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Is it all over for law firm freebies?

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17 law firms pledge greener trainee recruitment practices, possibly spelling end for law student-coveted merch

From phone chargers to laser pens, sweets to wooly hats, law firms have been known to distribute all sorts of branded goodies as a way to attract junior talent through their doors.

But just over a year ago, a group made up of law firm early talent recruiters, universities and student bodies, committed to reducing their carbon footprint and considering sustainability at the heart of what they do, possibly spelling the end for law student-coveted merch.

The Sustainable Recruitment Alliance has now shared the progress of its first year in action.

It has 40 signatories and of these law firm signatories have more than doubled from seven to 17 since launching in August last year, with Akin Gump, Allen & Overy, Arthur Cox, Burness Paull, Eversheds Sutherland, Farrer & Co, Macfarlanes, Skadden, Stephenson Harwood and Taylor Wessing joining Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Pinsent Masons, RPC, TLT and Weil to “stem the decades of damage that our early talent practices have caused to the environment”.

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The Alliance’s Impact Report, published towards the end of last week, examines the impact of 26 of its signatories. It shows that compared to last year, the emissions stemming from merchandise purchased by these signatories fell by almost three-quarters (74%) this year. They are projected to fall by 89%, against the same baseline, next year, which, the report says, equates to saving 149 tonnes of CO2 — roughly equivalent to 75,000kg of coal being burnt.

Paper merch such as brochures, flyers and post-it notes was the most deployed merch during this period, followed by textiles (i.e. bags and clothing), plastics (pens and bottles), and other products such as small electronics like USBs, metal and wood. When compared to last year, signatories reduced their consumption of paper by 84%, textiles by 82%, plastics by 92% and other goods from 4.2 tonnes to 0.2 tonnes.

The coronavirus pandemic provided the momentum to shift graduate recruitment activity online. The report found that 95% of events were conducted in person last year, compared to just 6% this year, and as the proportion of events hosted online increased, the weight of purchased merchandise fell. “A 1% rise in the percentage of virtual events attended by a signatory in any given year, is associated with a decrease of 9kg of merchandise purchased,” according to the report.

Commenting on the progress the Alliance has made, founder and head of graduate talent at Clifford Chance, Laura Yeates, told Legal Cheek:

“I’m incredibly proud of what the Alliance has achieved in it’s first year, but as early talent professionals we collectively have a responsibility to do more. It’s time for us to step up and embed sustainability at the very heart of our attraction, selection and development strategies. Each of us should feel empowered to make significant steps in reducing our carbon emissions and use our creativity and innovation to reduce the environmental impact of our activities. Together, recruiters, careers services and students can make a genuine change, but only if we all act together and we all act now.”

By next year the Alliance hopes to have 100 early talent recruiters pledge as signatories, 25 university careers services and ten society connections.

Other Alliance members include: Accenture, Aviva, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Unlocked and Vodafone.

@legalcheek

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