Elite law schools ‘have been captured by corporate interests that profit from …rendering the planet uninhabitable’

Law Gazette special

Intro here unedited,


Paul Rogerson:

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

advise them.

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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