Matt Sparkes - Head of CR, Linklaters LLP

In his Member Story, Matt discusses the importance being alert to trends outside of your organisation, and seeking direct business experience for gaining credibility in a CRS role.

Matt is an ICRS Director, and a seasoned CRS professional within the legal sector. Read on to hear his musings on the state of his CRS world.

Membership Level: Member

Position: Head of Corporate Responsibility at Linklaters LLP

Social Media: @sociallyuseful


Tell us about how you chose the CRS profession, and how you got into it?

I did a geography degree and that’s all about an interest in the world around us. CRS is very much like that and, after a few years doing project management at Barclays, the opportunity arose to join their community team and the rest is history. I love the feel that we have feet inside and outside our firms and, in recent years, how that provides us with unique perspective on the roles our businesses play.

Why did you join the ICRS?

It is so important that we set out our stall as CRS professionals. There remain many people who presume they can ease into CRS off the back of interest or occasional volunteering when, in fact, there is a growing group of experts who really have a skill set that sets them (us) apart.

"I love the feeling that we have feet inside and outside our firms and, in recent years, how that provides us with unique perspective on the roles our businesses play."

How is your sector unique from a CRS perspective?

I don’t know about unique but it is certainly remarkable how much interaction there is between CRS people across the legal sector. We share many of the same challenges within very similar contexts and so formal collaboration and informal discussion makes a lot of sense – and it works!

If you could change one thing about CRS, what would it be?

For many people, I remain ‘charity man’. There’s nothing wrong with that but it can limit influence and perception when trying to broaden the argument to other issues. Of course, those close to us get it but those we’ve yet to reach are often ten years behind our real position. 

"Many of those around you will not be noticing shifts in society and though something may be common sense to you, that may well not be the case elsewhere."

What do you think are the most important skills for working in CRS?

The best thing you can do is remain alert to the world outside your business. Many of those around you will not be noticing shifts in society and though something may be common sense to you, that may well not be the case elsewhere. And then of course, you need to be able to apply that insight in a commercially valuable way… 

How would you advise those looking to break in to CRS?

Get some direct business experience: 1) to have credibility, you need to have been there and done it; 2) to be effective, you need to know how things will be received; and 3) to keep relevant, stay close to the business thereafter.

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