been overwhelming.”

Attracting talent

Neil Stevenson, the Law Society of Scotland’s Head of Strategy, says it is encouraging that so many firms are recognising the many benefits of corporate social responsibility. He adds: “The Prince’s Trust initiative has been very visible, which is great because it flags up the valuable work that solicitors are doing at the end of their day job. But solicitors have always contributed to their communities – perhaps they have just been a bit reticent to talk about all the good work they do.”

“CSR certainly has many benefits. For instance, we are always trying to attract the best talent into the profession and CSR is something that increasingly interests young people. Recently, we have had examples of young people asking during interviews about a firm’s environmental or ethical policy. CSR initiatives can also help solicitors to improve their own skills. For instance, volunteering to help children with disabilities will give an insight into how to deal with a disabled client.”

Society-sponsored award

Stevenson explains that the Society is keen to highlight and support the contribution the profession makes to the wider community. That will be further developed when a portal highlighting the opportunities for solicitors to get involved in CSR work is this month opened on the Society’s website. Then, at next year’s Cuthbert Scottish Legal Awards, the Society will sponsor the CSR Firm of the Year Award. The judges will be looking for outstanding examples of corporate social responsibility strategy, with strong case studies and evidence of success.

Craig Watson is a freelance journalist specialising in legal affairs


The Lions’ Den challenge saw Tods Murray, DLA Piper, McGrigors, Biggart Baillie and HBJ Gateley Wareing develop fundraising initiatives for The Prince’s Trust Scotland. Each firm was mentored by one of the country’s leading entrepreneurs (or “Lions”), including Gio Benedetti (Wallace Cameron), Ken Ross (The Elphinstone Group), Jim McColl (Clyde Blowers), Gerard Eadie (CR Smith) and David Gordon (Windsave).

Among many events which took place between the 21 May launch and the close on 30 November:

Tods Murray ran a celebrity golf competition at Gleneagles, a children’s art competition launched by Harry Potter star Katie Leung, a luxury shopping event at Jaeger, dining with Martin Wishart, an art exhibition and auction, and a Christmas fayre on the top floor of their Edinburgh Quay office.

Biggart Baillie organised Scotland’s first National Green Day in Glasgow, teaming up with Glasgow City Council and wind turbine manufacturer Windsave to put on a major exhibition to provide the public with information about reducing carbon emissions and tackling climate change, plus an open day for schools and a gala dinner at Glasgow’s City Chambers.

The centrepiece of DLA Piper’s activity was its “Tree for Two Cities” scheme. The project’s website – www.atreefortwocities.com – offered advice to commuters on how to travel in a more environmentally friendly manner, and tips on how to use new technology to cut down on business travel. Individuals could also offset their carbon emissions by paying for trees to be planted: 1,716 trees were sold to Edinburgh-Glasgow commuters, in tandem with Central Scotland Forest Trust, offsetting up to 1.22 million kg of emissions.

HBJ Gateley Wareing organised a scheme to sell carbon credits to businesses throughout Scotland, powered by Carbon Accountable. Following the competition the firm plans to transfer the scheme to The Prince’s Trust. A celebratory black-tie ball was also held at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

McGrigors’ effort focused on an “add a pound” campaign. The firm recruited retailers, including Borders, French Connection and Dobbies, whose customers were asked to donate a pound to the cause during October and November. The campaign was supported by store staff and point-of-sale material.

“Lions’ Den” aimed to provide benefit to the firms taking part through their employees learning new skills, building business networks and developing their career prospects, becoming in the process a motivated, more entrepreneurial workforce and engaging in a highly significant and visible community project to benefit young people.

Set up in 1976, The Prince’s Trust Scotland offers practical and financial support to help change the lives of around 4,000 socially excluded young people each year.

With total proceeds of £102,131.30, Tods Murray raised the most money and were crowned “King of the Jungle” at a gala dinner at Ibrox Stadium on 3 December.

Peter Nicholson

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