Lorna Gavin is head of diversity, inclusion and corporate responsibility at international law firm Gowling WLG. Formerly a corporate lawyer and partner at the firm based at Two Snowhill, we caught up with Lorna to talk about post-lawyer life and some the CSR initiatives that have inspired her.
Tell us what it’s like to be head of diversity, inclusion and CR at Gowling WLG…
At the risk of sounding like a cliché, it feels like the best job in the firm. I’m responsible for our community work (pro bono for charities ranging from Oxfam to community groups like the Ladywood project, volunteering and charitable giving), ensuring we are as inclusive as possible and managing our environmental credentials. There is lots of external engagement too – I’ve just been appointed to the Mayoral Taskforce on Rough Sleeping and Homelessness.
How do you find the contrast between life as a corporate lawyer and what you do now?
I loved the buzz of doing deals for 14 years – it was satisfying seeing some of them in the papers after we’d completed. But the satisfaction of seeing the impact of our volunteering is off the scale. There are also a lot more plates to spin with so many projects on the go all the time.
Which of your campaigns are you most proud of?
One would be our involvement in Business in the Community’s ‘Ready for Work’ programme. We’ve been involved from the start when Prince Charles launched it in 2001 and since then we’ve given nearly 150 work placements to people who are homeless or facing multiple barriers to employment. Some of them are on our payroll today.
Another would be our work raising awareness of domestic violence and providing support and resources for employees who may be enduring it. Over a dozen people have come forward so far to ask for help in response to our campaign and they’re all safe now.
Have you seen any CSR campaigns from other companies that have really caught your eye?
I love Plan A – Marks & Spencer’s plan for environmental sustainability. What I love about it was that it was business driven (which meant that they were going to stick at it) and that they were bold. When they put their first 100 commitments out there, the technology didn’t exist to enable them to fulfil some of them – so they helped make sure the technology was created, and they got there.
What does success look like to you?
When I took over from my predecessor in 2006, having been a lawyer doing half billion pound deals, my horizons were reset. He showed me that success can be a homeless person in your building for a workshop on interview skills, feeling safe and comfortable enough in our shiny glass offices, working with our volunteers, to take his hat and coat off by 4pm that day. That kind of success is every bit as important as the biggest deals for the biggest clients.