Initiative extends pro bono opportunities to firms’ business services staff

Banning: Third sector bodies need non-legal skills as much as legal

A new initiative extending pro bono opportunities to business operations professionals at large law firms has gone live, linking them with third sector organisations needing volunteers.

Fifth Day aims to encourage the estimated 30,000 people who work in areas such as IT, business development and marketing, finance, HR, facilities and secretarial services in the top 100 UK law firms to donate their time, in the same way that lawyers do.

It is also establishing a voluntary corporate membership programme under which law firms commit to promoting and giving equivalence to pro bono opportunities among their non-fee-earning communities.

To assist them, Fifth Day connects people with projects and trustee roles through its website, developed in partnership with skills-based volunteering organisation Reach Volunteering. The vast majority of opportunities currently available can be done remotely.

Fifth Day is the brainchild of Pinsent Masons’ former head of communications, Fred Banning, assisted by an advisory board comprising Jeremy Ford (senior business development and marketing leader, Skadden), David Halliwell (partner, Pinsent Masons), Nicola Sawford (portfolio non-executive director and former chief executive of Serle Court chambers) and Moira Slape (chief people officer, Travers Smith).

Mr Banning explained how he was effectively forced to finish work in 2020 after a terminal cancer diagnosis.

“One of my great regrets was that, while I derived a huge amount of satisfaction from my career, I wished I had done more to use my skills and experience to benefit others.

“In speaking to friends and colleagues from several professional services firms, it seems clear to me that I’m not alone in this. The experience of the pandemic has given people a chance to step back and re-evaluate what they want from their lives and careers.

“It’s no secret that, even before the pandemic, firms were responding to desire for greater purpose among their employees. That has only been accelerated by Covid. Skills-based volunteering is one way to achieve that.”

Mr Banning said business professionals did not always appreciate that their skills were as valued as legal services by third sector organisations.

“However, from conversations with Reach Volunteering, it’s clear that the demand for support is there. We are City-calibre professionals, generally working in high-performing cultures, and shouldn’t doubt the positive contribution we can make to organisations of all shapes and sizes.”

Janet Thorne, chief executive of Reach Volunteering, which says it is the UK’s single biggest source of trustees for the voluntary sector, added: “There is an immense, untapped pool of talent within law firms in specialisms including digital, finance and HR.

“These highly skilled professionals could be a huge benefit to charities who are often under-resourced in these areas and need support for short-term projects or long-term roles such as trustees.”

Development support for was provided by TBD Marketing.

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