Recently, our CEO Lynn Foley spoke with Pamela Cone, Founder & CEO of Amity Advisory, about corporate social responsibility in law firms. “There are growing expectations of stakeholder groups and increasing awareness of company’s values and behaviors influencing the buying decisions of consumers and businesses,'” says Cone in the Legal Marketing Trends piece from earlier this year. “Occasional pro bono cases, a stand-alone Diversity program, a ‘green team’ recycling committee, these will no longer meet the growing expectations of clients, employees or other stakeholders.”
Experts from the “2019 Trends” Share Insights
This interview is part of a series of discussions we had at the 2019 LMA Annual Conference with contributors to the 2019 Legal Marketing Trends. Each interview focuses on an important development in the legal industry. This is the last of four videos which we will be sharing to our Insights library. Have a look at last week’s video, Client Relationship Management in Law Firms, here.
Interview with Pamela Cone, Amity Advisory
What are the growing client expectations of corporate responsibility?
So I think as more and more businesses are realizing the importance of taking action on social, societal and environmental issues, clients are expecting more and more from all of their supply chain and it’s including some service providers in professional service firms. I work for an actuarial consulting firm and our clients are global and multinational insurance companies, well, of course they’re the first ones that are writing the checks for the effects of climate change. So we’ve seen a tremendous increase in specificity in the questions around corporate social responsibility. What are you doing? How are you measuring impact? Who are you collaborating with? And it’s much more than just diversity and inclusion and pro bono programs.
What would be the first steps a law firm needs to take to get ready for an inclusive CSR program?
Well, I think like most professional service firms, a lot of this effort and activity happens at the local office level. And so when you get these questions, you will be expected to answer on a firm wide basis. What are you doing, what’s the volume of things you’re doing and how are you measuring impact? So the very first thing a CMO should do is take inventory of what’s already happening throughout the firm. I would say the second thing they should do is perhaps identify themes. You can either crowdsource those themes with your employees and your clients and other stakeholders or you can just identify themes in the information you’ve collected so that when you tell your corporate social responsibility story, you can tell stories that are in themes and around certain buckets or types of activities. And then perhaps set out an initiative to do something bigger and greater than what any office can do individually. I call it moving from transactional to transformational. What can we do as a firm together and perhaps even with our clients and other third parties to have a truly, much greater outcome than any office could do by themselves?
What trends are you seeing in legal? Are you seeing a lot of adoption?
Somewhat resistance because I think there’s real value in having these things germinate locally because they’re the people in their local markets. They know what they want you to participate in. I think more adoption on the younger generations, they’re all over this. Anybody who’s in recruiting knows that the younger generations and incoming employees care greatly about what their firms are doing that has social impact. So it’s a mixed bag, but I think as more and more clients are expecting this of their providers, it will become table stakes. Just like a diversity inclusion program is table stakes right now.
What advice would you give to a legal marketer who’s getting resistance to a CSR program at a management level?
Show them what the clients are doing, and it’s really easy to do. For instance, the emerging framework is the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Many, many, many, many, many clients are already members of the UN Global Compact and are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It’s front and center on our clients’ websites. Go look at your client websites and you’ll know what you have to do.