Our mission is twofold: to demonstrate (1) through deeds not words, that a law firm can be profitable, be excellent and serve its clients while at the same time driving ethical standards of equality, diversity, flexibility, equal pay and giving all of our profits to charity and good causes together with delivering sustainability, a zero carbon footprint, and scoring an “A” in Circulytics….. and (2) that if a law firm can do this, then any business can.
Below we list the five key elements of this mission.
1. An Ethical Business Model for the Future
Greed is bad.
The Aria Grace Law Model is not Capitalist, it is also not Socialist. It is Humanist. We have created a model based on sharing and values which treats our clients, lawyers and society as one ecosystem, where, if one does well, every other part of the ecosystem does well too.
One of our founding principles is to ensure that the person doing the work is the one who gets paid – no one should profit from someone else’s labour. We believe that an executive or management should only get paid when they can show demonstrable value or what they have done to earn it and it should be proportionate. We do not believe that shareholders should necessarily get the profit of the firm either, which is why we will never float or undertake equity investment. It is through this principle that we are able to attract some of the best lawyers, which enables us to better serve our clients, and society.
We believe that a business model that rewards the people who do the work and create the value becomes stronger and more profitable, and together with high ethical standards makes a better, healthier environment in which to work. Through this structure, our people are much better equipped to provide excellent service to our clients.
Any company can achieve equal pay, today, right now. The way we achieve equal pay is simple (because of our company structure). The lawyers in Aria Grace Law are paid an unprecedented 90% of the fees we get from our clients. We pay the usual business overheads and give all our profits to charity and good causes. We can keep our overheads extremely low because we do not waste money on expensive management or luxurious offices and we can pass all those cost savings to clients. It is that straight forward.
Through the Aria Grace Law model, we can start to look after this generation, but it is the future generations that we are really considering. In order for this to be achieved, we believe that people need to see the Aria Grace Law Model as a success. If they do, they will copy it. If they copy it the model will spread. Anyone can copy what we do, because our ethical model works. Anyone can use our ethical model, it can be any industry – Law, Accountancy, banking, capital markets, manufacturing.
2. Challenge corporate power by the 99.99
Challenging the existing power structures is hard.
During Covid-19, the inequalities prevalent in the corporate world have been laid bare and the gaping chasm between those who have and those who don’t is shocking and stark. In a post Covid-19 world, it will become more widely demanded that the global economic system should be able to pursue ethical as well as financial goals. At a time where huge global platforms such as Amazon and few individuals wield more power than governments, the world needs to re-balance. The gap between rich and poor is widening and accelerating at an exponential rate helped by select access to enabling technology and financial structures out of reach to most.
In a world where people feel politically disempowered, and where governments themselves are becoming less powerful than corporations, people are beginning to realise that their economic vote may have as much if not more influence than their political vote. The global platforms are highly organised, highly capitalised and highly motivated not to change the status quo. They require us, the 99.99%, to be driven purely by price, disparate, unstructured and unaware or unwilling to challenge.
We have created a structure which is successful, and we want other businesses to support it, follow it and/or copy it. We want to message this approach to other organisations to drive changing behaviour so that it becomes the norm. Change, in this case, does not come from the top – it comes from people, their economic vote when they spend their money through ethical organisations which are driving ethical values (which we call #ethicalworld organisations).
We are prepared for hard work.
3. Wealth Share
The trickle down economy does not work
Up until relatively recently, the chasm between the rich and the poor in terms of wealth and income has been, by and large, constant (broad brush statement taking into account the Gini coefficient). The Capitalists dream of hard work allowing anyone to become a success was always moderately achievable.
However, since the 80s, with large corporations getting the tax breaks, with the aim of localising wealth such that the wealth would trickle down to the workers and the local economy and with the advent of new technologies the wealth gap started to grow exponentially. What we have seen a shoring up of money among the very select few. The rich have become the super-rich. The money did not trickle down.
With the advent of the internet and the global technology platforms it has become even further apparent that “trickle down” in favour of the many has in in fact become “trickle up” in favour of the few – where platforms sell to us, the 99.99%, they slowly, steadily and relentlessly siphon money which is the blood of each of our respective economies and place those funds to off shore accounts. These global platforms often pay nil tax (or even get rebates), pay their workers minimum wage, with nil chance of progression, removing a country’s financial security. People are treated like androids, and people support them or work with them, sometimes reluctantly, often willingly.
4. Equality of Opportunity
Law firms are seen as out of touch, old boys’ clubs, which flout employment laws.
Corporate law firms have the lowest percentage of state educated lawyers of all firms (at 56%,) whereas only 7% of the population attended fee paying schools. Only 3% of lawyers report any disability compared to 10% of the working population of England and Wales. Unsurprisingly also, larger law firms have a smaller percentage of BAME lawyers, with corporate firms also having a smaller percentage of BAME lawyers than firms practicing in areas such as criminal or private client work. [i]
Our principle on equality today is very simple – if you are good enough, then you are good enough. We value differences in our team: age, sex, colour, preferences, neuro- diversity, identity etc. These differences all reflect society, and the benefit that these differences bring is very well documented. But you have to be an excellent lawyer to get into Aria Grace Law. We recognise that to become an excellent lawyer in the first place means, in most cases, that some form of a pathway has been laid out, whether an education, a stable family, social connections. Most lawyers come from privilege. Our future challenge is to work with schools, charities, influencers to smooth out that journey, so that excellence can be seen, whether that person chooses law or not, so they can rise to the top irrespective generalised stigma or lack of role models.
We have created a structure where our excellent lawyers can determine their outcome and we recognise we have more to do to help the next generations.
5. Circulytics, Sustainability and the Carbon Footprint
Our planet, our future.
The Aria Grace Law Model is designed from the outset to have a low Carbon Footprint. This is vital for the future generations, We mostly work at home or at our client offices, or we use other environmentally friendly places to meet and work. We advocate using video calls rather than face-to-face meetings where possible, using bikes, or public transport where we do need to meet. We consider carefully what we buy and how our suppliers’ source products. We encourage our clients to do likewise (and we do not act for clients who don’t). After every deal, we plant trees.
We also demonstrate what we do publicly – we adhere to the three principles of the circular economy:
to design out waste,
to keep materials and products in use, and
to regenerate natural systems.
We have received our first circularity score with the help of Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s #Circulytics - the most comprehensive circularity measurement tool, which highlighted our strengths and areas for improvement. We will continue to drive further progress on the road to full circularity across our operations. We received the score A. If we can do it, anyone can do it.
The Aria Grace Law Model is simply this: One ecosystem for clients, lawyers and society, now and for the future – if we can show that a Law Firm can be profitable AND ethical (especially with the perceived reputation of lawyers) then anyone can follow or copy our model in any industry.
[i] Aug 2017 SRA Diversity Report