Increasingly, businesses are looking for ways in which they can use their skills to support their local community. However, it is important that initiatives work for all those involved.
Lawyers in Schools provides a robust framework so that a group of lawyers can build a productive relationship with a local school, offer a service of real benefit, and gain some reward in return.
Even when you are convinced that this programme is what you are looking for, you will probably need to convince senior management, or at least some other purse string holders, of its value. We have listed below some of the key business case points to assist you with this:
- Improving public legal education (PLE) & legal capability
- Promoting a career in law
- Skills-based volunteering
- Staff development & CPD
- Staff retention & recruitment
- Raising your profile
- Time off policy
Improving public legal education (PLE) & legal capability
Lawyers in Schools aims to develop young people’s understanding of the law so that they can know their rights, understand their responsibilities, and confidently navigate their way through the legal system knowing when and where to ask for help and further advice. For more information about public legal education, you can visit the Law for Life website (www.lawforlife.org.uk).
The programme contributes directly to the legal elements of the Citizenship curriculum, which has been part of the National Curriculum since 2002. This area of the curriculum can be challenging for teachers to deliver confidently or effectively, as they may not have much training or experience with this.
Promoting a career in law
The opportunity for young people (and their teachers) to meet lawyers and discuss current and relevant issues with them is very valuable. Many of the young people taking part in the programme may not have the opportunity to meet and talk with a lawyer in a positive setting. So this is a great opportunity for them to learn more about the world of work and also to find out more about a career in law.
Many businesses now recognise the valuable contribution they can make to their local communities and feel they have a responsibility to ‘give something back’ to the local area.
It is increasingly popular for businesses to offer pro bono services, run reading schemes at primary schools or arrange one-day team challenges to paint the wall of a local hospice, for example. However, the key strength of this programme is its direct nature – the volunteers are using their expertise in the law to contribute to the education of young people in their community.
"The scheme provides our people with a valuable opportunity to help young people understand legal issues they may be faced with. Our lawyers are also given the chance to develop their presentation skills in an environment that is very different to where they work."
CSR Manager, participating law firm
Staff development & CPD
Lawyers participating in this scheme find that they are developing their own skills and knowledge, often challenging themselves out of their comfort zone. There is much evidence about the link between employee volunteering and skills development and the evaluation we have received over the past ten years ratifies this. For example:
- Communication – listening, presentation, clarity
- Time management & organisation
- More patience & empathy
- Non-judgmental facilitation
Participation in this scheme can also count towards a lawyer’s CPD points. So, for example, if they were to attend a 2-hour training session, four 1-hour school sessions, and carry out half an hour of research/ planning before each session, they could claim up to eight hours of CPD. This is equivalent to some very expensive external training courses and helps the local community, while up-skilling the lawyer at the same time – surely that’s a win-win situation!
Staff retention & recruitment
Participants in the scheme recognise their employer’s commitment to the local community and to their skills development and satisfaction. Evaluation has told us that this improves an employee’s perception of their employer and of the value they place on their employees – this, in turn, improves staff retention rates and satisfaction.
Many law graduates will look at a firm’s CSR (corporate social responsibility) programme when choosing which firm to apply for – having an innovative and relevant employee volunteering programme to offer can be a real selling point to a potential trainee.
Benefits of working with clients:
14 of our partners work with a client on their partnership and 100% of them identified that their motivation for doing so was to create networking opportunities for both organisations. A further 75% said that it allowed them to increase their volunteer pool and 33% recognised the potential for it to increase the likelihood of getting more business from a client organisation.
Raising your profile
Involvement in community-based employee volunteering programmes can impact positively on the external reputation of a business as it is playing an active and worthwhile role in their local community. Companies increasingly expect their legal providers to be doing some form of CSR and so this may help your organisation to secure new business.
Local media are generally keen to publish good news stories and this is a great opportunity to talk about the work of your firm with the local community.
Time off policy
You will probably need to discuss with senior management the arrangements for staff to take time off out of the office to take part in this volunteering scheme. You can find advice and information on this on the Volunteering England website (www.volunteering.org.uk) in the Employer Supported Volunteering section.