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A love of music, plus support from his firm, has helped Cobbetts Leeds employment head Ronald Drake win an award for his work with Huddersfield charity Music and the Deaf.
Drake is a keen amateur singer and a member of several choirs, as well as being a partner in Cobbetts. The firm is a member of Arts & Business Yorkshire, which provides board members to charities, among other activities.
At Arts & Business’s recent awards ceremony, Drake was given the ‘Board Director of the Year’ prize for his work as a non-executive director.
Drake became involved with Music and the Deaf through its artistic director Paul Whittaker, a profoundly deaf keyboard player who has accompanied one of Drake’s choirs.
Music and the Deaf works to help deaf people understand and appreciate music, including training teachers in mainstream education to teach music to deaf children. The charity also provides signing services for musicals such as Cats – a service requiring highly skilled signers who must learn the entirety of a musical score by heart.
In the course of his work for the charity, Drake has used both his musical knowledge and legal skills to help promote its activities. He says his legal experience is often used in the course of his work for the charity. His advocacy skills in particular come into effect when he represents Music and the Deaf in the community.
But Drake also believes that working with Music and the Deaf can give something back to Cobbetts.
"Employment law tends to lend itself to this type of work," he said. "What I’m trying to do is bring a bit of the creativity that I see in an arts organisation into the business."
He said he now tries to apply skills and acumen picked up at the charity in his everyday work at Cobbetts, and that pro bono can easily be approached in a business setting.
Drake’s work is not unusual within Cobbetts. Many of the firm’s lawyers work for charities and other organisations either on a pro bono basis or as part of the internal corporate social responsibility programme.
"We’re all encouraged to participate," said Drake. He believes that when lawyers take on such roles as non-executive directors on a pro bono basis, it increases the awareness of what solicitors can do within the community.
Drake is not the first Cobbetts lawyer to be recognised for his pro bono work. In May this year, fellow employment partner Kevin Jacquiss was given a similar award by the Business in the Arts: North West group. This was for his pro bono work with galleries, theatre groups, craft centres and other organisations.