London ,

Freshfields wins Lord Mayor's Dragon Awards

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP has won a prestigious Lord Mayor’s Dragon Award for its ground-breaking initiative to support ex-offenders back into the workplace.

Winning in the Enterprise and Employment category, the Fleet Street law practice teamed up with Business in the Community, to establish the Ready for Work programme. The initiative redresses the disadvantage faced by ex-offenders applying for jobs, due to HR restrictions. The firm was the first law firm to sign up to the Ban the Box campaign, removing the tick box asking about criminal convictions at the start of an application.

As a result of its award winning work experience scheme, which offers work placements to ex-offenders within the firm, 52% of candidates entered employment within a year and 80% sustained employment for at least six months. Figures show that employment can reduce the likelihood of reoffending by up to 50%.

While on placement, the candidates are supported with mentoring and job coaching. Typically they develop experience in the clerical, administration and IT departments of the law firm.

Winners of the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards were announced at a Mansion House ceremony. The Awards, now in its 28th year is among the most established and distinguished Corporate Responsibility Awards in the UK.

Juliet Holden from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP explained that her organisation turned their efforts to ex-offenders because “over 9 million people in UK have a criminal conviction and ¾ of employers use a conviction to discount a candidate, so these people really need extra support into the workplace.”

Former offender, Bernie, said “I never thought I’d end working at one of the biggest law firms in the world. They are willing to support people with convictions and spent convictions, and give them a chance. That’s what makes them different from everyone else.”

The Lord Mayor Alan Yarrow, who presented the awards, added: “I could not be more proud to champion the participants and winners of the 2015 Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards. Their innovative contribution to our communities shows the immense value of CSR. In fact, we could not do without it. Today’s Dragon Award winners such as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, are continuing this work with a broad range of initiatives – enabling business employees to use their skills to maximise the impact of the voluntary sector, and help 300,000 Londoners directly. Whether serving as mentors for school children, or accountants for charities – they are a fantastic example of corporate community engagement, and helping to build a fairer and more prosperous society.”

This year, the applicants for the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards volunteered around 92,000 hours, helped around 300,000 people in London and created 5,000 training placements as a result of their community engagement.

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The other winners

  • Barclays- Lord Mayor's Award for Longstanding Achievement
  • London Wildfire Trust for their work with Mace Foundation – Winner of the Community Partners Award
  • Alium Partners- Heart of the City Award for Best New Community Programme
  • IBM- Winner of the Education and Lifelong-learning Award
  • Aimia- Winner of the Future Proofing Charities Award