CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND THE PRACTICE OF LAW: THE DICHOTOMY
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a potent tool for the development and accountability of a corporate entity. It serves as a medium to give back to the society that brings businesses to the corporate entity. According to Investopedia Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable—to itself, its stakeholders, and the public. By practicing corporate social responsibility, also called corporate citizenship, companies can be conscious of the kind of impact they are having on all aspects of society, including economic, social, and environmental. CSR, depending on its model, is a two-way or win-win effort just as corporate organizations can benefit its host society through CSR and other related initiatives, such as philanthropy and volunteer efforts, while boosting their brands. Engaging in CSR implies that a company operate in ways that enhance society and the environment, rather than making a negative contribution to it.
The practice of law or the legal profession is considered a noble one. This is because of its nature as a profession which upholds and protects the law. It is a service-oriented profession, the ultimate purpose of which is to serve the society. Roscoe Pound highlight the very essence of this sentiment when he opined thus;
“Historically, there are three ideas involved in a profession: organisation, learning, and a spirit of public service. These are essential. The remaining idea that of gaining a livelihood is incidental.”
If anything, lawyers are considered to be societal engineers, who use the tool of law as vehicle for social engineering to bring about change and development.
The crux of the matter is that the legal profession is quite synonymous with social responsibility. In the heart of the profession lies the concept of pro bono. Throughout their academic and professional training, lawyers are constantly enjoined to embrace pro bono in their practice. In essence, CSR is a concept that cannot be divorced from legal practice. Although it appears that there are almost always no deliberate attempts to infuse a standard CSR Model into legal practice. This essay seeks to examine the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) viz-a-viz the Practice of Law while identifying the lines of parity between them.
UNDERSTANDING THE CONCEPT OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large. Corporate social responsibility is sometimes described as being a tacit contract between business organizations and a hosting community, whereby the community permits the business to operate within its jurisdiction to create job opportunity for its residents and revenue through taxation.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a type of business self-regulation with the aim of being socially accountable.  There is no one “right” way companies can practice CSR; many corporate CSR initiatives strive to positively contribute to the public, the economy or the environment. In today’s socially conscious environment, employees and customers place a premium on working for and spending their money with businesses that prioritize CSR.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a well known concept over the last decade and a half. Employees, government representatives, academic scholars, NGOs and international organisations have been contemplating which role they have to play in regard of CSR. Laws have been drafted that promote socially responsible behaviour by companies. International organisations have promoted principles. Companies have adopted CSR mission statements and programmes, and are sharing their efforts through sustainability reports. NGOs have contacted companies and pointed out how they can operate in a more responsible way, and academics have analysed all.
Corporate Social Responsibility or business policies and practices that promote social good has become something of a buzzword for business executives. In its various manifestations, CSR can refer to diversity programs, community service initiatives, charitable donations, or environmental emissions reductions. Because these programs allow firms to generate public goodwill and increase brand recognition, CSR is increasingly an integral part of corporate strategy. Of course, if businesses truly committed to socially responsible behavior, we would all be better off. Companies would strive to follow best practices, reduce their environmental impact, set ethical labor standards, and donate some of their resources to philanthropic causes.
CSR is a subject that has links with many areas of law, including international law and European law, corporate law and corporate governance, tort law and contract law, procedural law, labour and environmental law, and criminal law. All of these areas contribute importantly to the development of CSR, and ultimately to respond to the serious challenges that this world faces.
THE BUSINESS AND PRACTICE OF LAW AND CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
In the fast-paced and dynamic socio-economic climate of the world today, companies, businesses or even law firms cannot afford to be in business simply for the sole purpose of earning profits. This is anchored on the fact that purchasers of goods and employers of services make decisions based on several factors, and one of such is how much good an organization is doing outside its business workplace. Most of these purchasers and employers are more likely to pitch their tents with organizations and brands that have a positive CSR outlook. In addition to the socially responsible and good outlook created by CSR programs, there are a number of other benefits that law firms and corporate entities alike can realize from enacting CSR initiatives that create a positive impact.
Invariably the practice of law goes pari pasu with the business of law although the business aspect of it as put forth by Roscoe pound is merely incidental. Hence as much as legal practitioner engage in pro bono services or take up cases pro bono, there is also the need to be deliberate about CSR. This is because aside those within the profession, onlookers may not perceive pro bono services as a form of CSR. Some of the relevant CSR initiatives to the legal profession include but not limited to Pro bono services, Scholarship, Sponsorship, Flagship Advocacy Projects and Outreach, Social Events.
Chronicling the imperatives of adopting CSR for law firms, Altman submits that;
“When a law firm is involved in the practice of donating services or funds to local nonprofit organizations and schools, it creates a positive relationship between the brand and the organization; Getting the word out about donations, employee volunteer programs or other CSR initiatives is a powerful branding tool that can generate positive publicity for a firm and its attorneys; Another impact a CSR program has on law firms is the opportunity for corporate partnerships. These partnerships not only help the communities served but also build relationships, trust and loyalty among the partnering groups.”
On the whole, CSR programs are a chance for law firms and legal practitioners to engage and collaborate with clients, give back and add value to the society, inspire employees, and make a lasting impact on some of today’s social and economic challenges.
Expanding the frontiers of legal practice and profession is one of such dividends of keying into corporate social responsibility for law firms. Already, the legal profession is a socially responsible one because of its nature as a societal-driven occupation. Since the profession is synonymous with the conception of CSR, it is only trite that legal practitioners and law firms become more deliberate about CSR and adopt a corporate strategy for it.
AUTHOR: MUHAMMAD BASHIR ABDULAZEEZ
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 Ibid Fernando
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 Lisa Altman (2016) “Does Your Law Firm Have a Corporate Social Responsibility Program?” available online at https://www.jaffepr.com/blog/does-your-law-firm-have-corporate-social-responsibility-program