“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。
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。
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.