Law Society of Ireland Corporate Social Responsibility Statement

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a concept whereby organisations integrate social and environmental concerns into their mainstream business operations and their interaction with stakeholders on a voluntary basis.

The Law Society of Ireland (the Society) has always had a strong sense of CSR. This CSR Statement represents our vision for responsible and sustainable business practice.

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 four core dimensions:

  1. Workplace
  2. Marketplace
  3. Environment, and
  4. Community.

1. Workplace 

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, strategic and future focused HR policies. These go beyond compliance and incorporate a focus on employee consultation and communication, wellbeing, work-life balance, 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.

  • In May 2020, the Society launched and became a signatory of its Gender, Equality Diversity and Inclusion (GEDI) Charter. Solicitors and firms who sign the Charter commit to upholding and promoting GEDI principles within the profession.

  • The Society has a comprehensive Learning and Development Programme in place to support continual development and upskilling of staff. The Programme includes the Society’s Professional Open Skills Programme, and Executive Edge, the Society’s Manager Development Programme.

  • The Society’s Wellbeing Programme is called ‘Vitality’ and is run by the internal Vitality Committee. It has five core pillars which cover physical wellbeing, career, mental health, finance, and community. A full programme of events, classes and initiatives centred on these pillars is available to staff throughout the year.

  • The Society’s Employee Support Programme ‘It’s Good to Talk’ is available to employees and their families.

  • The Commuter Tax Saver Scheme is available, to ease the financial burden of commuting on staff.

  • A Bike to Work Scheme is available to staff, promoting greener work commutes, with convenient bike locking areas provided onsite.

2. Marketplace  

The Society’s Strategy Statement and Operational Plans 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, legitimacy and the rule of law including:

  • The Society’s Gender Equality, 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. 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. In May 2020 the Society launched its Gender, Equality Diversity and Inclusion GEDI Charter, which has over 150 signatories to-date. Solicitors and firms who sign the Charter commit to upholding and promoting GEDI principles within the profession.

  • To celebrate and encourage diversity, the Law School’s first ever Diversity and Inclusion Committee was put in place by trainee solicitors in October 2020. The Committee were proud to host a panel event celebrating Black History Month as well as further panel discussions on topics such as Maternity, Paternity and Parental Leave, and a screening of Crip Camp to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The Committee also hosted a fireside chat to mark International Men’s Day which focused on the importance of comradery in manoeuvring through the current legal profession, the value of looking after your mental health and the changing discourse on male identity. Their great work was continued by trainees on the following PPC I in 2021, who organised many events including: ‘Celebrating Diversity in Law’ where black lawyers shared their experiences of training and being lawyers in Ireland. The ‘ABCs of LGBTQ+’ was a workshop series facilitated by the charity ShoutOut which provided an in-depth look at sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. ‘Lunchtime chats with members of the disAbility Legal Network’ informing students about the work of the Network as well as a question and answer session.

  • The Society supports the Irish Women Lawyers Association (IWLA) which focuses on advocating for and providing professional networking for all women lawyers in Ireland.

  • The Society's Women in Leadership Mentoring Programme is designed to support women who wish to advance their career to the next level. The mentor panel is made up of senior solicitors, male and female, from the public and private sectors. For the 2022/2023 Programme, the requirement to have a minimum of 5 years PQE has been removed. All female solicitors who are member of the Law Society of Ireland may apply to be mentored.

  • Social diversity within the legal profession is supported through the Society’s Access Programme and Bursary Scheme. Operating successfully since 2001, the Access scholarship programme aims to assist students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds to gain access to professional legal education. It has assisted 149 participants in qualifying as solicitors and current and former participants span 22 nationalities. The Society also operates a Bursary Scheme in respect of each course. Any student that considers his or her own resources are inadequate to fund their study can apply for a bursary.

  • For the last three years, the Law Society has run the Small Practice Traineeship Grant Scheme, which provides five individual training grants worth €25,000 each year to small firms comprising five solicitors or less who are based outside of the county of Dublin and the cities of Galway, Cork and Limerick. The Scheme has helped to increase the number of traineeships in rural Ireland and has been widely welcomed by rural firms who but for the grant may not have been in a position to take on a trainee solicitor.

  • The Society through its committees and task forces including Human Rights and Equality, Mental Health and Capacity, Guidance and Ethics, Criminal, Litigation, and Family and Child Law, advocates for access to justice and law reform to improve legislation and its effects on society, in particular on the vulnerable, in order to ensure recognition and vindication of their rights and for the common good.

  • The Society strives to participate fully in public life so that issues of fairness and justice are to the fore in public discourse. This work is conducted largely through the Policy and Public Affairs function and through regular engagement with elected representatives and policy makers.

  • The Society condemns the actions taken by Russia against Ukraine. A dedicated webpage brings together resources for solicitors to manage their professional responsibilities regarding the conflict, and support the international humanitarian efforts.

3. Environment

The Society is committed to energy efficiency, minimising waste, reducing water consumption, encouraging the use of greener modes of transport, creating a biodiverse campus and generally encouraging a culture of sustainability. To this end, two Task Forces have been created (1) an inter-departmental Task Force for staff, ‘An Cumann Glas’, and (2) the Environmental and Sustainability in Practice Task Force (EAST) for members, to build on the achievements the Society has made in environmental sustainability. The Society continues to develop a number of environmental initiatives, including:

  • Reduce, Reuse and Recycle has been embraced by the Society through recycling by its catering facility, its strategy to reduce paper, its opt-in facility for publications, the donation of used IT equipment, the use of carbon balanced paper, energy efficient heating and lighting systems, and a variety of other initiatives.

  • Biodiversity is an integral part of the Society’s environmental plans. We are collaborating with the All Ireland Pollinator Plan and the Local Authority Waters Programme. Part of the gardens have been given over to native wild flower species. A greenhouse for onsite catering has been installed and an apiary with a number of hives for a local beekeeper. 

  • To promote greener work commutes, a Bike to Work Scheme has been made available to staff, and three electric car charging points have been installed in the car park.

  • Education - The Society hosted a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Environmental Law & Climate Change, which saw 4,256 students from 53 different countries participate. This module was also shared with trainee solicitors and followed up with a Diploma in Environmental Law.

  • The Society’s Environmental and Sustainability in Practice Task Force (EAST) was specifically established to examine how the Society could promote sustainability to the profession. The work of the Taskforce concluded in 2021 with a series of recommendations that included reducing the Society’s carbon footprint by 50%, establishing an Environmental Law Committee and developing tools to support members in becoming more sustainable in their practice. 

  • The Society made its first Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investment in 2021 and is considering moving all of its investments to this form, both for its general investments and pension scheme investments.

4. Community 

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 Society supports three specific charitable initiatives through direct financial supports and resources:

    1. The Solicitors Benevolent Association is a voluntary charitable body which provides financial assistance to members or former members of the solicitors’ profession, their spouses, families and immediate dependents, since its foundation in 1863. It is funded by donations collected by the Society each year through practising certificates and assists solicitors throughout the 32 counties.
    2. 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.
    3. The Calcutta Run - the Legal Fundraiser is organised annually by the Society. Now in its 24th year, the Society hopes to break through the €5 million barrier of funds raised for the Peter McVerry Trust and the Hope Foundation, to support those facing extreme poverty and homelessness in Dublin, throughout Ireland, and Kolkata. In 2020 and 2021, a virtual Calcutta Run was held, raising €500,000. Participants had a week long window to run, cycle, walk or hike any distance and post it to the website to reach a collective 10,000kms from Dublin to Kolkata. 2022 will see The Calcutta Run return as a full in-person event at Blackhall Place, with approx. 1000 people taking part, a Calcutta Run in Cork with approx. 200 participants, and the introduction of two new supporting events: a Tag Rugby Tournament and Golf Classic.
    4. Contributions are also collected from practising solicitors each year for donation to the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC), Community Law Centres, and Irish Rule of Law International.
  • The Law School have organised a number of fundraisers over the past two years including:

    • Charity fight night for Crumlin Children’s Hospital in February 2022 - over €40,000 raised.

    • Roses at Blackhall Ball for Womens’ Aid - over €1000 raised in February 2022.

    • Walk for Ukraine - €500 raised by our 2021 Hybrid students.

    • Run in the Dark – trainees raised €3,968 in 2020 and €1408 in 2021 for the Mark Pollock Trust which aims to find collaborative cures to help cure paralysis.

    • Annual shoe box appeals at Christmas in aid of the Irish Refugee Council. 

    • A 100K in July challenge in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society - €2535 raised in July 2020. 

    • PPC Cookbook fundraiser in aid of ALONE – trainees created their own cookbook and raised almost €442 for the charity.

    • A Christmas sea swim in aid of LGBT Ireland; and the Irish Refugee Council’s “Putting Down Roots” campaign which aims to fund third level education for young people in direct provision.

  • The Society’s employees, Council and trainee-solicitors support or volunteer for a number of charities, including Shine a Light Night and others.

  • The Society has also contributed financial support to the European Lawyers in Lesvos project (ELIL). ELIL works with a team of full-time Greek asylum lawyers and volunteer European lawyers on the Greek islands of Lesvos and Samos to defend the fundamental rights of asylum seekers.

  • Seven Law School trainees volunteered to act as rapporteurs at Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development (ACJRD) conferences in December 2020, June 2021 and October 2021.

  • The Society made a contribution of €5,000 to the International Bar Association (IBA) in response to their appeal to assist the Bar Association Leader in Afghanistan.

Community Engagement

  • Trainee solicitors volunteer as tutors and offer assistance in a number of schools and youth clubs in the local community through the ‘Just Ask’ Homework and After School Club.

  • Law School trainees have been working incredibly hard on a number of projects for Irish Rule of Law International (IRLI). They have done an incredible amount of work with the ten female Afghan judges who have arrived in Ireland. They have been assisting with a variety of legal, linguistic and cultural matters, working with members of IRLI, the Law Society of Ireland, the Bar of Ireland, the Association of Judges and the International Women’s Judges Association. Other IRLI trainees have been doing extensive legal research for our projects in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia.

  • The Everyone Can Code project is a voluntary initiative between the Society and a local primary school. Instead of teaching law, members of the Society’s IT and Education staff teach computer code. This joint project looks at coding using the Apple ‘Everyone Can Code’ curriculum, and runs over the course of the school year in Blackhall Place.  

  • The Society commenced a partnership with the Irish Red Cross in 2018. Hybrid trainees organised a fundraiser walk for the Red Cross in support of the crisis in Ukraine and raised €500.

  • Blackhall Place Sports Facilities are made available to local schools, for instance for sports days. The sports facilities on site include a basketball court, park exercise equipment and a five-a-side football pitch.

  • The Society organises debates for local schools, both primary and secondary, with the Society providing tutors, judges and facilities.

  • The Society organises tours for local schools of various businesses and places of local interest and also historical tours.

  • The Society is a member of the Stoneybatter Smithfield Business Association and supports the organisation through the provision of administrative support and facilities.

  • Seachtain na Gaeilge is actively supported in the Society. Seachtain na Gaeilge is an international Irish language festival and one of the biggest celebrations of our native language and culture that takes place each year in Ireland and in many other countries. 

  • During Culture Night and National Heritage Week free guided tours of Blackhall Place (Blue Coat School) are conducted for the public. 

  • Open House is an event run every year by the Irish Architecture Foundation whereby private historical buildings are open to members of the public. Each year Blackhall Place is included in their portfolio.

Provision and promotion of legal information

The Society is committed to delivering a transformative learning experience for members of the public in order to teach people about the legal system and how law impacts on society. 

  • Our Public Legal Education  comprises the following outreach initiatives:

    • Legal Ambitions Transition Year Programme since its launch in July 2020, over 2,000 TY students from across Ireland have graduated from the Society’s Legal Ambitions Summer School. Due to the high demand for places on the Summer School the Society have redesigned this offering and in 2022 will launch a new online Legal Ambitions Transition Year Programme. Legal Ambitions is open to schools around the country and encourages TY students to consider a career in law by providing an insight into the role of a solicitor in practice.

    • Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) offered by the Society’s Diploma Centre annually, are free online courses, open to all and specifically designed to enable participation by large numbers. Topics have included data protection, aviation leasing and finance, environmental law and climate change and sports law. Since 2014, the Society’s MOOCs have attracted over 21,000 participants from over 85 countries. The courses showcase the Society’s commitment to online learning and opening up access to legal education.

    • Public Legal Education Certificate is a free education programme run over six months which develops the skills of solicitors to run effective public legal education programmes in their community.

    • Solicitors of the Future  is an innovative transition year (TY) programme offered at the Society which provides TY students with an introduction to the solicitors’ profession. Open to schools around the country, Solicitors of the Future encourages TY students to consider a career in law, and offers an insight into the role of a solicitor in practice and includes practical and interactive sessions including mock courts.

    • Street Law Schools places trainee solicitors, studying at the Society, in local secondary schools, to teach about law. Each year, over forty selected volunteer trainees teach a two month ‘Street Law’ course to transition year students in thirteen DEIS secondary schools (DEIS: Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) in the local community. Since 2013, trainee solicitors have brought the law to life for over 3,000 transition year students. 

    • Street Law Prison has expanded to include Wheatfield Prison in partnership with the charity Solas and their Compass programme for prisoners. The programme is also offered in Mercy Law Resource Centre, Mountjoy Prison and the Dochas Centre. Trainee solicitors work with prisoners and former prisoners to raise their awareness and understanding of the law in areas such as human rights, privacy, employment law, democracy, society and discrimination. 

  • The Society has produced a series of multilingual client care leaflets on common legal issues. Aimed at the public, the leaflets have been awarded the ‘Plain English’ stamp by the National Adult Literacy Association. They have also been translated into five different languages, in recognition of the diversity of nationality within Ireland.
  • The Justice Media Awards (JMAs) 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. In 2021, the JMAs developed a new Student Journalism category to help support the future of legal journalism, while the awards also expressly encourage entries from journalists from minority backgrounds and entries dealing with issues relating to diversity and inclusion. 

  • 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. BAILII provides reliable information resources for private individuals, organisations serving civil society, those in legal education and training, and those involved in and serving the legal system. 

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.