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16 August 2021

Hugh James volunteering scheme

Hugh James volunteering scheme
Hugh James, our commercial member and supporter of the sector for 40 years, have set up a volunteering alliance with housing associations in Wales. Emma Poole, Hugh James’ Client Relationship Manager, tells us her story of how their latest contribution to social value came to life and how housing associations can get involved in the project.

“At Hugh James we have built up a reputation for strong relationships in the sector and hosting our clients in our new event space at Central Square never lost its thrill. Ask any lawyer who starts working with the social housing sector and they frequently comment on what a warm and approachable atmosphere the people involved in it create and are always keen to join the gang.

Clients also agree that part of the bonus of attending any work-related event with Community Housing Cymru or Hugh James is the informal chat in the coffee queue or late night “let’s put the world to rights” conversation in Llandrindod that can form basis of some of the best partnerships. Can these really ever be adequately replicated through a screen?

Fortunately for lawyers, much of what we do has been able to transfer over to the virtual world and for the last 16 months both our teams and the in-house professionals at member housing associations have risen to the challenge admirably, continuing to negotiate contracts, deal with litigation and get deals over the line. I think we would all agree however that something that has been lost in that heavy reliance on screen time, is the lack of personal interaction and creativity.

Members have often told us how much they value our lawyers’ ability to think outside the box and find a way through a particularly thorny issue so we thought it was time to approach this in a similar way, looking for a win-win. How could we help members solve a problem they are having, get to chat with them face to face and better understand what is going on in their world, all the while observing the ever-changing landscape of social distancing guidelines?

As is often the way, the answer was actually very simple. Throughout the pandemic, the firm has looked to address staff wellbeing and encouraged employees to take steps towards healthy habits such as getting outdoors, making time to chat with a friend, helping a neighbour or the wider community. This was similarly a challenge for our housing association clients, who wanted to look after their staff but also had an ever-growing list of community benefits projects that had to be delayed due to being categorised “non-essential” for Covid regulations. By working together, we could look to address a variety of different needs.

At Hugh James, each of our 700 staff is gifted a paid day to carry out a community-based volunteering activity. It is very easy for this to slip through the net given the demands of deadline based legal work but anyone who has taken part as a volunteer will attest that the activity benefits the volunteer as much as those they help. This was clear to see in June where we kicked off Hugh James’ CSR alliance with the sector, deploying our teams to assist social housing clients with the community based projects delayed by the pandemic.

Linc Cymru worked with us to develop a community gardening project on Barrack Lane in the town centre. Donning our gardening gloves we enjoyed a lovely chat in the outdoors while working on the scheme and even had the opportunity to use our negotiating skills with the commercial tenants nearby to help look after the new floral displays. You can see the video of what we got up to here.

With our 700 staff keen to assist on similar projects, we would love to hear from members with similar opportunities. If you would like to work with us on building this partnership with the sector or have a community initiative in need of volunteers, please contact [email protected].”