Press release: 19 April 2023
Law Society guidance a "starting point" to consider professional and regulatory obligations
LONDON - In response to the publication of the Law Society’s new guidance on climate change, ClientEarth lawyer Robert Clarke said:
“The Law Society’s guidance is much-needed to help lawyers and law firms reckon with the impact of their work on the climate crisis, and the impact of the climate crisis on their work – issues the profession simply cannot ignore.
“The net-zero energy transition affects practically all areas of legal practice for firms and clients of all shapes and sizes. Many law firms are making climate-related commitments themselves, or advising clients who have done so, and many lawyers are advising on climate-related regulations and the implications of climate change for existing laws.
“Importantly, the guidance helps solicitors grapple with their ‘advised’ emissions – likely the most significant source of climate impact for lawyers – and highlights that law firms may face regulatory and reputational consequences if their sustainability claims can’t be backed up and are perceived as ‘greenwashing’.
“The guidance also clarifies that solicitors are not bound by the same ‘cab rank rule’ as barristers and have a wide discretion to choose whether to accept particular instructions or clients for many reasons, including climate. It is for firms to make this decision in the context of their businesses and any sustainability claims they make, and they can and should consider climate change when accepting work from clients.
“Like any other business, law firms that make net zero claims should think carefully about whether their work and business practices are compatible with those claims. And firms should consider how best to use their influence to support the net-zero transition.
“The law can be a powerful tool to address climate change and the risks that come with it. Lawyers and firms must engage meaningfully with this crucial issue for the profession, using this guidance as a starting point to consider their professional and regulatory obligations.”
ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.