In It Together

A law firm adopts a community approach to giving back, allowing its employees the chance to make a difference.

Duncan Craig LLP opened in 1894, ten years before Edmonton received city status. Its founding partners, William Short and Charles Cross, were the city’s first Mayor and the province’s first Attorney General, respectively. In the subsequent century- plus, the law firm has never wavered in its focus on two things: quality and community.

There’s literalness to the community aspect – headquarters have never been more than a few blocks from their current Scotia Place location – but what really impresses is the energy they put into enriching the community beyond their office walls.

In 2012, firm partner Phil Renaud and business manager Greg Miskie approached Kathy Hawkesworth at Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) with a plan to change the way their company helped local charities. “We used to give a lump sum donation, which was great,” says Miskie. “But we felt that process didn’t reflect our identity. We started asking: ‘What are our people passionate about? What organizations do they give time and money to?’ We did away with the lump sum, and instead redistribute the money in a variety of ways, a big part being the Duncan Craig Community Fund.”

The firm builds up value throughout the year (over $20,000 to date), and employees decide where the annual grant goes. “Our people nominate organizations that are important to them, and everyone votes on an internal poll, with the winners announced at our Christmas party,” says Miskie. Individuals, who work for the firm, are also given half a day to volunteer at an organization of their choice, paired with a $25 donation.

The idea came from a committee, but it’s a bottom-up process that follows Duncan Craig’s philosophy. “The reality is, working in law can be difficult, and we know our people can work at any other firm in the city and have a similar experience,” says Miskie. “But through things like community engagement, internal recognition and simply giving them an opportunity to express what’s important to them, we believe that will make people want to choose the difficult work in our law firm over the difficult work at a firm down the street.”