How Green Is My Lawyer?

Yesterday I received an email from the Law Society Gazette, and another from the Law Society, described as a Professional Update. In fairness, the one from the Law Society does contain a lot of important professional information that would be useful to me, had I not retired (stuff like the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination). Still, I was perplexed to see a link to the Law Society websitei, under this heading: “Four ways to improve your firm’s environmental impact”.

I was still more perplexed to read what followed:

We all care about protecting our planet, so it’s no surprise employees expect business to do their bit too. Volvo Cars UK suggest four core actions you can take now to make your law firm a greener place to work.

Volvo Cars UK? Why on earth is the Law Society pushing environmental advice at solicitors, from – of all people – Volvo Cars UK? Don’t let the UK bit of the name fool you. They’re part of Volvo Cars, which used to be Swedish, until bought by Ford, but which since 2010 has been owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd of China. Geely also own Lotus, by the way.

Intrigued, I thought I should visit the Law Society’s website to discover the four amazing strategies Volvo wants to share with me (well, with solicitors in practice, I suppose) so that together we can “protect the planet” (as they put it).

It turns out that the Law Society has a tie-up with Volvo Cars UK:

Brought to you in partnership with Volvo Car UK

Volvo have bold sustainability plans, with one of the most ambitious and forward-thinking electrification strategies in the industry and a commitment to being fully climate neutral by 2025.

If you and your company would like to join them on that electric journey, Law Society members have an easy and simple way into the world of electrified driving thanks to a partnership with Volvo Car UK.

Well, knock me down with a feather. Why didn’t I think of any of this? It’s a good job those nice people at the Law Society and at Volvo Cars UK are on hand to keep me right. Well, Volvo Cars UK, actually. It’s they who “suggest four core actions you can take now to make your law firm a greener place to work.”

Drum roll….

1. Offer the option of a greener pension;

2. Find alternatives to single-use items;

3. Switch to renewable energy (opportunity here for another advert):

It might just be the springboard you need to work towards a completely climate-neutral location – like the Volvo Torslanda plant in Sweden, which was one of the first climate-neutral car factories in the world.

Which – ta da! – leads in to:

4. Electrify your company cars.

There you go – job done. Disinvest your company pension scheme from nasty old oil, coal and arms (yes, that was the advice – apparently it helps every individual feel like they’re making a difference. Careful choice of words, I suppose – it’s good to feel like you’re making a difference, even if you’re not); stop using plastic straws; switch to renewable energy (even if, as the website helpfully reminds us, [i]t’s worth noting that not all of these providers generate renewable energy directly. Some might just buy renewable energy certificates); and then – the clincher – buy electric cars from Volvo Cars UK.

I wonder if the same advice has been given to the Chinese Communist Party?

Extinction Rebellion

Not satisfied with pushing Chinese products at me, the commercial arm of the Law Society (its Gazette – remember the other email) has decided to give XR a bit of a push. That email linked to an article in the Gazette under the heading “In focus: Should City firms cut ties with fossil fuel giants?”

Where do XR fit in?

With their drums, loudspeakers and grungy headbands, Extinction Rebellion protesters are the antithesis of corporate London. However, the questions they raise are starting to be discussed in boardrooms across the City. In short, should law firms who want to act responsibly be representing – and profiting from – some of the world’s biggest carbon emitters?

Apart from idly wondering if they really are the antithesis of corporate London (remember Tollydollyposhfashion?ii), I also wonder why the Law Society Gazette decided to add to the exposure XR is already receiving in abundance in the mainstream media. Anyway,

Professor Paul Watchman, a former Freshfields partner and advisory board chair for Lawyers for Net Zeroiii, says firms need to be more discerning when it comes to picking clients. ‘Law firms can say they expect their clients to have certain values – because clients are saying it to the law firms now.’

We’re not asking them to dump their clients on day one – but maybe don’t accept instructions that relate to building a coal fired power station in China,’ he adds. ‘And a big thing they could do is stop their clients litigating on climate change.’

Those comments intrigued me at two levels. Firstly, it’s OK for the Law Society to push a Chinese-owned car firm at me, but apparently acting for anyone building coal-fired power stations in China is verboten. Secondly, litigating on climate change should be stopped. I assume he means litigating against climate change policies, rather than the massive amount of climate change litigation brought by activists against fossil fuel companies etc. – see “Climate Litigation”.iv Indeed, the article tells us:

As climate change becomes more urgent, however, solicitors face a crossroads. According to a study by the London School of Economics, the number of climate change disputes has more than doubled in the past five years and practitioners are observing a similar change: Allen & Overy partner Suzanne Spears anticipated a ‘flood of litigation’ at a recent International Bar Association webinar.

We also learn that:

Carbon reporting, for example, is likely to soon become a major consideration for businesses, with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosurev currently consulting on how disclosure requirements should relate to private companies, such as LLPs.

I imagine we’re going to see a lot more of this (I only just scratched the surface in “Green Law, Red Tape”vi).

Nowhere, it seems, is immune from climate activism, possibly as a result of it now being front and centre in schools and universities:

Future trainees are also asserting their priorities. Law Students for Climate Accountabilityvii – a group that was founded last year by Yale law students – has ranked 100 law firms from A to F according to their climate performance. (Three out of five magic circle firms were graded ‘F’). They have also invited firms to take a ‘climate pledge’ under which they will ‘not take on work to support the fossil fuel industry, now and into the future’.

Then again, as the Gazette article asks:

And how does cutting ties with certain sectors square with the universal right for legal representation?

Maybe Law Students for Climate Accountability missed that bit of the course?

The article ends with the following words:

One thing is clear, however: as the planet warms up, lawyers will be feeling the heat.

I would say one thing is very clear: the Law Society, and the Law Society Gazette, have nailed their colours to the mast, and it’s clear that they’re firmly in the alarmist camp. And of course, there’s money to be made out of it.

i https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/topics/business-management/4-ways-to-improve-your-firms-environmental-impact

ii https://tollydollyposhfashion.com/tag/extinction-rebellion/

I understand that the mostly positive experiences I have had over the past year, have come out of a place of privilege and out of the little risk to my safety, wellbeing and overall security. I will never beat around the bush that this type of activism can often cost a fair amount of money (whether it’s for covering accommodation, food, travel or other expenses), take a lot of time and have potential legal consequences.

Not everybody can afford to take two weeks off of [sic] work or travel the country frequently, no matter how much they understand and appreciate the severity of the issue.

iii https://www.lawyersfornetzero.com/

iv https://cliscep.com/2021/06/08/__trashed-2/

v https://www.fsb-tcfd.org/

vi https://cliscep.com/2021/07/21/green-law-red-tape/

vii https://www.ls4ca.org/

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August 28, 2021 at 06:27AM

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