3 Strategies for Lawyers to Create Social Impact

I believe each of us has a unique mission in this world. A calling that invites you to do good to others in a way that is unique to you. Your calling will whisper to you from time to time. It is reminding you your calling is still there. At the same time, it is also a compass warning us about less desirable choices. It always steers us in the right direction if we listen to it. My calling is to help lawyers create social impact. To commit to driving positive social change.

How can you find this mission? How can you respond to the calling? When global problems are too big for anyone to solve alone, what is it you could still do? How can you, a lawyer create a positive social impact in your community and the world?

What breaks your heart?

First, you must find a real problem you are going to solve. Whether it is in your work or business life and saving the world.

Defining the problem is critical when you decide you want to make a positive change. The number of opportunities to provide positive social change is enormous. And each mission is so important on its own it is critical you find your exact focus. It may seem like you are turning your back on other vital causes.

How can you even compare the importance of causes like?

  • The eradication of poverty
  • The empowerment of women; or
  • The fight against climate change, for example.

And yet it is crucial to choose. Several critical causes challenge the fate of all mankind. But you cannot focus on everything. If you try to be everything to everyone you end up doing nothing.

The critical question is to define the situation in the world that is breaking your heart. Which challenge do you bond with so emotionally it forces you to act?

Maybe you are already donating money for a specific purpose. Or you volunteer. If so, you already have clues about the challenge closest and most important to you. And where you could have the most to give.

What is fundamental is the emotional bond. The challenge that calls to you the most. Listening to your feelings and inner voice is the key. It will allow you to continue your work towards an impossible goal when it seems too hard. The impossible is possible.

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How you can as a lawyer create social impact?

What can you do in your job as a lawyer to create a positive social impact?

The answer, of course, depends a lot on your ambition level. How deep you are willing to go. All the ways you can positively impact people and your environment are good and, enough. There are no right or wrong, good or bad ways to create a positive social impact.

Too often, good deeds go unnoticed because you feel they are not big enough or because someone is doing more. Avoid comparing your efforts to others. It’s sometimes overwhelming. The ways you have chosen are right for you and so already serve the world. Because when you find your way to improve the world, you can continue for the long term. Your motivation will sustain you.

Here are a few strategies to combine social impact with your legal work and business.

Give back

Charity is perhaps the most familiar way to create a social impact. And help those causes that you feel are most important to you.

The easiest way to provide charity is to donate money. Or, from a business point of view, profits. Donate to a good cause or to the activities of non-profits you consider valuable.

You can boost your charity efforts by running campaigns with your network or customers and collect a larger donation. By doing this you also spread awareness about the important cause and the value of giving back.

Another way to perform charity is to donate time, our most limited resource. It’s tempting to underestimate the importance of donating your time. Even a small-time contribution is relevant! You can offer your services on a pro bono basis (free of charge or at reduced fees). One great way to donate time is to educate, mentor, or coach the community or individual people.

Share the knowledge and skill you have. And please forget unnecessary modesty. Believe it or not, you a full of experience and skills that are valuable to others. What you may feel is simple and easy is not simple and easy for many others. It can be super beneficial for them to get lessons and guidance from you. And you should not limit yourself to just legal expertise. Being a lawyer is a small part of you. Give it a try and amaze yourself. You have so much to share.

If you have employees, you can make a social impact by creating opportunities for employees to provide pro bono work. Create a culture and structures that allow space and time to do good. Your workplace encourages participation activities that create social impact. And they may not immediately reach the bottom line.

If employee salaries reflect hourly invoicing, the pro bono work should not be a penalty for them. You should encourage it and their salary should acknowledge it. The pro bono contribution should be purposeful, with social impact front of mind. Create your own goals and metrics for it.

Be ethical

Investing in corporate sustainability is another way to create social impact. Develop operations for you and your business as ethical and sustainable as possible. Corporate sustainability can be financial responsibility, environmental responsibility or social responsibility. You need to know what impact your actions have on the environment, society and people.

You can design as many ambitious sustainability goals as you want. The sky is the limit. When creating your sustainability approach, ask yourself about the outcome you want. Is it minimizing negative effects or maximizing the positive effects? Then you can find the right level for you.

Concrete ways to increase sustainability include minimizing environmental impacts. Examples include recycling and reducing the carbon footprint of your work and business.

Social responsibility includes an active concern for the well-being of your employees. Or choosing suppliers who share the same sustainability goals as you.

Good citizenship and compliance with the law are self-evident to lawyers. But sustainability extends far beyond regulatory compliance to ethics and the value base of your actions. You can also consider sustainability by selecting the kind of customers you serve and what kind of services you want to offer them.

Design social impact into your business

The third way is to take a social impact to a new level. Make it a part of the business and not just an afterthought or question you will tackle if there is time. Especially when that time never comes.

Social impact business goals challenge traditional business thinking. It is no longer about what individual service or product you are selling, but about what you stand for. From a sales perspective, you no longer sell, the customer no longer buys the product or service. The customer pays for the outcome or result. The customer pays for whether the product or service has the desired positive social impact.

You might think that yes, all business has some impact. Almost all companies produce some good for society, like tax money or jobs. One thing distinguishes an impact-oriented business from traditional businesses. Social impact is not a by-product but an end product. Social impact is an outspoken and intentional goal and measured and monitored. And as said, it is the social impact that the customers buy.

Social impact also challenges the traditional business thinking of who the customer is. After all, the pattern is usually pretty obvious. The customer is the one who gets the product or service and pays for it. In the business of social impact, the user and payer of the service can be different parties. Defining the customer requires new consideration. And so does the business model as a whole. 

What can you do today

I challenge you to take action. If you have an ache inside you that you would want to do more for the good of others, this is the time. You have everything you need to take the first step. Silence for a moment and listen to the calling. Find out what is important to you, choose your way to help and start making an impact. That’s all.

Image of Hannele Korhonen Legal Designer

Who’s writing?

Hi, I’m Hannele. I am an ex-corporate lawyer, legal designer, pioneer in legal tech, serial entrepreneur and blogger.  I am the founder and teacher in Lawyer’s Design School.

I’m here to teach you new skills and mindset of legal design to thrive in the future of law.

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