Law Gazette special
Intro here unedited,
In the US there is a bellicose lobby group called Law Students
for Climate Accountability. No pun intended, but here is an
organisation that shows the way the wind is blowing for the global
legal profession on climate change.
Witness this pungent observation from supporter Jon Hanson,
a professor of law at Harvard. ‘Legal education – and particularly
“elite” law schools – have been captured by corporate interests
that profit from, among other things, rendering the planet
uninhabitable. The time is long overdue for those law schools and
their Big Law benefactors to be judged not according to their lofty
justice claims or their astronomical wealth, but according to their
actual consequences here on Earth.’
A big majority of Gazette readers will have serious reservations
about this, conscious in particular of the inalienable right of all to
access justice. Most barristers certainly demur, too, judging by the
backlash when some of their number noisily declared they will not
prosecute climate protesters or act on fossil fuel projects.
Like it or not, however, climate change is a fast-growing business
risk for lawyers. And not simply in terms of curbing business travel
in order for the ESG report to signal appropriate virtue.
That is why the Law Society is bang on the money with this week’s
groundbreaking guidance on the Impact of Climate Change on
Solicitors (News p4, In Focus p7, In Practice p25). A world first, the
advice will have many imitators as the focus shifts from perceived
despoilers of the planet to the so-called ‘enablers’ who fund and
In-house ‘enablers’, too. A new film by Richard Curtis – that
embodiment of well-heeled liberal sensibility – takes aim at the
allegedly ‘toxic relationship’ between UK high street banks and the
fossil fuel industry. Beware the bien-pensants.
Chancery Lane will doubtless come in for criticism for allegedly
being ‘woke’ here. That is unfair and, more to the point, otiose.
Solicitors and firms need to reappraise how they practise, in order to
pre-empt the headaches that may arise from fast-evolving attitudes
to climate change in business and wider society. They risk losing
good business – and good staff – if they fail.
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