IT’S NOT just Australian law firms that are facing the corporate social responsibility wall, Lawyers Weekly has learned. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has published its latest CSR report, which paints a picture of client demand for proper CSR systems in their law firms.
Introducing the report, joint senior partners Konstantin Mettenheimer and Guy Morton wrote: “We aim to be a leader among the international law firms in the field of corporate social responsibility.”
For many firms in Europe, CSR is becoming an essential factor in winning and retaining clients. As well, some argue it adds greatly to a firm’s ability to pitch for new work.
Freshfields’ report includes a section on ethics, and predominantly mirrors the solicitors’ conduct rules and anti-money laundering regulations. The rules would “prevent the acceptance of clients or mandates that might damage our standing in the community”, the report states.
Freshfields has now reduced its global per capita greenhouse emissions by 2.5 per cent and is certified as carbon neutral. This places the firm in a an excellent position to topple competition when it comes to marketing and pitching for work.
This does come at a cost for the firm, however. According to the UK’s The Lawyer magazine, Freshfields’ move to offset its carbon footprint could cost the partnership around £200,000, an estimate reached at around £10 per tonne of carbon. As the magazine points out, this equates to each equity partner handing over about £500 per year if each of the 443 equity partners absorbed the bill. Average profit per equity partner at Freshfields is estimated at about £1 million.
When it comes to CSR at the firm, the UK and US lead the field with respect to annual pro bono hours per staff member. Asia, the Middle East and Continental Europe lag far behind. But the firm’s US office is by far the largest greenhouse polluter, producing about four times the carbon dioxide-equivalent gases for employee than the UK.