Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is working with Business in the Community as part of a mentor programme to help homeless people find employment.
The programme, called Business Action on Homelessness, places the homeless in two or four-week work placements in major organisations, including law firms.
Freshfields recently took its 100th placement. The firm provides work experience in a broad range of business service departments, including catering, the post room, marketing and purchasing.
The firm’s corporate social responsibility manager Michelle Milnes says Freshfields’ lawyers participate in the mentoring programme over a period of six months.
“The lawyers are basically providing motivation and drive for the programme participants and helping to facilitate their transition into employment,” she says.
As part of the programme, participants are helped with job coaching, where a member of staff at the company or firm provides advice on getting and retaining work.
Freshfields finance associate Sebastian Smith has been volunteering as a job coach. His first client has been a complicated case because the client has a criminal history.
“Earlier on in his life he got on the wrong side of the law and, after spending some time in prison, he decided to turn his life around,” Smith says. “He was keen to get a job in the security industry, but his criminal record proved to be a problem, so he’s focusing on getting work in the construction industry.”
Smith and his client meet up to three times a month. Smith offers advice on a range of issues, including working practices and applying for jobs.
Even though each mentoring process is supposed to take no more than six months, Smith expects that he will be in contact with his client, and future clients, for longer.
“I’m prepared to keep the relationship going for as long as the client wants,” he says. “Every client is different and they may feel they don’t need any more contact once they’ve found employment, for instance.”
In addition to advice, Smith takes a pragmatic approach to the programme, offering the facilities of the law firm to help his clients find work.
“Job coaches not only help with advising clients,”he says. “It’s often really practical things, such as giving them access to the internet to look for work and providing quiet meeting rooms where they can phone prospective employers.”
Freshfields is a national partner of Business Action on