Investing in the communities in which we live and work is a key part of our corporate responsibility ethos. Our community investment programmes focus on three priority areas: pro bono, volunteering and charitable giving.
For nearly 20 years we have had a dedicated corporate responsibility programme, drawing on the skills of our people and the resources of our firm to support our local communities. We provide support through pro bono legal advice, volunteering (prioritising homelessness, education and inner city needs) and charitable giving. Last year we invested more than £1 million in community activities.
We are one of the founding signatories of the Law Society's Pro Bono Charter and the provision of free legal advice directly to charities and community groups, as well as through legal clinics, plays to our core strengths. Last year, we provided more than 4,500 hours of pro bono advice to more than 30 different charities and community groups.
Our pro bono work sees us regularly support the Birmingham Legal Advice Clinic and dozens of charities - ranging from small, local charities such as SIFA Fireside, Roshni and Spitalfields Crypt Trust, to national charities like The Big Issue Foundation and the NSPCC, and NGOs such as Oxfam and The British Red Cross Society.
"The British Red Cross cannot thank Gowling WLG enough for the fantastic support they give us both in terms of legal advice and meeting space. Everyone who has helped us has provided highly professional, timely and very user-friendly advice and the fact that this is pro bono means that we can concentrate even more of our resources on delivering vital services to our beneficiaries."
Andrew Napier, Head of Legal, The British Red Cross
We also support the work of Kids in Need of Defense UK by providing pro bono support to children and their families who are entitled to apply for citizenship.
A copy of the Gowling WLG (UK) pro bono policy is available here.
Each year our people give a huge amount of time and energy to projects in our local community - focusing on the key issues of homelessness, education and inner city needs.
The best way out of homelessness? Employment. By providing workshops on drafting CVs and interview preparation, work placements and one-to-one job coaching, our people are helping homeless and disadvantaged members of the community to build their confidence and employability skills. Since 2001 we have provided more than 100 work placements as part of this programme and in some instances have gone on to permanently employ individuals who successfully completed the their programme.
As part of our role on the West Midlands Homelessness Taskforce, we have helped to create a Homelessness Toolkit, which sets out practical steps for businesses looking to prevent, offer help and create pathways out of homelessness.
Other practical support we provide includes preparing and serving festive lunches, hosting summer BBQs, raising funds through sponsored sleep outs, providing pro bono advice and donating clothing, toiletries and food.
If we had to sum up our education programme in one word, it would be "aspiration": helping underprivileged children of all age groups to believe they can achieve their true potential when they leave school. We have provided volunteers to visit primary schools in Kingstanding (Birmingham) and Southwark (London) during their lunch-hour to help children learn to read.
We are members of the Social Mobility Business Partnership, a collaboration of law firms and in house legal departments providing quality work experience to pupils from deprived backgrounds.
In partnership with Skills Builder Partnership we invite groups of primary and secondary school children to spend a day a day in our offices, gaining an insight into law and mixing practical learning with enterprise skills.
We provide volunteers to become tutors with the Access Project to help GCSE and A-Level students from low income backgrounds to achieve the grades they need to help them go to the University they aspire to go to.
We fund an anti-homophobic bullying programme in partnership with Diversity Role Models in Holyhead School in Handsworth (Birmingham) and have sponsored a TeachFirst teacher at the same school.
More than 100 of our people have become school governors through our partnership with Governors for Schools.
Inner city needs
Poverty, racial tension, unemployment, gang violence and isolation of the elderly are just some of the challenging issues being faced by communities within half a mile of our offices. We are supporting a number of charities and community organisations in tackling these issues.
We have food and clothing banks in each of our UK offices; food is donated to the Trussell Trust; clothing for the homeless is donated to SIFA Fireside in Birmingham and Spitalfields Crypt Trust in London.
We have funded family sessions at allotments in Southwark Park (London) for parents and pre-school children to learn more about where food comes from and to encourage healthy eating.
We support Free@Last, a charity helping the children and young people of Nechells, one of the most deprived areas of Birmingham, with pro bono advice, funding towards courses for young dads and workshops for young men aimed at giving them leadership and life skills to play a positive role in their community.
Alongside practical help, we provide financial support to charities in a variety of ways.
Our people nominate and vote for one national charity, as set out in our Charity of the Year Partnership Policy. The chosen charity benefits from staff fundraising throughout the year and, where possible, pro bono and in kind support; to the extent that they often become lasting community partners.
Our 2020 charity of the year is Cancer Research UK. Previous charities of the year include The Buddy Bag Foundation, Dementia UK, Young Minds, Bede House, Birmingham St Mary's Hospice, Beyond Food, Bliss, Help Harry Help Others, Dogs for the Good, KidsOut, Auditory Verbal UK, Macmillan, Alzheimer's Society, Friends of the Elderly and Make-a-Wish.
Our award-winning choir supports the charity of the year by raising money at summer concerts and Christmas carol services.
The firm's Charitable Trust makes small grants throughout the year to charities registered in England and Wales and also provides matched funding for our people's fundraising efforts in aid of a wide variety of UK charities.
We operate a payroll giving scheme, facilitating direct donations from our employees' salary to charities of their choice.