Simmons goes all-out on corporate responsibility

Mark Dawkins

Mark Dawkins

Simmons & Simmons has put corporate responsibility (CR) at the heart of its 2009-12 business plan, becoming one of the first firms to make CR central rather than peripheral to strategy.

As part of the CR ­programme, dubbed ‘Step Up’, managing partner Mark Dawkins will be the first of a series of bloggers to update the firm on their progress. The twice-weekly blog will be accompanied by a ­podcast on iTunes. At least 15 partners have committed to being regular bloggers.

CR and diversity ­manager Mary Gallagher said: “We want to highlight CR ­champions, particularly at the senior level, showcase the work that’s already ongoing and clearly explain the benefits for people if they do get involved.”

Teams will be encouraged to liaise with clients to establish their respective goals and how best to collaborate. Employees will be rewarded for their contributions with time off in lieu, an awards ceremony and recognition in the appraisal process.

“We want CR to be at the heart of the business, rather than being a bolt-on,” said Gallagher. “The obvious way to do this is through the business plan mechanism. Clients are pushing this – the requests from clients for collaboration are getting greater and more detailed.”

Although the firm has existing CR and pro bono capabilities, the Step Up programme will formalise the areas of work and the reporting process, extend its reach to all global offices and create new incentives.

Country heads will ­convene with senior partner David Dickinson by telephone on a ­quarterly basis and will get together to discuss progress at the annual spring partners’ meeting.

CR and pro bono partner Richard Dyton said: “There’s a whole world of need out there. Lawyers have a moral obligation to go out and change things in their communities.”

With fee-earners under increased time constraints during the downturn, firms are grappling with how to prevent CR being pushed off the agenda.

Clifford Chance has also announced plans to create a CR awards ceremony (The Lawyer, 21 September).

The Simmons scheme will enable staff to input CR hours into their timesheets and the firm will offer them a day off for every 21 hours they ­complete. It is also reviewing how to incorporate CR on a formal basis in every employee’s annual appraisal.