Regional law firm Muckle, based in Newcastle, has become the first in the North-East to become a certified B Corporation.
Hugh Welch, senior partner of Muckle, said the firm needed to change “very little” to achieve accreditation, because “running this firm with an eye on supporting the community is what we’ve been about for a long time”.
To become a B Corp (the ‘B’ stands for Benefit), a business must commit to balancing profit with purpose. The certification process covers five elements – governance, workers, community, environment and customers.
Over a dozen UK legal services providers have now become B Corps since Bates Wells led the way in 2015. The two largest law firms so far are North-West firm Brabners and Cripps in the South-East, with the largest legal business being ‘house of brands’ group Ampa.
Muckle, a mainly commercial firm with 177 staff and 42 partners, is based in Newcastle with a serviced office near Penrith to cover Cumbria.
Mr Welch, senior partner for over 18 years and a partner for 38 years, said the idea of becoming a B Corp was first discussed some years ago, with the equity partners backing it in 2021.
Also the head of environmental, social and governance (ESG) at the firm, he said “where we’re going is very much the work of the equity partners”, and “everyone senses the value of what we’re doing”.
He said Muckle’s LLP agreement was amended as part of the process. This makes clear a B Corp’s commitment to having a positive impact on the environment and society.
Apart from that, the firm needed to change “very little” to become a B Corp.
“I wouldn’t say we sailed through the process, but it seemed that we had most of the policies and procedures in place in the way we were already doing things. Purpose, with a capital P, has been part of this firm for a couple of decades.”
The law firm set up the Muckle Fund in 2002, as a fund within the Community Foundation of Tyne and Wear, and Northumberland. Muckle contributes 1% of its annual profits to the foundation, which advises it on how to make grants to charities.
“We can’t be successful in the North-East without the community and there are levels of deprivation here which should not exist in 2024. We have a moral obligation to do something.”
Mr Welch said the three main themes of the firm’s charitable giving were supporting young people, improving social mobility and overcoming disadvantage. He said Muckle had given over £700,000 to charity over the last 20 years through the community foundation.
He gave as one example Success4All, which runs after-school clubs to help children with homework.
On the environment, Mr Welch said he hoped becoming a B Corp would help the firm achieve its goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2030. The firm, which has worked with environmental consultancy SmartCarbon, has published regular ESG reviews.
The 2022 review mentions recycled carpets, recycling mobile phones and laptops, avoiding landfill, a cycle-to-work scheme, using electric vehicles in a pool scheme and offsetting.
He said two or three of Muckle’s clients were B Corps and he knew a couple of other businesses in the North-East that were considering it.
“It takes to time to develop momentum. If we could be a catalyst, that would be brilliant.”
On the future of legal services in the North-East, he commented: “I’m not a huge fan of national law firms, and I have doubts as to whether clients see the benefits.
“We see them trying to build their practices here, but we firmly believe in our independence and commitment to this region.”
Mr Welch added: “We’ve got our accreditation, but it will be interesting in 12 months to see how we’ve built on and adapted it as part of the journey.”
Chris Turner, executive director of B Lab UK, described Muckle joining the B Corp community as “an exciting moment, because they have an opportunity to lead the way within the legal industry”.