Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a concept whereby enterprises integrate social and environmental concerns into their mainstream business operations on a voluntary basis.
The Law Society of Ireland has always had a strong sense of CSR. This CSR Statement represents our vision for responsible and sustainable business practice through the adoption and implementation of best practice in CSR.
The Society strives, in partnership with our members, students and employees, to work in a responsible and ethical way, to lead by example, to be a champion of CSR among the profession and to continuously improve our activities and processes. The Society prides itself on the many positive projects with which it has been involved.
This Statement has been drafted in line with the core pillars in Ireland's National Plan on Corporate Social Responsibility 2014-2016:
- Management and communication.
The Society’s employees drive its continued success. They support the Society’s vision of being ‘The trusted voice of a respected solicitors’ profession’.
The Society strives to be a good employer, offering transparent terms and conditions and fair compensation and benefits. Some examples of our workplace initiatives include:
- In line with best practice, the Society has proactive and strategic HR policies. These go beyond compliance and incorporate a focus on employee consultation and communication, wellbeing, work-life balance, further training, education and career development opportunities.
- Equal opportunities is a concept to which the Society is committed, and all employment decisions are based on merit, qualifications and abilities.
- Training grants are available to staff who wish to further their education.
- Classes such as meditation, yoga, and languages are available to staff.
- The Society supports staff social events, the highlights of which include the Children’s Christmas party and the staff Christmas party. It also supports the staff Book Club.
- The Commuter Tax Saver Scheme is available, to ease the financial burden of commuting on staff.
The Society’s mission statement, values and strategic plan signal the manner in which we conduct our business and also reflect our ethical intentions. We champion and support the values and concepts of justice, fairness, equity and legitimacy including:
- The Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Statement shows our commitment to respecting diversity and inclusion for the benefit of our employees, members, solicitors, trainee solicitors and the public. The Society strives to create a culture of inclusion, mutual respect and equal opportunities. We actively support gender equality and are proud that the solicitors’ profession in Ireland was the first in the world to achieve female majority. Likewise, we support equal rights regardless of sexual orientation and supported the passing of the Marriage Equality Referendum.
- The Society supports the Irish Women Lawyers Association (IWLA) through the provision of venues for seminars and their annual GALA Dinner.
- Social diversity within the legal profession is supported through the Society’s Access Programme. Operating successfully since 2001, this scholarship programme aims to assist students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds to gain access to professional legal education. It is contributing to the creation of a broader spectrum of solicitors, which is vital in promoting a legal profession that reflects the diversity of the society it serves.
- Our Guidance and Ethics Committee published the third edition of A Guide to Good Professional Conduct for Solicitors in October 2013.
- Our Human Rights Committee was established in November 2004 with the main purpose of raising awareness within the Society, the profession and the public of human rights issues. Its work includes developing resources for use by the profession in relation to the protection and promotion of human rights. It prepares submissions and commentary on current human rights issues. It often works with other organisations in the promotion and advancement of human rights and equality.
- Our Mental Health and Capacity Task Force works to promote and protect the rights, freedoms and dignity of all adults whose decision making capacity may be in question, may about to be in question or who lack capacity, in particular contributing to the legislative reform process in this area.
- The Society advocates access to justice and the protection of legal aid, particularly through the work of our Family and Child Law, Litigation and Criminal Law Committees.
- The Society strives to participate fully in public life so that issues of fairness and justice are to the fore in public discourse.
The Society is committed to energy efficiency, minimising waste, reducing water consumption, encouraging greener modes of transport and generally encouraging a culture of sustainability and an awareness of our impact on the environment. Some examples of our initiatives include:
- Reduce, Reuse and Recycle has been embraced by the Society, we take every opportunity to recycle any waste that we generate.
- Collection points for print cartridges are available in Blackhall Place. These are donated to raise funds for Crumlin Children’s Hospital.
- When personal computers, laptops or tablets reach the end of their business lifecycle in the Society, they are formatted and donated either to local DEIS schools (DEIS: Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) or, if not required by them, to the Irish Rule of Law International (IRLI) project in Malawi.
- A Bike to Work Scheme has been made available to staff, promoting greener work commutes.
- Blackhall Place has been preserved to maintain its integrity, in recognition of its architectural and historical importance and its status as a protected structure.
The Society is very aware that it is in a strong position to give something back to the local and wider community. We actively support many community engagement initiatives including those outlined below:
Fundraising, charitable giving, volunteering, access to justice
- The Calcutta Run - the Legal Fundraiser is organised annually by the Society. Almost €3.2 million has been raised to 2015 for the Peter McVerry trust and GOAL, to support homeless youths in Dublin and Calcutta.
- Irish Rule of Law International (IRLI) is a joint initiative of the Society and the Bar Council of Ireland, dedicated to promoting the rule of law in developing countries. IRLI seeks to harness the skills of Irish lawyers in using the law as a means of tackling global injustice and empowering all people to live in a society free from inequality, corruption and conflict. IRLI has initiated and supported initiatives in South Africa, Kosovo, Malawi, Myanmar, Vietnam, Zambia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- Habitat for Humanity is supported by trainee solicitors who volunteer their time to renovate derelict properties in Dublin in partnership with Dublin City Council to provide low-income families the opportunity to become first-time home owners. Trainee solicitors also volunteer abroad, such as Habitat for Humanity’s Orphans and Vulnerable Children Programme, in Zambia.
- Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC), an independent organisation dedicated to the realisation of equal access to justice for all, benefits from many members of the Society and trainee solicitors who volunteer their time with the organisation. Contributions are collected from practising solicitors by the Society each year for donation to FLAC and Community Law Centres.
- Barnardos is a children’s charity who work with vulnerable children and their families in Ireland and campaign for the rights of all children. The Society’s employees and Council members support the Barnardos Christmas Toy Appeal by purchasing Christmas presents, which are then distributed by Barnardos to disadvantaged children.
- The Solicitors Benevolent Association is a voluntary charitable body supported by the Society to assist solicitors and their immediate dependents that are in need. It is funded by donations collected through practising certificates.
- LawCare is a charitable body that offers a free and completely confidential service for lawyers, trainee lawyers, their immediate families and their staff to help deal with health issues and related emotional issues such as stress, depression, drug and/or alcohol dependency, eating disorders, bullying, bereavement, gambling among others. The Society has funded the provision of LawCare in Ireland since 2008.
- A number of charities benefit each year from funds raised by Society staff and trainee solicitors at events held in the Society, such as coffee mornings and carol services.
- Trainee solicitors volunteer as tutors and offer assistance in a number of schools and youth clubs in the local community including the Stanhope Street Girls Primary School ‘Shared Reading Project’, SUAS Literacy Support Programme, ‘Just Ask’ Homework and After School Club, An Siol (Community Development Project) and the Solas Project. The schools and youth clubs are delighted with how positively their students seem to respond to the support. It is hoped that the experience might also encourage them to consider undertaking third level studies.
- Future Voices Ireland is a widening access to legal education project based at the Society, which leads debates, group discussions and presentations with young people participating. It takes place every Saturday between the months of January to July.
- Blackhall Place Sports Facilities are made available to local schools for sports days etc.
- Seachtain na Gaeilge is actively supported in the Society.
- During Culture Night and National Heritage Week free guided tours of Blackhall Place (Blue Coat School) are conducted for the public.
Provision and promotion of legal information
- The public section of the Society’s website has helpful information including downloadable legal guides, useful websites, reports and frequently asked questions.
- Representatives from the Society sit on 121 external bodies.
- The Society supports the Association for Criminal Justice, Research and Development (ACJRD) through the provision of venues for seminars, their current Chairperson is a member of Society staff.
- The Justice Media Awards are organised by the Society every year and aim to reward outstanding journalism for contributions to the public’s understanding of the law, the legal system or any specific legal issues.
- The Society is a sponsor of the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) initiative for the provision of free access to British and Irish primary legal materials, which is of particular value to Irish solicitors.
- Street Law is a legal literacy programme run in collaboration with Georgetown University Law Centre, Washington DC and the Trinity Access Programme (TAP). Since its inception in 2013, over 100 trainee solicitors have volunteered to teach “Street Law” and more that 500 Transition Year students participated in the programme in 2015. We partner with designated DEIS schools (DEIS: Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) throughout Dublin to deliver our Street Law programme and also run a programme with trainee solicitors for juvenile detainees in Wheatfield Prison.
- The Society has contributed to the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) Legal Aid in Lesbos Project. This Project sends European lawyers to hotspots in Greece, more particularly to Lesbos, in order to defend the fundamental rights of vulnerable migrant people in need of international protection. They observe, provide information and give legal advice to migrants.
5. Management and communication
The Society has an opportunity to lead by example in adhering to CSR best practices and principles. We are committed to continuously improving and to championing the wide range of CSR contributions positively made by the profession. We will keep our CSR Statement under review as part of our Annual Operational Plan. We will consider what guidance and supports we can provide to members to help improve and develop their own CSR position.
For a printable copy, you can also download the CSR Statement.
Last updated: May 2016