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What is responsible business?

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Responsible business describes the way our firm delivers value to society. Other organisations may see responsible business as an optional ‘nice to have’. Not at Freshfields: responsibility is at the heart of our firm, inextricably intertwined with our character, our values and our ethos.

‘For me, ‘responsible business’ is shorthand for the way we should work if we want the firm to be successful over the long term.’
Edward Braham,
Senior Partner

Freshfields and responsible business

What does that actually mean in practice? It means we don’t just want to advise our clients well, we want to do so in a responsible and sustainable way. That includes:

  • making a positive impact;
  • ensuring responsible working ; and
  • engaging our clients.

All of our trainees are encouraged to contribute.

See our most responsible business strategy for more information.

A positive impact

Freshfields strives to have a positive impact through promoting access to justice and access to opportunity. From law-changing, world-leading pro bono to getting involved in local charities.

Access to justice – pro bono

Our award-winning pro bono work is focused on supporting the legal rights of our target groups. Last year we gave nearly 50,000 hours of pro bono advice to over 250 clients, from individual victims of human trafficking to some of the world’s largest charities. Internally, we don’t distinguish between pro bono and other client work.

We are focused on maximising our impact.

For some of our lawyers, this means using their specialist legal expertise for charities which work to promote the rights of our target groups. Often, these charities face the same legal challenges as our paying clients. For example, we have advised Save the Children around the world on dozens of mandates, including helping them respond to the Ebola crisis in 2014.

For others it means providing advice or representation direct to individuals. We build on the experience and connections we gain from this work to act on strategic mandates that bring about systemic change. For example, in London and in the US we act directly for victims of human trafficking, and we also act for specialist charities such as ATLEU and the AIRE Centre in strategic cases.

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Access to opportunity

Freshfields is committed to widening access to education and the legal profession for the best students, irrespective of background, ethnicity, sexual orientation or anything else.

We set up the award-winning Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme to address the disproportionate under-representation in large commercial law firms of black men from low-income households.

We also have strong relationships with partner organisations Rare Recruitment and Aspiring Solicitors, with a commitment to encouraging access to the profession.

Responsible working

Diversity and inclusion

Our aim is simple – to be a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone has the opportunity to achieve their potential, irrespective of their background or different abilities. The firm supports a number of initiatives and programmes which aim to widen access to the profession, develop our people and ensure we foster an inclusive culture for all.

Gender

Bringing a strong pool of women candidates through to partnership is a priority for most large law firms. We are no different.

We recognise that this requires long-term intervention and are creating a pipeline of talented women lawyers and helping them reach their potential.

Our 12-month global sponsorship programme is a tailored learning and development opportunity at the firm for female lawyers, with the aim of giving them the skills to reach their full potential through a sponsoring partner and coaching sessions.

We are committed to supporting wider change beyond the firm as demonstrated by our work with the 30% Club. Freshfields is a founding member in the UK, US, Hong Kong and Italy.

LGBT+

Freshfields strives to ensure that LGBT+ employees feel supported in our offices, no matter where they work.

Activities focused on graduate LGBT+ lawyers include our sponsorship of the LGBT Bar’s annual Lavender Law Conference & Career Fair and sponsoring the LGBT Leaders graduate recruitment event.

We have an active global LGBT+ network, Halo, and Halo Champions, providing a global network of staff not identifying as LGBT+ but who support and promote LGBT+ equality.

We are founding members and global diversity champions of Stonewall. We ranked inside the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index placing in the Top 25 firms for the last four years, and as a Top Global Employer three years in a row.

We have also contributed to the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT Rights and hosted the launch of the report in our London office. A number of our LGBT+ lawyers are involved with these matters.

Race and ethnicity

As a global firm, our focus is to attract and retain talent from underrepresented groups, particularly at senior levels.

In 2015 we launched our first global Black Affinity Network, which brings together lawyers of black African and black African Caribbean heritage from across the firm. And the Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholarship, which mentors and develops talented black male law students from less privileged backgrounds, has yielded trainees who have joined Freshfields.

Engaging our clients

The wider environmental, social and governance agendas present new risks and opportunities to global businesses, including many of our clients.

We believe our role as trusted adviser to many of the world’s multinational enterprises also enables us to help our clients integrate these sustainability considerations within their operations.

We also regularly collaborate with clients on initiatives of shared interest.

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