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An interview with Jodie Hill – Founder and Managing Partner of Thrive Law.

You are taking the lead on measuring, tracking, and recording your social value impact through our platform – what led to this decision and is it engrained in your company cultures and values?

We have been supporting local community initiatives around us for some time and helping specific charities in the mental health space, but we weren’t monitoring our activity. We had no record of what we were doing and how much time we were spending on our voluntary work across the business at all. As a business we are quite data driven and we wanted to know how many hours we give to our community and recording the ways that we help people was important as well as understanding more about the impact we were having through the work we are doing.

We have always run events and helped support others through our contacts, but we have never had a formal process on what sort of charities we were going to support and why. I wanted everyone to be involved, so during a team day everyone chucked in their charities and initiatives they wanted to be involved with and we took all those names and placed them on a board (anonymously) and then voted on them as a team. We decided on how we are going to help the charities, and would it be as teams or individuals and how often would we be helping. The Investors in Community platform would then come in to play and let us know who had worked on what, where had they done it and what time was given to each charity or community initiative and has now helped formalise the process we were looking for and not just about how much money we can make each project but what impact were we genuinely giving back to our community.

I also like the individual perspective on the platform and how it can transfer from organisations because each person can be doing way more on their own accord but included it as part of that system. I know it’s a personal preference and each employee needs to be encouraged at times to help give back, but they have a choice to work within the team or do something independently which says something about that person and it’s good to see the work they do over and above the work at Thrive.

I don’t think people realise how much they do themselves and if you sit down and recall all the time they do give to charities in terms of time. Many of the team will do a walk or charity run and I’m a champion for LawCare which is a mental health charity for Lawyers and support Leeds MIND with pro bono training and advice to name just a few, and found we don’t think to put down our time for all the charity work we do and now I can already think of 10 different charities I do give my time to and that is adding real value but isn’t recorded anywhere.

Is it fair to say that most law firms don’t really value time given to generating social impact when time is all about chargeable hours?

As a law firm we don’t have a billable hours target. What we do have is behavioural links to an overall target.  This drive the important of the right behaviours.  Its not just about what money lawyer bill but about the value they add more widely. For example, some of team some may not have billed loads of hours that week or month, but they will have added value somewhere else in the business or completed their charity work. To Thrive Law its more about what a person brings as their whole value as a person rather than being a billing machine. In our 1:1s every month we have our behavioural scores but with the platform we can now monitor their behaviour on an annual basis too and looking back over the year we will now have another layer of data showing what value that individual brings. We offer a free helpline service to different charities and free advice from legal to non-legal and helping the homeless and it would be good to see where we are spending most of our time in these areas. Our culture is more about being a team player rather than as an individual and if you do meet your financial target for the month but not demonstrated any additional contribution then over the year your score will affect your overall results. The conventional way in a law firm would be based on your billable hours and which clients you had brought in. That’s not how we do it and law firms have to think differently in this new age. Thrive Law is a business and yes, we are here to make money, but we are also here to make a difference, to give back and want to add value to the wider society.

Thrive Law is a business with purpose, and we want to attract the right employees and the right clients. For us its more about driving our purpose  and values rather than just being a law practice delivering on the letter of the law.  At Thrive Law People Matter.

There are other firms out there that do a lot on social impact, but the consensus is that the focus is on billable hours. It’s a personal view but there larger the firm the more the value of the deal takes over from the purpose and it becomes a culture view. Do I want to work with a firm that puts purpose first or is it about making a millionaire more millions first?

The new generation of law graduates are judging legal firms on their culture and demonstration of giving back to their communities – how true is this?

There has been a real sea change in views for those entering a career in law and because of the pandemic there are many re-evaluating the firm they are working for. They have had more time with their families, more time to reflect on things like social impact, carbon footprint, wellbeing, diversity and inclusion and mental health. These areas have become more important than ever been before and people are now coming into the workforce having an expectation that a firm can articulate where it stands on those topics and can support people with the infrastructure to support them with the things they want to do over and above billing hours.

How important is it to a client that their firm is demonstrating their social impact?

From the client’s perspective there are some who value a law firms’ stance on its social values and there are some who don’t put the same level of importance on it, and it comes down to a professional firms view on which client types it wants to engage with. We know that for most tenders you must declare how many hours you spend on CSR and what policy and processes do you have in place to record your social impact. There is a business case for engaging with the type of platform that Investors in Community is because it gives you the data at your fingertips for those tenders and proposals. They should also add the platform on to the list for why someone should join their firm rather than just because they have won an award, or we have these great lawyers.

Overall, Law firms, and I would widen that to businesses in general need to now step up. There is an expectation that they provide not only the infrastructure but the support that individuals need and create the environment that people want to work in. It’s a cliché but the new normal is for companies to revisit their ‘why’ and where they are going and how do they engage their teams.

 

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