Oct 15, 2018

Written By Alex May

Starting an internal group or organisation

Oct 15, 2018

Written By Alex May

So, you want to start a new group within your firm? Here’s how to go from vague idea to well-formed plan.

What sort of group

There are many types of internal groups. Some of these will be stand-alone, others part of a broader network with teams or groups in multiple firms. Here are some different types:

Legal work, such as pro-bono casework, volunteering at a law centre, or working with an NGO. A firm might have a direct relationship with one NGO, or lawyers might be supported by a firm to get involved with an externally run group, such as Oxfam’s ‘Lawyers Against Poverty’ network.

Non-Legal charity or volunteering work, such as mentoring at a local school or helping out a local charity.

A Diversity Network or other minority-issue group, such as for women, people of colour, working-class background or LGBT+.

Sports, social, other interest group: a football or pub-quiz team, a squash league, a mountaineering group, and so on.

Thinking points

Know your reason for setting up a group, both to justify it to partners and to drive you forwards when doing the work for it late at night!

What are your aims? Why are you setting this group up? What do you want to achieve, both in the abstract and concrete goals?

How is it going to work? How often, what tasks need doing for it, and who would do them?

Who do you want to involve? Are you trying to find five other like-minded people in the firm or occasional events for a wider audience?

How will you get other people involved?

Chat to someone about it

Find a colleague or friend for an informal chat about it – it might not yet be ready to talk to someone senior about. See what they think and what they ask you that you can’t answer. This is also a great opportunity to connect with someone new if you think that they might be interested.

Be cynical too: either ask someone to be critical of it or play devil’s advocate against yourself. As well as finding ways to improve it, this is also good practice in case there’s opposition from someone who thinks that you should be more focused on your actual work!

Research it

What already exists in your firm?

Do other firms do something similar? It’s useful if you can find anything comparable, as it shows that it can be done! Maybe you can speak to someone involved to borrow ideas.

Any relevant policies that your firm has? There might be a policy on setting up some types of group, even if they’re quite abstract, such as health-and-safety policies, conduct policy or diversity policy. If you can link it into your firm’s ethos and values, great!

Draft and plan

As well as being useful, drafting something is a good way to refine your ideas. You could write a short description, a memo to advertise it to others, or a ‘pitch’ email to a partner or HR manager.

Come up with a plan too: the next steps you would need to take and a timeline for it. What would you want to happen in the first month, and where would you like it to be after a year? Finding a core group of people to be involved will be a good early step.

Talk to some people more seriously

Time to talk to someone about making this happen! You might be able to find the right person to talk to easily, either a relevant partner (e.g. with responsibility for pro bono) or someone in HR. If you aren’t sure, ask around or make a guess (and ask if they are the best person to talk to).

At this stage you won’t be wasting their time with a half-baked idea. You don’t have to have everything figured out though—you can also ask them for advice once they’re on board.

Take it forwards!

Now you should have a well-formed idea, a plan and a way forwards. Good luck!



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