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 two-thirds (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.


A year's supply of stationery? Thank you so merch ✍️ ##lawstudent ##merchlife ##futurelawyer

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Excellent. I always hated the random tat foisted upon me at university law fairs. 100% of the information in the leaflets could be found online, the pens never worked and nobody needs a travelling mouse that doubles up as a memory stick.

Feel free to keep the free food and networking dinners in place though. Those were great!


Good old dayz

It’s okay everyone. Slaughters isn’t a signatory so there’s still hope for their pens.



Fond memories of the good old days where you could identify certain law firms by freebie offered.


How it’s going

Utter virtue-signaling horsesh*t.

Many of these firms represent the most aggressive and expansive fossil fuel corporates out there (A&O x Saudi Aramco, HSF x ExxonMobil) but they’ll thump the PR machine hard on how they reduced their supply of pens and USBs lmao.

But hey, it’s their win since by doing so they managed to save some cutter too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not critical of them representing oil majors, I’m just sick and tired of all the gormless “green new deal meets Greta Thunberg’s ballsack” spin they put on it.



Learn how to use an ampersand.



Lmao wat 😂


K&O deal king

Best freebie I ever received at a law fair was a fast-track offer to senior equity partner at 18 years old. I turned it down because little did they know I received the same offer at Kirkland and Ellis, which I accepted (as you will infer from my name).


Kirkland & Otis ?

I like the idea that you attended a law fair as a sixth former


A. Lawyer

So you’re totally fine with them representing oil companies on the condition that they don’t do anything that could even possibly be interpreted as being good for the planet. Weird opinion but OK.


Innit blud

Um, no you goon. They’re mostly all BigLaw shops so it’s hardly surprising they act for big clients, incl. oil companies or defence contractors, etc.

I just don’t get why they get involved with all this fake hand-wringing COP26 horsec*ck when in reality reducing the freebies will save them money and little else, and they definitely won’t save the planet by handing out less pens.


A Lawyer

Uh yeah obviously I agree with that. The guy I replied to specifically said “I’m not critical of them representing oil majors” though.

That’s why it’s weird – he’s happy for them to help oil companies dump crude into the ocean, but draws the line at not handing out free pens?

Obviously firms doing tiny things like this while repping Glencore or whatever is ridiculous, but the guy seems to think repping Glencore is fine so… it’s weird.


Common Sense

I don’t think big oil corporates are in the business of “dump[ing] crude into the ocean”

What purpose would that even serve?

Also. Agree with the top comment about firms spewing virtue-signaling popular sound bites


Some of these firms had already made a decision not to peddle tat to improve the likelihood that the students they speak to are genuinely interested in the firm rather than a free pen, notepad, or yo-yo.



Freebies are for peasants



Sorry didn’t realise we had a monarch in the comments section. Get out of here you snob.


Pupillage Seeker

Do any Chambers give away free wigs and gowns?

Asking for a friend…


Competition Markets Authority

Sounds like an unauthorised opportunity for competitors to sit in a room and agree to reduce their costs by reducing the ways they attract law students. All under the guise of the “environment”


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