On 17th January 2023, the industry regulator, the Bar Standards Board decided to hand down an order imposing a ban on a barrister preventing him from continuing to practise after evidence emerged
Law to Save the Environment?
Are City Law firms really knowingly investing in the destruction the conditions that make the planet habitable?
What Just Happened?
On 23rd August 2021 in Leicester Square witnesses were horrified when they saw a group of anti-fossil-fuel protesters building an imposing 4-metre-tall table in the vicinity of Leicester Square. The protesters were heard describing this ‘gathering’ as ‘the opening ceremony’.(1)
On 24th August 2021 the environmental campaign group known widely as ‘Extinction Rebellion’ took the extraordinary step of announcing that it would be targeting leading City Law firms over the next two weeks in what was described as a “wave of protests”. (2)
The Group claimed the City of London was the “arch-financier” of the carbon economy and is “knowingly investing in the destruction of the conditions which make the planet habitable”.
Extinction Rebellion also claimed that the City supports 15% of global carbon emissions as it hosts big hitters such as BP, Shell and Glencore. Extinction Rebellion claims that as insurance and City Firms facilitated the raising of $12billion by Saudi Aramco, the planet’s largest energy company, then somehow they have “made a real contribution to the “crisis”.
What Does This Mean?
This potentially means we are going to see more scenes of people protesting outside some of the major law firms about the “climate emergency”.
What impact will it have on the legal profession?
This wave of protests could potentially have a devastating impact on law firms who have fought hard to keep afloat and ensuring a strong sustainable position post-pandemic.
Back in 2020 Magic Circle firm Slaughter & May were the subject of environmental campaigners after it had quite legitimately been approached by Premier Oil for legal advice. The sheer audacity of the protestors knew no limit as they staged what was loosely described as a “crime scene” as part of a peaceful protest outside Slaughter & May’s London office.
The sheer hypocrisy of the Extinction Rebellion is something to behold. While (in their view) Premier Oil was not allowed to seek legitimate legal advice, they apparently were allowed. In fact, in October 2019 Extinction Rebellion legal representatives protested outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London distributing what they described as ‘declarations of rebellion. One protestor even grabbed the news headlines as she donned a gold ‘Lady Justice’ outfit.
There seems to be no end to the lengths Extinction rebellion will go. For example, in early 2019 campaigners parked a blue boat outside the main entrance of the Royal Courts of Justice in a gimmicky protest. The boat was covered in the message ‘act now’. (3)
The reality for Extinction Rebellion and environmental campaigners is that climate legislation is often introduced which regulates industries. City firms such as Clifford Chance have established specialist Climate Change Risk teams to advise their clients on compliance with climate change legislation such as the Paris Agreement (4) from 2016. It is their role to keep abreast of potential legal developments and advise their clients about the possible effects it could have.(5)
Law firms are doing their best to mitigate the risks of climate change. Over 200 organisations are collaborating and have introduced The Chancery Lane Project with the aim of fighting climate change by developing new contract clauses and model laws. Nigel Brook, a Senior Equity Partner at Clyde & Co Solicitors said, ‘working with the Chancery Lane Project has been invaluable in expanding my and my colleagues’ practices to encompass the practical considerations of climate change. (6)
Law firms need to secure their futures by combining this collaboration with strategies such as bolstering their balance sheets with major capital reserves, reducing costs and expenses, retaining their existing clients base and continuing to build a world-class brand to attract new clients. (7)
Written by Adam Green
#Linklaters #Clifford Chance #Slaughter&May #White & Case #Bird&Bird #RPC #McGrath Nicholl #ShooSmiths #Kennedys #Pinsent Masons #Accenture #Latham & Watkins #Goldman Sachs #JP Morgan #King Wood Malleson# @KTS_Law @StatewatchEU
1 Slingo, Jemma- Extinction Rebellion confirms plans to target City law firms – Law Society Gazette - Extinction Rebellion confirms plans to target City law firms | News | Law Gazette – 24 August 2021
2 Slingo, Jemma- Extinction Rebellion confirms plans to target City law firms – Law Society Gazette - Extinction Rebellion confirms plans to target City law firms | News | Law Gazette – 24 August 2021
3 Slingo, Jemma- Extinction Rebellion confirms plans to target City law firms – Law Society Gazette - Extinction Rebellion confirms plans to target City law firms | News | Law Gazette – 24 August 2021
4 Paris Climate Change Agreement 2016;
5 Clifford Chance – Climate Change Risk Team - Climate Change Risk team (cliffordchance.com) – 25 August 2021;
6 Start using new contractual clauses that help fight climate change – Chancery Lane Project - The Chancery Lane Project
7 The four key challenges in the legal sector – How effective unified communications delivers a competitive advantage – An Incom-CNS Group Whitepaper – income CNS Group - The-Four-Key-Challenges-in-The-Legal-Sector-1.pdf (incom.co.uk)