A law firm specialising in work for the social housing, health, local government and charity sectors has become the fourth in the UK to obtain B Corporation status, meaning that it aims to balance profit with purpose.
Peter Hubbard, senior partner of Anthony Collins Solicitors, said the firm’s partnership agreement has “always focused” not only on the financial benefits to its people but the wider benefits to society.
Anthony Collins has 350 staff, based at offices in Birmingham, Manchester and Macclesfield.
The first UK law firm to become a B Corp, Bates Wells, changed its LLP deed before getting certified in 2015. The third and largest firm so far, Brabners, also changed its agreement before becoming a B Corp in October this year.
London firm Mischon de Reya changed its partnership agreement before being certified in August 2021, only to leave the scheme in March this year. Radiant Law, the second law firm to become a B Corp, is a limited company.
But Mr Hubbard said that, as part of a process of continuous improvement over the next three years, Anthony Collins would need to add its commitment to safeguarding the environment to the partnership agreement.
He explained that the firm had been helped on its way through the rigorous certification process by being the first law firm to produce an annual social impact report, which it had done for the past five years.
The firm had been looking at becoming a B Corp “for a long time” before its board confirmed that it wished to go ahead in October last year. Since then, despite the detailed nature of requests for information, the process had gone smoothly.
There will now be a three-year cycle of continuous improvement, including measuring the firm’s environmental impact as part of the B Corp Climate Collective, which is aiming for net carbon zero by 2030, well ahead of most of the legal sector.
Mr Hubbard said that among the information requested by the B Lab, which certifies B Corps, was how the firm acted for “underserved groups”.
This included the firm’s work under the legal aid scheme for children at risk of being taken into care and its work acting as deputies for the Court of Protection, ensuring the financial assets of vulnerable people were protected.
He said that 50% of the firm’s clients had charitable status, and he regarded B Corp status as the “gold standard” for for-profit businesses, equivalent to charitable status in the not-for-profit sector.
“We can no longer simply assert that we are a social purpose law firm and expect people to trust our word. They need to have someone independent to go to.”
Mr Hubbard said he had a “long look at alternatives” to being a B Corp. Many of the firm’s clients had independently audited social impact reports, and in terms of measuring the social impact of legal work, becoming a B Corp was the best way.
“It’s less of a badge than a way of making us question ourselves on how we run the business. I think many law firms will look at this and, if it impacts the way they are as a business, I would encourage them to do so.”
Felicity Butler, who project managed the certification process, described the certification process as “incredibly stringent” and said it needed “a lot of documentation”, from policies on paternity leave to how much the firm recycled, all of which had to be verified.
At last month’s Legal Futures Innovation Conference, Sarah Walker-Smith, chief executive of Shakespeare Martineau and its holding company Ampa, said the professional services group, which has a £100m turnover and employs 1,300 people, was “very close to getting B Corp status”.
Also at the conference, Serena Wallace-Turner, chief operating officer of Radiant Law, explained that making a positive impact had always been core to the firm and it identified achieving B Corp status as a way of setting itself targets “in an ungameable way”.