After a successful year in business, Sarah Dodd of Tree Law, which is based in Rhoose, Cardiff, talks about values, ethics, authenticity… and the sheer joy of working for something more than money.
If you want a Court Order to get an oak tree removed, who better than a company called Tree Law? Surely they’ll take your money and get it uprooted? Well, don’t speak too soon…!
Expert lawyer Sarah Dodd founded Tree Law to fight for the environment. From day one, her caseload has followed a green agenda, supporting preservation and net zero projects large and small. So when a property developer asked her to help remove an oak tree, there was little chance she’d agree – no matter how much her fledgling business needed the work.
“Turning them down was a landmark moment,” Sarah reveals. “I’d spent 20 years in corporate law, saying yes to every client, and in that world your values can slowly start to erode. In fact, there are days when you feel so compromised, you barely recognise yourself. But suddenly here I was with my own legal practice, choosing my work on principle – and I have to admit, saying no was a liberating moment!”
No More Compromise
When the pandemic hit, Sarah knew her time to launch her own enterprise had come. She quit from the corporate world and set up Tree Law – determined to put values and authenticity first. That was late 2021, with the country still reeling from COVID. But Sarah wasn’t put off by the economic uncertainty – in fact, she saw it as a unique opportunity.
“During lockdown, millions of people rediscovered the precious green spaces that are literally on their doorstep,” she recalls. “As a nation, we found a new respect for the environment, and more people were taking steps to protect it. So what better time to launch a law firm that acts on behalf of the planet?”
One Year On
It’s been a busy first year, with Sarah building a steady client base, from individuals to insurers and the public sector, including working with various local authorities. Sarah has also become Chair of the industry Subsidence Forum, won the Start-up Rising Star Award and hosts live TreeLaw TV podcasts and social media interviews that provide clients with valuable insights relating to dealing with legal claims whilst preserving the UK’s trees. The result is something uniquely hers: a carbon-neutral legal practice that gives back to the world – even donating 10% of client fees to environmental charities.
“It’s about doing business your way,” she enthuses. “The most important thing I’ve learned this year is, every aspect of your business is yours to control. If you don’t feel like yourself in a business suit, show up in a hoodie! If you hate corporate language, talk authentically. If a job isn’t in line with your personal values, turn it down. You can make a living without compromise.”
So, with this bold new mindset, what does the future hold for Tree Law? Sarah confides, “I want to see a new generation of lawyers with a different outlook, so as I grow my team we’ll be forging our own path. Traditional law firms measure success by amount billed, but we’ll focus on the amount donated to environmental causes. Each year, we’ll monitor our contribution to UN Sustainable Development Goals and Wales’s Future Generations Act, and I want those numbers to guide us through every big decision.”
If this sounds like a mission to change the world, Sarah is keen to stay grounded: “We’re a small law firm, and we can only do so much” she concludes. “But like everyone who shares the planet…we have our role to play.”
For more information on the Cardiff-based Tree Law, visit https://www.treelaw.co.uk/.