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The importance of firms giving back

A good workplace giving program supports charities that staff are interested in and invested in, according to Clayton Utz.

user iconLauren Croft 21 October 2021 Big Law
The importance of firms giving back
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This year, Clayton Utz was again featured as one of Australia’s top 40 best workplaces to give back after raising $720,693 in grants for the Clayton Utz Foundation on top of $135,000 raised by the firm’s staff.

Marcus Ross, community and sustainability national manager, said he took pride in the firm’s culture of giving, particularly throughout the pandemic.

“Throughout the pandemic, our people have been as generous as they always have been, and in some ways, even more so. For example, we’ve been participating in the STEPtember challenge for Cerebral Palsy Alliance for about ten years, and this year, we raised the most money we’ve ever raised.


“We have built long-term relationships with our 20-plus community partners over many years (some relationships go back 20 years), and so our people are very invested in supporting these organisations,” he said.

“Because of the strength of our relationships, we’ve also been able to have very open conversations with our community partners about how and where we can have the most impact.

“That’s been particularly important during the pandemic, when many of our partners – particularly those that rely heavily on volunteering – had to pivot in how they delivered their services. We, in turn, shifted our response – so, for example, we did virtual fundraising and co-ordinated volunteering online, as well as shifting grant funding to meet specific needs,” Mr Ross added.

Each of the six Clayton Utz offices has relationships with different organisations: in Brisbane, a key community partner is Women’s Legal Service, and in Melbourne, they have strong relationships with FareShare and Fitted for Work. In Perth, Wirrpanda Foundation is one of the organisations they support.

“We have developed relationships with charities and not-for-profits that address disadvantages and facilitate access to justice, supported by our people – through our Community Connect committees. These relationships have grown over time, and there are a number of ways Clayton Utz provides support,” Mr Ross added.

“These include grants from the Clayton Utz Foundation, volunteering, fundraising, drives (for clothing, books, food, and gifts), and in-kind, such as the use of office space to hold meetings, events, and briefings.”

The firm also provides grants to charities Clayton Utz staff volunteer with or fundraise for on their own time. Mr Ross said that volunteering was a key aspect of their “giving back” initiatives.

“Pro bono legal work is a fundamental part of Clayton Utz, and that’s a way for our lawyers to make a difference – but not all of our people are lawyers. Through our Community Connect program, we’re giving everyone at the firm the opportunity to get involved,” he added.

“We also give everyone one day paid community leave per year that can be taken in blocks, meaning they can participate in different volunteering opportunities throughout the year.”

The firm also has a Workplace Giving program, which Mr Ross said works on a model of “collective philanthropy”, wherein staff can choose to have as little as $2 come out of their pay to go to the Clayton Utz Foundation.

“The collective funds enable the Clayton Utz Foundation to make financial grants to our community partners. Since 2003, the foundation has granted over $12.5 million to over 280 organisations, showing the impact of this model.

“With our office fundraising, we find that a little bit of competition, particularly between offices, is a great motivator! However, it is the connection with charities that is the biggest incentive. We regularly communicate to our people about the impact of our community activities, including inviting representatives from our community partners to talk about their work and how our support is helping,” he said.

“For us, it’s about the quality of our community relationships and making sure whatever we’re doing by way of support is having a tangible impact.”