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Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance
Responsible Business Insights<br />

Responsible Business Insights

Acting responsibly

Living by the Code

Launched in 2020, our global Code of Conduct defines our values and the expectations of everyone working in our firm. The Code guides our behaviour with each other, our clients and all our external stakeholders.

Throughout the year in this reporting period, we have worked hard to further embed the Code within the business and make sure that we are operating according to the values it codifies in everything we do. That work is paying off. The Code of Conduct has already changed behaviours, sparked a stronger culture of speaking up and positioned the firm favourably when it comes to recruitment and retention of talent. It’s also being noticed by clients and potential clients alike. 

“I’m really passionate about this because I believe having core values codified for people in a way they can relate to gives us a common drive,” says Dorothée Vermeiren, partner, Brussels, who volunteered to run workshops aimed at further embedding the Code into the dayto-day. “It’s about reinforcing and improving the culture that we already have.” 

“Where I think the Code is really taking hold is in the conversations we have with clients. Lots of them are on a similar journey, focusing on good governance, compliance and culture, so we have an ideal starting point to discuss the Code with them and reflect on our experience with it. It’s certainly something we include when we respond to requests for pitches, so it clearly has value for our clients. They don’t just want to know that we have the right expertise; they want to be sure we have the same set of values.”

“The Code is also authentic. Rather than being top down, the Code of Conduct is embodied and brought to life by our people – lawyers and business professionals. We designed it, and run workshops ourselves to explain it and make sure we have a consistent understanding across the firm. This helps people refer to it during team meetings and discuss what the Code means in practice. As a result, the Code now forms a regular part of our everyday discussions.”

Dorothée says that the Code has gone together with cultural change in the Brussels office. “We are now much more comfortable with speaking up when we feel something is not right, which for me is one of the most significant achievements of the Code. One of the things highlighted before we introduced the Code was that we didn’t really have a strong enough ‘speak up culture’, but that has improved significantly.”

“Being inclusive is another important pillar of the Code. Whether we are reflecting the diversity of the firm in marketing materials, in pitch teams or at events, inclusion is always on the agenda,” she says. “We celebrate festivals from across the faith spectrum here. Small changes matter, and we give more thought to, for instance, the variety of gifts we present to colleagues as a ‘thank you’ or the type of events we organise.”

While there are people in the firm yet to attend a Code of Conduct workshop, Dorothée sees the fact that it has become part of workplace conversation as a sign of how far it is becoming part of the fabric of the firm. 

“We discuss it and it’s a genuine conversation about whether something we do is compatible with our values,” she says. “And there’s probably not always a right or wrong, but it has become an integral part of the thinking we have on the topic if it arises.”

For Dorothée, the fact the firm has a Code of Conduct has also strengthened the firm’s reputation.

“We are already one of the world’s leading law firms in many ways, but having a Code of Conduct demonstrates how we treat our people and how we live our core values, which I think is something our clients can really relate to,” she says. “It helps attract the best talent too – the values in the Code are incredibly important to those who are joining our firm. Having a written document that codifies those values and the steps we’re making to live them shows we take them seriously.