Pro bono”是个舶来词,意味着“为公众利益,以专业知识和才能提供服务,同时不收取费用或只收取象征性费用”。如果说过去中国律师事务所更多地将此类服务和“公益”“做好事”等概念模糊在一起,经历2020年初爆发的新冠疫情,中国律所显然对pro bono有了更多理解和实践。

“律师应该好好利用专业技能和专业知识,从‘财力公益’、‘智力公益’两个维度着手,回馈社会。” 协力律师事务所创始人游闽键律师说。

协力在疫情期间的pro bono实践就从这两个角度展开:疫情高峰期,协力团队以微信群的方式,24小时为企业和个人提供免费法律服务,并对提问频次较高的问题进行了整合;此外,律所还整合资源,把价值数百万元的抗疫物资送到了湖北。

融力天闻律师事务所也如此。律所作为一种特殊的社会组织,它的“才能”不仅局限于专业知识,还在于由法律服务铺陈开的广泛社会关系。融力天闻高级合伙人孙立君律师告诉ALB,去年1月,融力天闻就是利用内部和社会网络,向全员发起募捐,并协调荷兰华人紧急采购医用物资,送达抗疫一线。

疫情期间对于社会需求的积极反馈,让律所开始具备了“寻找问题”并“解决问题”的意识。以协力为例,当疫情导致的用工、合同、社会秩序等问题平息后,协力敏感观察到了后疫时代的就业难难题。因此,自2020年开始,协力连续两年为高校应届毕业生提供了公益就业实训营。

当然,当特殊情况下的热情逐渐演变为日常生活中的细水长流,就需要以制度方式维持pro bono的良好运行。对此律所也给出了不同答案。

以融力天闻为例,律所参考了上海市律师协会的做法,开始对律师公益服务的数量和情况进行统计,并将其纳入律师综合评价之中,作为评选优秀律师,或向第三方推选优秀律师时的考量依据之一。

协力则延续了律所设立专笔“公益资金”的做法,即每年吸纳合伙人部分奖金投入公益。协力将这笔钱用于在上海市慈善基金会下设立 “协力爱心专项基金” ,用来资助自闭症儿童、贫困学生等。

与此同时,与想象中 “费钱费力”印象不同,律所已经感受到了pro bono带来的切实好处。

“基于律所的社会责任和对法治思想广泛普及的期望,加大投入公益,既有利于社会,也有利于律所发展,从而形成良性循环。” 孙立君律师坦言。

游律师对此观点也表示赞同,作为协力的公益领头人,他常说的一句话便是:“专业会成就更优质的公益,公益也会反哺每一位专业的法律人。”

他进一步指出,pro bono还能带来“可遇而不可求”的益处,即增强律所内的文化粘合度。“协力的公益活动都由律师自发组织参与,虽未计入绩效考核,但律师们也都在不断创新参与公益的方式。”游律师说,而这种“参与感”也将进一步转化为对律所的“归属感”。

 

China’s law firms step up during COVID-19 by embracing CSR

The phrase “corporate social responsibility” (CSR), a key trend globally today, involves organisations being socially accountable to themselves, their stakeholders, and the public. While Chinese law firms have been familiar with CSR for years now,  since the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020 they have stepped up in a big way to make a difference to the society in which they operate.

For instance, during the peak of COVID-19, Co-effort Law Firm provided free legal services for enterprises and individuals 24 hours a day through its WeChat group. In addition, Co-effort also sent medical supplies worth millions of yuan to Hubei Province, epicentre of the outbreak. “Lawyers should make good use of their professional skills and knowledge to give back to society," says You Minjian, founder of Co-effort.

Meanwhile, Ronly & Tenwen Partners used its extensive network – both internal and external -  to raise funds for those impacted by the pandemic. Alex Sun, senior partner of Ronly & Tenwen, tells ALB that the firm coordinated with overseas Chinese in the Netherlands to purchase medical supplies and deliver them to where they were needed.

The positive feedback to these actions made law firms even more determined to identify problems and solve them. As the pandemic caused many to lose their jobs, Co-effort in 2020 began setting up employment training camps for college graduates.

GIVING BACK, GETTING BACK

Law firms are now appreciative of the importance of CSR, and eager to use it to give back to society. In the case of Ronly & Tenwen, it began to look more closely at how much its lawyers were contributing to their communities, and made it an important part of its comprehensive evaluation of lawyers.

Meanwhile, Co-effort has a special "public welfare fund,” which takes a part of each partner’s salary and bonus and invests in a Shanghai charity focused on autistic children and poor students.

The fact that CSR has its benefits for firms is not lost on leaders. “Based on law firms' social responsibility and the expectation of law being widely popularized, increasing investment in public welfare is not only beneficial to society, but also conducive to the development of law firms, thus forming a virtuous circle," says Sun.

Agrees You: “Professionalism will lead to a better public welfare, and public welfare will also have good influence on lawyers.”

He goes on to point out that CSR also has the benefit of enhancing cultural bonds within law firms. "All of the public welfare activities are organized and participated by the lawyers themselves. Although they are not included in the performance appraisal, and the lawyers are constantly innovating the ways to participate in public welfare," says You, adding that this participation in CSR activities will lead to a deeper sense of belonging within the firm.

 

To contact the editorial team, please email ALBEditor@thomsonreuters.com.

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