The ‘sustainability’ vector of ESG has undeniably become a ubiquitous buzzword across all industries, including the legal sector. While the concept carries crucial implications for ethical practices, environmental responsibility, and societal wellbeing, its widespread use has also led to a certain level of dilution.
Fostering transparency and a genuine commitment to sustainability is essential in avoiding greenwashing, as clients are increasingly discerning and can feel perturbed when firms fall short of authentic environmental efforts.
As per the May 2023 edition of “Climate Change Insights, Health and Well-being, UK,” a quarterly publication by the ONS that consolidates the latest climate change-related statistics and analysis from various sources, 64% of adults in Great Britain have actively contributed to addressing climate change in the past 12 months. Notably, the predominant actions taken include alterations in purchasing decisions (40%) and travel habits (31%). One could argue that the present moment is particularly opportune for integrating ESG into your law firm’s marketing strategy and reassessing communication channels to align with these evolving priorities.
The Law Firm Marketing Club’s ‘What Clients Want 2023’ survey consolidates this view, shedding light on the shifting currents and emerging trends relating to ESG. In 2023, 39% of respondents considered a law firm’s approach to sustainability to be very important or important—a modest increase from the previous year’s 38%.
This subtle uptick signals a growing consciousness among clients about the impact their legal representation can have beyond the confines of their legal matters. Delving into the survey’s comments reveals a nuanced understanding of client perspectives. Some express a heightened interest in a firm’s environmental approach. Others view sustainability as a valuable but not decisive factor. The prevailing sentiment is that while it’s not the sole criterion in selecting a law firm, sustainability matters to your clients.
Examining the demographic breakdown within the Law Firm Marketing Club’s ‘What Clients Want’ survey unveils intriguing patterns, particularly in the context of generational and business-oriented perspectives. A notable 55% of individuals under 30 years old consider a law firm’s sustainability approach to be very important or important, marking a significant generational shift. This suggests that younger clients, characterised by a strong commitment to social and environmental causes, are evaluating law firms through a different lens than their older counterparts.
Similarly, 55% of business clients express the same sentiment, reinforcing the idea that sustainability is a key consideration in corporate decision-making. As businesses increasingly adopt sustainable practices, they expect their legal partners to align with their values, creating a symbiotic relationship that extends beyond legal expertise.
However, the survey also exposes a middle ground, with 31% of respondents sitting on the fence and another 31% deeming sustainability not important or only slightly important. This polarisation prompts a critical question: Do law firms need to do more to bolster their efforts on the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) agenda?
The resounding answer is yes, particularly for law firms aiming to appeal to younger clients and businesses. The data suggests that sustainability is not just a checkbox but a decisive factor that can influence the choice of a law firm. Ignoring this trend could be perilous as a new generation of clients begins to build relationships with law firms.
What are the Law Firm Marketing Club’s actionable ESG tips?
Transparent Reporting: Law firms should embrace transparent reporting on their sustainability initiatives. Clients want to know what steps firms are taking to reduce their environmental impact, promote social justice, and adhere to ethical governance practices. Providing clear, accessible, and regular reports on these initiatives builds trust and demonstrates accountability. Ensure all digital touchpoints reflect this and the information is easily accessible. Your clients are researching you online.
Educational Initiatives: Many clients, especially those under 30, expressed a desire to know more about a law firm’s environmental approach. Law firms can proactively engage in educational initiatives to inform clients about their sustainability practices. This could include webinars, articles, and workshops that shed light on the firm’s commitment to ESG values.
Strategic Partnerships: Collaborate with organisations and initiatives that align with ESG values. By forming strategic partnerships with sustainability-focused entities, law firms can amplify their impact and contribute to broader societal and environmental goals. This not only enhances the firm’s reputation but also creates a network of like-minded collaborators.
Incorporate ESG in Decision-Making: Integrate ESG considerations into the core decision-making processes of the firm. This involves evaluating potential suppliers based on their sustainability practices, ensuring the firm’s operations are environmentally friendly, and actively participating in initiatives that promote social responsibility.
Engage with social media: Sharing updates, achievements, and insights related to sustainability not only keeps clients informed but also contributes to a positive public perception. Notably, a staggering 80% of UK adults aged 16 to 64 actively engage with social media, underscoring the significant reach and that the impact law firms can achieve with well-crafted ESG messaging. Being vocal and proud about ESG initiatives helps build a strong brand image.
Continuous Improvement: Sustainability is an ongoing journey and law firms should commit to continuous improvement. Regularly reassess and enhance ESG initiatives based on feedback, industry best practices, and evolving societal expectations. This iterative approach demonstrates a genuine commitment to sustainability rather than a superficial checkbox exercise.
In conclusion, the LFMC’s survey paints a dynamic picture of the intersection between sustainability and the legal profession. While 39% of clients consider a law firm’s approach to sustainability important, the nuances within this figure reveal a complex landscape.
As we set our sights on 2024 law firms are presented with an interesting opportunity. Those that recognise the importance of sustainability, adapt to evolving expectations, and proactively communicate their ESG efforts stand not only meet current client demands but also futureproof their practice.
In an increasingly conscientious business environment this approach can ensure that client engagement remains as sustainable as the firm’s ESG efforts.
- Law Firm Marketing Club’s ‘What Clients Want 2023’ survey data.
- ONS Climate Sentiment Survey 2023
For a more in-depth exploration of the survey findings and a comprehensive understanding of ‘What Clients Want 2023,’ consider becoming a member of the Law Firm Marketing Club or acquiring a copy of the report. Contact Sophia Stancer at email@example.com for more information.
Sophia Stancer, Community Manager, Law Firm Marketing Club.