Mason Hayes & Curran - Addressing Educational Disadvantage

Mason Hayes and Curran LLP first began supporting the DCU Access Programme in 2009. Since then, they have gone on to partner with the DCU Access to the Workplace programme. In this piece, Paul Rochford, Education Partner at Mason Hayes and Curran, shares Mason Hayes and Curran’s motivation for supporting equal access to education in Ireland and the importance of organisations supporting their local communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mason Hayes and Curran has been supporting the DCU Access Programme since 2009 – what inspired Mason Hayes and Curran to support the DCU Access Programme 11 years ago?

We have long had a focus on educational disadvantage as part of our efforts to contribute positively to the society that we work and live in, and we have proudly supported the DCU Access Programme over the last number of years. Supporting the DCU Access Programme was a natural extension of the work we had been doing with primary and post-primary schools in the Grand Canal Dock and Ringsend communities where our offices are based.

We have been convinced every year of the value of our support through witnessing how the programme has significantly impacted on the lives of hundreds of students, their families and their communities. Through communications from the DCU Educational Trust, we have learned that the programme has resulted in an increase in siblings of Access students attending university, as well as other young adults from communities where Access students originate from. This truly is an example of the power of “if you can see it, you can be it”.

Addressing educational disadvantage is a key focus of Mason Hayes and Curran’s corporate social responsibility strategy. Why are your employees particularly passionate about supporting equal access to education?

Any lawyer will tell you that there are very few certainties in life, but increased access to education is one of the things guaranteed to make a difference in building a more equal, engaged and prosperous society. Our Corporate Social Responsibility Committee has worked over a number of years with schools and community groups in our local area to reduce barriers to education and improve outcomes. While this represents the “formal” side of Mason Hayes and Curran’s effort in this area, that effort is reflected informally throughout the firm.

For example, lawyers and staff members volunteer time during their working day to go to local schools and assist with reading and other educational programmes. Staff regularly engage in fundraising and activities to assist these local groups, as well as those operating on a wider basis. While the image of the lawyer as coming from a privileged background may persist, many of our solicitors and partners come from diverse backgrounds, but have all been fortunate enough to have had the support to access higher education and build a successful career. We are eager to continue to expand that access to more young people.

Mason Hayes and Curran is committed to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, which is apparent through your support of the DCU Access to the Workplace programme – how has this commitment impacted on business performance?

As the diverse nature of Irish society has expanded and grown over recent years, so has the level of diversity at Mason Hayes and Curran. This is a value we are committed to, firmly rooted in the belief that difference brings strength, growth and understanding. That belief is being borne out in the impact we see in life in our firm every day. Diversity brings new ideas, new approaches and new ways of doing things to what lawyers have been doing for years. It also reflects the increasing diversity we see in our clients, and makes us better lawyers as a result.

As an organisation, Mason Hayes and Curran believes in the shared value approach, whereby the success of the business and community you operate in is connected. During these tough times were facing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, why is it important for organisations to support their local communities?

Covid-19 has challenged us all in a way that perhaps we were not prepared for. Fortunately, the people of Ireland have risen to that challenge and continue to do so. That response is deeply rooted in the importance of community to Irish people. As an Irish firm, Mason Hayes and Curran is committed to our community, including the education sector. Another sector that has been hugely challenged by Covid-19 is the Arts Community, one that we have supported, and continue to support. Hopefully the pandemic will soon pass, but until it does, the relationship between organisations like Mason Hayes and Curran and the wider community provides an opportunity for mutual strength and support that will last well beyond the end of our current challenges.