Small firms - big impact

In spite of a demanding business environment, more and more small businesses are setting up their own charities and charitable foundations.

‘Do good, have fun, and the money will come’ is one of Sir Richard Branson’s better known quotes. In spite of a demanding business environment, more and more small businesses are setting up their own charities and charitable foundations.

Although the founding principle of a philanthropic venture is a desire to make a difference, there is also a business case: social responsibility engages staff and clients and raises a legal firm’s profile, all of which can contribute to future business growth.

It was against this background that in 2009 the Mason Hayes Charitable Trust was born. Its aim was simple: to go one step further by delivering the professional values of my law firm through a corporate and social responsibility programme, which would support future potential lawyers and assist them in overcoming the barriers to entering into the legal profession.

The Mason Hayes Charitable Trust today with a board of management and patrons Michael Booth QC and David Morris MP, provides: sponsored awards to primary schools, high schools and universities, together with scholarships, mentoring, lectures, workshops, and a work placement scheme for university students offering over 50 work placements at some of the country’s leading legal establishments, and blue chip companies to provide insight into a career in the law and real experience to enhance employability. The trust promotes diversity and social mobility through affording opportunities for all. In partnership with the University of Sussex, the trust was shortlisted in the Widening Participation or Outreach Initiative at The Times Education Awards 2013.

Staff at Mason Hayes are actively encouraged to become involved in the work of the trust, not only by way of supporting the trust’s work but also to fulfil their own learning and development needs. Paralegals regularly take part in the delivery of seminars and workshops to gain training skills which can then be transferred into the workplace. Support staff can volunteer to assist with the co-ordination of the work placements scheme to aid and develop their project management skills, and Trainee Solicitors often mentor students in relation to application processes for the Legal Practice Certificate or in obtaining a training contract.

By demonstrating its professional values on a daily basis, Mason Hayes enjoys enhanced goodwill with its clients as many partake in the work of the trust by offering work placements. The firm has a truly motivated and engaged workforce, who also benefit from the firm’s values through the learning and development opportunities they are afforded by the work of the Charitable Trust.

It has of course been a huge undertaking to reach this stage but if you enter into such a programme purely as a promotional tool for your legal firm, it won’t be supported and could ultimately backfire. I have always had had a genuine belief in what I wanted Mason Hayes to achieve because it was right and responsible and could change lives. The trust was always the vision behind the brand, but I had to make sure the business was successful first.

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