WLG | impact '23 : Responsible Business & Law Firms: Forging Connections

Responsible Business & Law Firms: Forging Connections

We live in a world where Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Environmental, Social and (Corporate) Governance (ESG) are imperative to a company's overall strategy. With ongoing environmental action, struggles for justice and equality, and eyes keenly watching boards and governance, citizens and employees look to leaders and key stakeholders to set and uphold examples of progress in these areas, often grouped together under the title of responsible business.

To demonstrate and showcase our member firms' commitment to responsible business, World Law Group (WLG) started a forum called the Responsible Business Forum, wherein WLG | impact began in 2021. Through WLG | impact, a global, networkwide initiative, our member firms come together for a common cause. We invite you to read more about this annual program.

Responsible business is not only crucial to a firm or company's reputation with the public; it is imperative to firm culture as well. Though WLG | impact was born as a responsible business initiative, member firms have identified multiple additional benefits from their respective projects. Reflecting on their projects, members have demonstrated how executing responsible business initiatives provide opportunities to establish and reinforce interpersonal connections between lawyers and professionals, the firms and their communities, and between the workplace and families.

Lawyers & Professionals: Finding Common Ground

Within law firms, a divide often exists between lawyers, other professionals, and support staff. Breaking it down even further, an additional hierarchy can live in the structure of interns, associates, partners, named partners, and so forth. WLG | impact '23 projects have had a hand in dismantling the social divides within these structures worldwide and creating meaningful connections.

Member firm Chandler MHM of Thailand chose to repeat a past project this year as it proved successful. Firm members traveled to impoverished schools around the country to assist with building schools, equipment renovation, vegetable garden preparation. They also enjoyed social activities, and donated supplies and funds. Pranat Laohapairoj of Chandler's Corporate Transactions team says, "We have noticed that the events have helped to connect and re-connect previously detached groups of people. Especially between lawyers and support staff, and also between different departments." He says, "The events have provided ample opportunities for everyone to really…get their hands dirty together, and in the process, they learn about each other and become closer colleagues. The positive effects after each event are felt all around."

Guyer & Regules (Uruguay) witnessed a similar impact at their firm, where they undertook a sizeable project. The firm has implemented a fully operative internal recycling program in partnership with a local waste management company. They found that they are receiving an "overwhelming" response from their team toward the project, saying it is "empowering to witness how a shared vision of a greener future can drive positive change."

WLG | impact reinforces existing bonds at Pellerano Nadal, member firm in the Dominican Republic. The firm is committed to many initiatives; however, each year, they participate in a beach clean-up organized in part by the country's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. Firm employee Ricardo Pellerano Nadal explains, "Both the legal and administrative staff participate in the projects. We have to take into consideration that in the Dominican Republic, law firms are small; therefore, the lawyers and the other professionals all know each other very well and see each other every day at the office. Nonetheless, these activities help strengthen relationships because everyone is in a stress-free mood, with comfortable clothes, and less seriousness around."

Israeli member firm, Herzog Fox & Neeman, participated this year by visiting a local home for disadvantaged youth, where they helped clear a plot to plant a garden. Janet Pahima, a lawyer on the Corporate Transactions Team, reflects on the project, saying, "We had a combination of lawyers, employees of Herzog Strategic, a subsidiary of Herzog that provides consultancy services (including the CEO)), our head of operations, IT staff, an intern, a staff member from HR—it was completely diverse. It is a great time to get to know people with different functions within the Herzog enterprise and make a difference in the community."

Firms & Community: Giving Back

Many of our member firms created valuable community connections through their WLG | impact projects, giving back to their local areas.

Looking to Israel once more, Pahima's firm is pleased that their project not only adds value environmentally through planting trees and other vegetation but also makes a social impact, helping to enhance the lives of Israeli youth. Their team also enjoyed connecting directly with the youth on-site as they completed their work.

Pellerano Nadal's beach clean-up initiative also directly impacts their community, as they physically improve the environment for residents and the thousands of tourists that flock to their country each year.

Peruvian member firm, Payet, Rey, Cauvi, Pérez Abogados specifically tailored their WLG | impact project to give back to their community. After Cyclone Yaku hit their region, many people were left without homes, animals, and crops to sustain themselves. A team of ten volunteers from the firm traveled to two communities to provide support, including free legal advice and support to vulnerable populations. These connections directly and meaningfully impacted the lives of those who had lost so much.

The connection to the community within Chandler MHM's initiative is undeniable. Laohapairoj explains: "[We are] a top-tier law firm from the capital, while these schools are unprivileged educational establishments in the countryside, and therefore the two could not be farther apart in terms of social linkage. The events, however, serve to remind us as an organization that we can be socially responsible, do good, and give back to society while still working hard and [achieving success]." Laohapairoj and his colleagues hope their project breaks down social barriers and unites their firm with others in their community.

Firms & Family: Connecting and Finding Balance

The constant struggle for work/life balance is ever-present for many professionals. Our members have found a positive impact in including families in their projects, creating stronger relationships between family members and connections between family units.

Laohapairoj of Chandler MHM shared that their firm extended an invitation to entire families when completing their impact project. "We find that the presence of family members helps to foster connection between different colleagues, as people will now know each other more than as colleagues but really as friends, as well as making the events more meaningful and inclusive. By allowing and encouraging family members to join, the firm has shown its propensity to create a welcoming atmosphere for all." Laohapairoj is quick to point out the other benefits of welcoming family members. "By allowing family members to join, we have increased the probability that our firm members will join the event, as they can bring along their family members to spend time together instead of having to be away for another day. Children of lawyers and staff can also learn to appreciate their situation and to give back to those who are less fortunate."

Pellerano Nadal considers employees' family members to be family and include them in their initiatives, further strengthening their existing bonds. "Due to our size and the number of years that the team members have worked together, the families are also part of the Firm. Regarding the beach clean-up, since they happen on a Saturday, most staff bring their spouses/partners and their children. Some have even brought siblings or parents! Ultimately, they are just part of the broader Pellerano Nadal family," says Pellerano Nadal.

These trickle-down effects of responsible business projects within our firms are encouraging to see and help enforce the importance of prioritizing these initiatives as a part of firm or company culture.

These additional connections that have been forged through WLG | impact '23 are an added bonus to incorporating company-wide responsible business programs, and our network encourages others to implement them as well and reap the many benefits outlined above.

World Law Group (WLG), ranked an Elite Global Network by Chambers and Partners, is one of the oldest and largest international networks of independent full-service law firms, serving the legal needs of multinational companies.

Author: Brooke Belliveau, World Law Group