Since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, many international law firms have been seeking new outposts in order to maintain their access to the EU market. Among the most popular destinations for firms looking to retain that access is Dublin, Ireland. Post-Brexit restrictions have made it more difficult for UK-based lawyers to practice EU law from outside the EU, so Dublin’s status as not only a significant financial centre and a thriving domestic market, but also as an EU ticket- holder, has made it a very attractive destination for firms. Alongside a wider look at the Dublin landscape for law firms, this article will take a deeper look at the Investment Funds industry and how it has proved to be a new market entrant area of choice, and why it has been a hive of activity since the Brexit decision was made.
First, let us take a look at the primary reason for the rising popularity of Ireland as a jurisdiction of choice: Brexit. Law Gazette reported that in the six months leading up to the Brexit vote on 23rd June 2016, 186 solicitors from the UK had been admitted to practice in Ireland. This number amounted to more than three times the total at the same stage in 2015. A year later, 1,448 England and Wales solicitors have been admitted; a number that had swelled so significantly it prompted Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society of Ireland at the time, to reference the “tsunami” of registrations they were receiving as “Brexit refugee solicitors”. Christina Blacklaws, former president of the Law Society of England and Wales explained the incoming registrations as a move on the part of law firms to do everything they can to “ensure they continue to meet their clients’ needs seamlessly when we leave the EU”.
Three years later, the Law Society of Ireland announced that dual-qualified lawyers must be physically based in or practising in Ireland to keep their practising certificates. This put a major spanner in the works for law firms who were hoping to continue advising clients on EU law with the benefit of legal professional privilege: they now had to open an office to enjoy the benefits of Irish qualification.
Shrewdly, various leading international law firms had already made the move to Ireland. Firms such as Pinsent Masons, Simmons & Simmons, Covington & Burling, Clyde & Co., DLA Piper and Fieldfisher had proactively moved to reap the benefits of the EU connection, as well as to build on their own international platforms. Only recently in 2022, Browne Jacobson chose Dublin as the destination for its first overseas office, highlighting its continued desirability. Back in 2017, however, Pinsent Masons and Simmons & Simmons both decided to launch with investment funds as a core aspect of their new offerings. Despite the Irish market being highly saturated with well-established domestic firms such as Arthur Cox, Dillon Eustace, Maples Group, Matheson and McCann FitzGerald, who already have bases in Dublin, the funds area was seen to have growing potential. This can be attributed to Ireland’s status as a leading hub for the investment funds industry across Europe, where the AUM (Assets Under Managements) figures continue to grow year on year. It remains one of the most popular locations for establishing fund structures in Europe, with over €6.6 trillion in assets under management reported by PwC at the turn of 2022.
Why Investment Funds?
This leads us onto the more technical aspects of why Dublin is a great place to do business; Ireland has become a pre-eminent global location for establishing and administering investment funds particularly due to its favourable regulatory environment, pro-business environment, and tax benefits. As an EU member state, funds established in Ireland as an Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferrable Securities (UCITS) or an Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) benefit from an EU-wide passporting regime, and the country has an excellent reputation for robust and efficient regulation, with a proven track record in adapting to industry developments. Additionally, Ireland is an internationally recognised, open, and tax-efficient jurisdiction with a 12.5% corporate tax rate – which is significantly lower than the 25% figure the UK has (it rose from 19% on April 1st 2023) – and a favourable tax regime for funds or investors. While it is difficult to directly compare the UK and Ireland in this regard as the tax rules are complex, vary depending on a range of factors, and ultimately go beyond the scope of this article, we can be certain that Ireland has actively pushed to make itself a strong domicile of choice for investors. The CIB (Central Bank of Ireland) has developed a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework that is purposefully attractive to fund managers and investors alike. In recent years, Ireland has been decidedly proactive in introducing new legislation and regulatory initiatives designed to support the growth of the investment funds industry. For example, the Irish Collective Asset-management Vehicle (ICAV) was introduced in 2015 to provide a more flexible and tax-efficient structure for investment funds, while the country’s Investment Limited Partnership (ILP) regime was recently updated to make it more attractive to investors. So ultimately, while the market may have been handed a Brexit boost, it was more than ready to accommodate an influx of business; it’s popularity as a fund domicile of choice has been earned, with Irish luck playing only a very small role.
Jostling for space
Dublin is fast becoming ‘London by the Liffey’, writes Irish Times reporter Mary Carolan. And frankly, it is hard to argue with that title given that UK or international firms now make up seven of the top 20 firms in Ireland, with half of the top 30 UK law firms having now opened offices in Dublin. Of the more recent office openings chronologically, Linklaters, Ashurst, Hogan Lovells, Taylor Wessing, Addleshaw Goddard and Bird & Bird have opened offices in Ireland, with Squire Patton Boggs due to touch down shortly in May 2023. Notably, Addleshaw Goddard entered the market via a merger with local firm Eugene F. Collins, completing what is believed to be the largest ever merger between a UK-based legal business and an independent Irish practice. Carolan reports that this has had a directly adverse effect on regional firms who, according to a recent survey, have experienced a slowdown in growth. Of the 108 law firm respondents surveyed between September and October 2022, almost all respondents – and especially the larger firms located in Dublin – have pointed to recruitment and retention of staff as a major concern. One of the difficulties they face is retaining newly qualified solicitors who are attracted by the “eye-watering” six-figure salaries offered by firms based in London, alongside better prospects and access to working in an international law firm environment. About 50 partners in Irish firms joined UK and other international firms in the past five years, including the foremost market entrants Simmons and Simmons and Pinsent Masons, who led the way by poaching Fionan Breathnach, Head of Investment Funds, and funds partner Gayle Bowen from Mason Hayes Curran and Walkers, respectively.
It is worth noting that amidst the concerns of losing staff to international firms due to higher salaries, William Fry, an Irish law firm with offices in London, New York, and San Francisco, has successfully lured back one of its own consultants, Niall Campbell, from Pinsent Masons to work on business-critical matters in its flagship office. This shows that the brain drain from domestic firms to international ones may not be as one-way as it seems, and suggests that Irish firms still have competitive advantages to offer. At the same time, it shows how important a resource these international platforms are to Irish-based lawyers. There is no better place to hone your skills as a legal professional than in the biggest rooms at the biggest tables. Firms like Pinsent Masons, Simmons & Simmons, Eversheds Sutherland and the multitude of other international firms who now have a base in Dublin provide local lawyers with the perfect opportunity to elevate their own practices, advancing their own careers but hiring the standard across the board.
As a result of the influx of eager law firms into a fertile Irish market, the competitive ‘war for talent’ we have seen in the UK over the recent years has affected Ireland in an even more concentrated way. With the increased competition, law firms are continuing to use lateral hires as part of their growth strategies. The survey conducted by the Irish Times found that just over 70% of the firms surveyed have made more than five lateral hires in the past 12 months. It is worth noting that there has been significant growth in in-house legal and compliance teams as they seek to re-domicile in Ireland. We have also seen Irish expats returning home for better prospects.
As a direct result of the vast swelling of NQ salaries driven by this higher competition and thus higher demand for lawyers, a number of international firms with offices in Dublin are set to launch, or expand, the number of training contracts available. This is a move The Lawyer has referred to as “Phase Two of the international invasion. First, they came for your partners and associates…Now, they’re coming for the most promising graduate talent.”
In doing so, the firms are strategically going straight to source with the aim of pushing their organic growth and stepping away from the current melee that is talent acquisition. Both Bird & Bird and Taylor Wessing have affirmed their intentions to introduce training contracts into their Dublin offices. The firms that are already providing training contracts, such as Fieldfisher & Addleshaw Goddard, have opted to boost the number of contracts they offer each year. Fieldfisher Dublin’s managing partner, JP McDowell, stated that “recruiting and training new talent is an essential component of our strategy to facilitate our ambitious growth plans in Ireland.” Among international law firms in Dublin, DLA Piper is rumoured to offer the highest number of training contracts, with a maximum of 12 openings per year. It will be incredibly interesting to see how this unfolds as the year plays out.
It is clear that Ireland’s popularity with law firms in the post-Brexit era has remained strong. The ongoing push to open an office in Dublin, the appeal as a fund domicile of choice, and the second wave recruitment drive from firms looking to expand their training contract offerings are clear examples of this. The legal market in Ireland will certainly continue to grow and transform as international firms keep up the push to move in and fight for their market share of work. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how local firms respond to the external pressure, which will only increase from here on out.
Fides Search has supported a number of firms with their growth in Dublin. Please contact George Eves and Mathew Parker for more information.
Following our Ukraine Initiative, we have always endeavoured to share information about the Ukraine war and the human consequences of its occurrence. The Ukraine Initiative was a way for us to support Ukrainian lawyers, following the idea that if we could help even just one Ukrainian lawyer who had been displaced by the war get settled in the UK and help them find suitable employment, then that could provide an entire family with a degree of stability. Since March, we have connected with hundreds of wonderful Ukrainian lawyers, and we have been working with many top law firms and companies who have shown initiative in their compassion to hire these individuals.
The idea for this Q&A originated from Iryna Kravtsova a Ukrainian lawyer that we placed back in November at Stephenson Harwood. She approached us with the intention of sharing her experience so that others could learn from it. Here we share her point of view and her story, as well as Dan Holland’s, a commercial lawyer and Iryna’s manager at Stephenson Harwood, experience of hiring and working alongside her.
Interview with Iryna Kravtsova –
– What challenges did you initially face when coming to the UK and how did you come about the opportunity where you are now employed?
When the war started, I shared a post on LinkedIn explaining how my life was before the war and how it was now; I described how the war had affected my life and dramatically changed my life goals. In the post was a picture of the basement in which my parents and I were currently living.
To my surprise, the LinkedIn community expressed genuine solidarity in response to my post and I received hundreds of messages. My post appeared to resonate and changed people’s opinions and attitudes towards their own lives. Some people wrote that they realised their life was not so bad after all, and that their working conditions were actually fine, while others said that the post made them want to spend more time with their families or take more holidays to enjoy life. I’m happy if my post changed just one person’s attitude towards life and pleased that this message – quality of life is not just about material and financial gain, but also about our attitudes towards life – resonated.
Alongside these messages, I also received messages from people asking how they could help; one of these was from Edward Parker, Director at Fides Search. Following a call, Edward asked for my CV and explained that he would send it to some of the UK law firms and companies that he was working with. While I was confident in my professional skills and experience, I didn’t have much hope that anything would come from this, but I thought why not; it was a new challenge.
It’s a common perception that UK-based companies are not interested in Ukrainian lawyers, even if they have an established professional background. The only exception is an intragroup relocation – when a multinational company gives in-house lawyers the chance to work at different jurisdictions within the organisation. Nevertheless, I decided to share my CV with companies in the UK, as it was not only about new professional challenges, but also survival. When I had the conversation with Ed, I was in Poland with my parents. Going back home to Ukraine, where I would have to stay under missile attacks – without electricity, water, and heating – was not an option for me.
Stephenson Harwood was one of the firms that responded to Ed. The firm was interested in my CV and professional experience. I interviewed with two partners, Dan Holland and Naomi Leach, while I was still in Poland. The interview went so well that it didn’t even feel like an interview, rather a supportive conversation. After several interviews, and a series of background checks, they offered me a 6-month contract as a legal analyst in the transactional support team in the corporate finance and private equity practice. It was a surprise when Ed called me back with the news. Although the role was a level below the one, I had in Ukraine, I decided to take it. This was mainly because my Ukraine qualifications were not valid in the UK, so the position of legal analyst was one I could do without being registered as a foreign lawyer.
However, I did hesitate, at first, in accepting the offer, due to the short-term contract, and being far away from my family and alone in a foreign country. On the one hand, I would have safety and stability for the next 6 months, but uncertainty about what will happen after that. My family and friends helped me make a final decision, and I feel their enormous love and support. I am able to stay in touch with my family, who are in Ukraine, with the help of technology, except when there is no mobile or internet connection caused by damage to Ukraine’s internet and telecommunications infrastructure. In terms of my contract, I’m convinced that it is partly my responsibility to show the best of my professional skills and get a permanent position.
I arrived in the UK on 1 November. The challenges I faced throughout the process and coming to England were mainly bureaucratic – obtaining the visa and the relevant background checks – because refugees don’t have local qualifications or papers. This took some time and delayed my arrival in the UK.
– What challenges did you face when you first started your current job? What challenges did you think you were going to have to face but ultimately did not arise?
I think the second question is more relevant to me. There were a lot of things that I was worried about at the beginning that weren’t issues at all. I didn’t worry much about professional challenges, as I’m very open to everything that develops my hard and soft skills. If you do not improve and challenge yourself, you will be stuck. My main worries were about the language barrier, social environment and whether I would be accepted in the UK. I’m very happy that my worries were in vain. All colleagues at Stephenson Harwood are very friendly and willing to help, and the team I currently work with are a dream team. Eventually, I got acquainted with people with whom I could go out for a coffee and have a friendly chat. The language also turned out not to be a problem as it was just a matter of time getting to understand the different accents. In the end, a lot of the challenges that I thought I was going to face turned out to be temporary difficulties that could be overcome.
In terms of other challenges, I’d outline two issues: 1) it is a difficult and expensive procedure obtaining a skilled worker visa; 2) UK employers’ rules on employee checks are an inflexible process for non-EU citizens. For example, there are documents that must be provided to an employer before employment commences, however, these documents do not exist in Ukraine. I have also heard about situations when Ukrainians were refused a job, even after they signed a contract, as the criminal record certificate couldn’t be obtained because the Ukrainian state registers were closed due to the war.”
– Do you believe that there is significant stigma around hiring refugees? Preconceptions about their skills, about their background especially in terms of risk management? And why?
Yes, I do believe this. There is this idea that people from third world countries are not, or cannot be, highly professional or a specialist, and that their education is worth less than a qualification obtained in a first world country – such as the UK, EU, or the US. I believe that all too often they are not seen as being as capable as everyone else, with equivalent skills and knowledge. There is also a stereotype that if people come from certain countries, they can do only certain types of work.
Refugees are often treated as people who can only do blue-collar jobs. This is very unfair, and many employers take advantage of the refugees’ situation, adopting a “take it or leave it” attitude. Many highly qualified refugees, who used to work as doctors, teachers, or office staff, are offered work in the fields or factories. The paradox is that when the refugees refuse this kind of work and keep looking for a job to match their qualifications, we often hear feedback that these refugees came to do nothing except get social payments from the hosting country.
– What advice would you give to employers who may be looking to hire a refugee?
Firstly, and most importantly, employers should not be afraid of giving refugees a chance. For example, in my case, I was offered a 6-month contract. This provides an employer with some time to determine whether I am the right fit for the company, can do the work, and have the sufficient qualifications to conduct and fulfil the workload expected of me. It also allows me to figure out whether I can handle the work and whether the opportunity is right for me, and, if not, it’s a period where I get to demonstrate my skills and experience. The conversation about a permanent contract can follow afterwards, but that initial step can be invaluable.
The employer should also try and treat refugees fairly and not take advantages of their status. Nowadays, we hear a lot discussed about gender, religion, disability, and ethnicity, but there is little discussion when it comes to refugees, specifically refugees’ work rights. That’s why many refugees often end up with work that doesn’t correspond to their professional experience or qualification, and this can often lead to them earning less than they deserve.”
– What advice would you give to individuals who are currently in a similar position to you?
“Believe in yourself and never give up. That is not only applicable to refugees, but to everyone. If you knock on nine doors, and they are all closed, then maybe the tenth is the one for you – and one that is the best fit and the opportunity you have been waiting for.
More specifically for refugees, don’t be afraid to make the first step, send your CV, talk to people, or ask questions. If you do nothing, how can you achieve something? If you’re afraid to fail, then you might miss the right change in your life. Failing is not equal to losing, and it’s up to you how you treat unsuccessful steps: whether you accept it as a good lesson, or a failure.
Don’t be afraid of the language barriers or not being good enough for a certain job. It’s in part about convincing yourself that you are skilled and good enough. Even if you go for an interview and don’t get it, you’re gaining experience, getting feedback, and drawing your own conclusion about where to go from there. You might need to take additional training to strengthen a particular skillset, or improve your English, but if you don’t make that first step you will never know what it takes to get that job or position.
Set goals. Communicate with people and don’t be shy to tell them what you want. Be ready and open to learning something new and expanding your knowledge.
Transform your inner fears and barriers into new challenges. Always remember that there are only a few situations in life where you can’t find a way out: those are death and an incurable disease, the rest are timely difficulties that you can overcome.
Interview with Dan Holland –
“At Stephenson Harwood, we welcome the brightest and the best – whatever their circumstances. When Fides Search contacted us regarding their Ukraine initiative – connecting lawyers in Ukraine with potential law firm hosts in the UK so they can find suitable employment – we were very keen to work with them.
Our work with refugees actually predates the Ukraine crisis. Since 2021, Stephenson Harwood has partnered with Breaking Barriers, a UK charity that helps refugees to rebuild their lives through education, training, and employment, and we’re always looking for ways to provide more substantive help in this area.”
“The recruitment process for this role was similar to others in terms of finding an individual who had excellent experience and expertise, and someone who would be a good fit for the team. That said, the process took longer than usual – almost 6 months in total; this was due to a range of practical issues such as waiting for the relevant visa to be issued.”
“We believe that hiring refugees presents a huge opportunity for our firm, and for any business. Many refugees are highly skilled, talented and experienced, and have often developed enormous resilience and adaptability. We can learn so much from them, while providing a secure, stable, professional environment in which they can continue, and further develop, their careers.
Diversity of thought and experience adds breadth and depth to our teams and our service offering – it means we more naturally approach legal challenges with a range of perspectives, and are better able to give holistic advice, firmly set in the real world. [This applies whether we’re talking about gender, age, educational background, socio-economic upbringing, ethnicity, disability, neurodiversity, or anything else.]”
“As mentioned above, we had to navigate practical issues such as the visa, but the actual onboarding process remained the same to our usual one. We pride ourselves in offering a flexible, adaptable working environment, which was a great fit with Iryna as she looks to continue her studies; it means that we’ve been able to offer her employment, while also supporting her ongoing academic pursuits.”
“Bringing diverse minds and backgrounds into any business has obvious and tangible benefits. Organisations who pursue this shouldn’t see it as a charitable endeavour: your business, your people and your clients will get just as much from it as your new employee will.
Practically, it is important to remember that working cultures in different countries vary, and so employers need to be accommodating in terms of integrating them into the workplace and providing the support they need.”
These interviews were a pleasure to conduct. The points of views shared by both Iryna, and Dan make a stand about demonstrating humanity in times of need, a genuine show of human support beyond an economical gain. We hope this article provides insight to individuals who are in Iryna’s position or to law firms who are looking to venture into hiring refugees. This crisis is ongoing and unfortunately there appears to be no immediate end in sight. We are still running our Ukraine Initiative and working with many lawyers who are looking to settle in the UK and continue their legal careers. We are always seeking to involve more law firms in this initiative in order to continue offering jobs to the Ukrainian lawyers who continue reach out to us every week.
The global legal market is in the process of changing in the face of recent and emerging developments. Cost pressures, regulatory changes, the challenges of scale and global footprint, advances in technology, and the expectations of a new generation of lawyers entering the profession are causing a shift in the market.
How leadership teams respond, devise, and implement a smart and timely response to these forces over the next few years will determine who will emerge as winners. Which furthers the question of how law firms and in-house legal teams will position themselves to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead despite the challenges – most notably when it comes to attracting and retaining talent?
A combination of the pandemic, Brexit and other more widespread factors have led to skills shortages and talent gaps across different industries. One knock-on effect of this has been greater competitiveness among employers for top potential recruits. This has led to an increasingly candidate driven market where said candidates have begun to expect a different modus operandi from before. Post-pandemic, attracting top talent isn’t just about offering the highest remuneration as candidates are also looking for the right working patterns and flexible working hours with around ½ of legal professionals with 10+ years’ experience now expressing wanting to work remotely at least 2-3 days per week.
Nonetheless, this highly competitive market shows no signs of slowing down. A new national survey from MHA has revealed that 85% of UK law firms are planning to increase staff numbers in 2022. Another recent survey by the Association of Corporate Counsel also found that 32% of in-house general counsels’ plan to recruit more lawyers to their in-house legal department. These circumstances have led to a robust war for talent taking place between private practice and in-house as they try and attract top performers to their teams.
On the frontline is the question of competitive salaries. Salaries were already trending upwards in previous years. In private practice in 2021, the base salary of an NQ in an upper quartile UK law firm ranged between £85k-£105k up from between £82k-£95k in 2020. The pace of change has only markedly increased in 2022 where we’ve seen international firms paying NQ lawyers a base salary of up to £120k. This is further reflected at all levels of seniority within private practice salaries. On the other hand, when it comes to junior in-house talent, base salaries start around £60k-£80k in London, rising to around £110k-£180k for senior legal talent.
With this information taken into consideration, given all the money on offer within private practice, why would a newly qualified – or in fact a lawyer at any level, consider the in-house legal market. However, despite it, we are still seeing a current trend of employees at UK law firms switching sides and going in-house.
This is because whilst there is a lot of money on offer in private practice, many still transition from private practice to in-house for greater job security, flexibility, work-life balance, and better promotion opportunities. The legal in-house function in recent years has evolved. Companies have changed since the pandemic, with many increasing the size of their legal teams and giving in-house lawyers greater influence—reflecting a more fluid and changing global landscape. Businesses are seeing the advancement of technology, bringing with it new legal responsibilities, so an in-house lawyer can help companies navigate the legal landscape quickly and with ease. In turbulent times it’s important that people can turn to in-house lawyers as trusted advisers, to help them navigate the uncertainties of the next few years and give them some assurance. With the global situation being fast-moving, having an existing legal function that understands the business, its clients and stakeholders is proving more essential than ever. In-house legal functions have been increasingly redrawing the line between what needs to be outsourced and what can be performed within the legal function. Many private practice lawyers express that the hands-on nature of the in-house market is a key factor for why they want to make the move across. The ability to start and finish a project, rather than just advising on one aspect of it, as well as working alongside the business to achieve commercial aims, plays a key factor in decision making. Whilst the salaries may not be as large as in the private practice, the benefits of joining an in-house organization can far outweigh just the salary on offer.
While this all seems very positive for the in-house market there is a rebalancing on the horizon. There is still the salient topic of income, although in-house teams start to pay more for lawyers with three to seven years’ experience, after that, the differential starts to swing the other way and begins to stagnate. All the while equity partners in top law firms are earning incomes that far exceed their peers in in-house roles, save for a few GCs of major listed companies.
Furthermore, in-house lawyers are now getting busier, with pressure for them to do more – on the other side of the fence, many law firms are rethinking the workload of graduates and early career lawyers to make them more sustainable. They have also stepped up their programs focused on employee mental health and wellbeing and increasingly dedicating time to the question of diversity & inclusion.
Either way, if trends persist, the employee value proposition of in-house may become less compelling. With increasing demand, in-house teams have started to build their capacity by hiring more graduates and investing in early career legal and commercial training. However, this may be good news for law firms; after years of training young talent only to lose them to in-house roles, the shoe may comfortably fit on the other foot. In recent years, we have noticed a marked increase in the number of lawyers moving back to private practice after several years in-house, as well a steady flow of legal professionals flooding into other legal functions such as compliance and risk. Furthermore, although, in-house lawyers are increasingly being paid through long term incentive plans or rewarded through share schemes in order to compensate for the competitiveness of salaries in private practice, it remains to be seen whether in-house roles will ever truly be able to compete financially with private practice.
It is important to remember that in these uncertain times, change is inevitable to accommodate a world in flux. As the power play gets settled out between the private practice and in-house sectors, the status quo remains that both are looking to hire, and both boast pros and cons that may suit different individuals at different point in their career – just as it has always been. Nonetheless, the war for talent rages on and the future of the industry may no longer be a hierarchy with private practice at the top as both sides set out to become as attractive as possible for prospective talent.
Written by Imogen Scott, Researcher
We are pleased to announce that Shirin Stanley is re-joining Fides as an independent consultant.
Shirin enjoys nearly 20 years’ experience of Search and Selection across Legal and Financial Services.
Her geographic coverage spans Europe, Middle East and Asia.
She previously established the Middle Eastern offering for a leading search firm in the UAE.
She is seasoned in relation to both private practice and in-house where her focus has ranged across transactional, contentious and regulatory practices. Her experience includes strategic partner hires as well as placing product lawyers, GCs and Regional Leads within the Buy and Sell-Side Financial and Investor community.
She was previously a Director of Fides Search in Dubai and London.
Ed Parker, Director said:
“Shirin is among the more experienced female consultants in our market. I am absolutely thrilled to welcome her back into the team. We envisage that Shirin will help the strengthen our European coverage in markets such as Paris and Brussels where French language skills are rapidly becoming a prerequisite. She will be a significant addition to our initiative to help promote diversity and inclusion amongst our clients and on behalf of our candidates. Shirin spent almost five years working in the Middle East which remains a key market for Fides Search. We now look forward to redoubling our efforts in the region.”
“I am excited to rejoin Fides Search, a brand I was instrumental in founding and which has evolved considerably over its lifespan nearly a decade ago. Ed has succeeded in building a team around him which is cohesive and diverse in its skillset and personalities. I relish the prospect of collaborating with individual team members across an array of geographies and practice areas.”
The recent resignation of Asoka Wohrmann, Chief Executive of DWS, Germany’s largest asset manager, has sparked fresh debates over greenwashing and how it is affecting the investment industry.
While greenwashing doesn’t have a universal definition, it is often used when companies make out their environmental practices or “green credentials” to be more effective than they are in reality, potentially misleading consumers and clients as well as regulators. It has also been described as the practice of combining “poor environmental performance with positive communication about environmental performance”. The EU defines greenwashing as the practice of gaining an unfair competitive advantage by marketing a financial product as environmentally friendly, when in fact basic environmental standards have not been met. It has also been noted that most attempts to define greenwashing are often on the bases of applying “exclusion criteria”, such as excluding tobacco and arms, but does not exclude fossil fuel related investments, making the definitions “disjointed”.
The police raid on DWS signals an increased compliance risk for companies that are attempting to combine environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals with overall profit generation. A survey conducted in 2019 by the 2° Investing Initiative found that 85% of “green themed funds” made “unsubstantiated and misleading impact-related claims that violate existing marketing regulations. The most common such claim was to suggest that positive environmental impacts result from the investment strategy”. But this is not a wholly new or unique phenomenon, the drivers of greenwashing have been investigated by academic researchers since 2011. And back in May, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed significant rule changes and subsequently charged BMY Mellon Investment Advisor, Inc. with misstatements and omissions about Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations in making investment decisions for certain mutual funds that it managed and fined them $1.5m. Alice Garton, director of global legal strategy at the Foundation for International Law for the Environment (FILE), has said that up until 2022, about 70% of climate-oriented litigation was against governments, but there has been a substantial shift towards bringing action against corporates and financial institutions in general.
Rapidly changing and increased regulations in how greenwashing is controlled has vast implications for the legal sector as well. It is argued that legal teams are in a particularly powerful position to drive ESG goals and compliance forward as they are “already accustomed to serving in an advisory capacity for company leadership and having to account for a complex set of stakeholder needs that go beyond just traditional shareholders.”
Earlier in the year, Lex Mundi put together a study based off the findings from the General Counsel Summit hosted in Munich. The report found that with heightened focus on ESG initiatives, “corporate governance is being less dictated by the boardroom and more by a wider variety of stakeholders who all have competing goals and interests”. This puts pressure on GCs to not only meet the demands of the stakeholders, but to also maintain the financial goals of their company and meet all regulatory compliances.
CEO and president of Lex Mundi, Helena Samaha, stated: “As the climate challenge becomes ever more pronounced, expectations are rising exponentially. Targets are rising, and new regulations are being introduced or updated across most major jurisdictions. General Counsel are always expected to be fleet of foot but increasingly need to with the guile to manage a more diverse range of stakeholders, to balance these pressures with traditional business imperatives.”
David Curran, the Co-Chair of the sustainability and ESG advisory practice at Paul Weiss in New York commented to Law.com: “I’ve never seen anything change or happen faster than the collision of ESG issues with legal departments,” he also added that “Chief legal officers and their teams are being tagged with more responsibility for the most significant reputational risks at a company, which is ESG, in its essence. Lawyers now need to address how companies track, measure and monitor ESG. It’s a big challenge, because this isn’t taught in law schools”.
It is noted that now general counsels who lead the ESG side to their businesses will have to “collaborate more closely than ever before with other arms of the business, from human resources to the financial and marketing departments, to have a deep understanding of how various ESG data is collected, interpreted and reported.” Alice Garton has also said that, “the bottom line for corporates is that if you continue ‘business-as-usual- contributing to climate change, you are harming your own business opportunities”.
The overarching environmental implications of greenwashing in the financial industry are staggering. In 2019, it was reported that , the City provided loans or investments for entities and projects that emitted 805m tonnes of CO2, which is 2.8 times the UK’s own annual emissions. It was observed that this “highlights the financial industry as one of the UK’s largest contributors to the climate crisis and means that if the City were its own country, it would outrank Germany as the ninth largest emitter of CO2 in the world”.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has commented: “We have made it a priority to ensure that investors are given clear and reliable information about ESG products”.. “This includes considering where new rules are needed. We actively monitor this sector and will respond where we see serious misconduct.” It is the right time to follow the actions that are taking place by regulatory authorities in the US and Germany, and it is projected that ESG claims made by UK companies will likely come under increasing amounts of scrutiny, not just from regulators, but from environmental and shareholder activism as well.
While the regulations to tackle greenwashing are still developing and are likely to change and increase in the coming months, it is clear that legal teams in the financial services sector will be integral to leading the financial services sector in a way that truly promotes ESG goals that are achievable. In the words of former Secretary of State John Kerry, “You are all climate lawyers now, whether you want to be or not”.
Written by Gwendolyn Shaw, Researcher
As part of a series of interviews we are showcasing the potential for lawyers beyond the ‘traditional role’, Syed Nasser speaks to Hitesh Chowdhry, Co-Founder and Managing Director of InvestIN Education.
Could you tell us a bit about your background and your current role?
I’ve had 3 careers so far, all before the age of 40! I was a practising lawyer for 8 years, first practising as a litigator at a law firm in the City before joining the Treasury. I then moved into legal tech, after completing my MBA, running a business development team across EMEA and APAC for Kroll.
Whilst working full-time I co-founded an education start-up, InvestIN, with a friend of mine with a finance background. Initially we were just trying to help young people who were interested in careers in either law or finance. Today we run InvestIN full-time with 45+ permanent staff, offering immersive career experiences to 15,000+ school students per year in 28 different careers and across multiple jurisdictions.
Why did you leave legal practice?
I was always more interested in the commercial aspects of matters I worked on than the legal ones. I remember even being a trainee and feeling like I belonged on the other side of the table in meetings with clients. In the end, even in litigation, the commercial realities dictated everything else. The move into business and Legal tech was a breath of fresh air for me – I could see first-hand how innovation was making the business of law much more efficient; something that was long overdue in my opinion and has of course only accelerated since. But my heart has always been in education. It has a lot of parallels with legal services – an age-old industry that’s ripe for innovation. That’s what we’re trying to do here at InvestIN.
Were there any challenges in making a move?
I was lucky to enter a company (Kroll) that wanted ex-lawyers. It was the ideal stepping stone really from the world of law to entrepreneurship. I owe so much to the people at Kroll who gave me such a hands-on grounding in how to run a business. There were other challenges of course, it felt risky moving away from a secure and respected profession and I was always conscious that my peers might be wondering what on earth I was doing but ultimately I had to follow what was right for me, luckily, I have never looked back.
Do you have any advice for those considering a similar change?
The working world isn’t evenly made up of fixed professions and industries. Often we like to see it like that, or are taught it is in fact like that, probably to feel a sense of comfort in what can seem like a chaotic reality. And that need for comfort I think is what draws many people into traditional professions like law. My legal career gave me an excellent grounding, a variety of skills and confidence and I am grateful for that, but for those that want something more – a way to express creative and entrepreneurial energies – there is a whole world out there. I know it can be difficult to take a risk, but in the grand scheme of things taking a couple of years out to try something else speaks volumes about your resilience and character and you should embrace it.
As part of a series of interviews we are showcasing the potential for lawyers beyond the ‘traditional role’. Syed Nasser speaks to Imran Bhatia, General Counsel for Unbound and Norlake Hospitality about his legal career and his transition from private practice to in-house roles.
Could you tell us a bit about your background and your current role?
I started my career at Herbert Smith (as was then, before becoming HSF – it was a while ago!) as a trainee and then qualified into a Corporate team specialising mainly in private company M&A. I worked with a truly incredible team (I’m lucky enough to count many of the team as friends as well as counsel that I’ve had the chance to instruct since moving in-house) and worked on some amazing transactions.
When I was two years qualified, I moved to a firm called JAG Shaw Baker (now known as Withers Tech), advising high-growth tech companies and venture capital investors, on investment rounds, exits and everything in between. It was a firm I had never heard of, and neither had anyone at HSF (many of whom thought I was crazy to make the move) and so it felt like a massive gamble (shoutout to Syed Nasser for placing me there!) The work involved completely different types of transaction and clients, and the firm itself was very different too, and I absolutely loved it.
A couple of years later I heard, from one of my old bosses at HSF, that Ennismore (operators of The Hoxton Hotels, Gleneagles and some independent restaurants in London) and Norlake Hospitality (the owner of several of the properties) were looking for their first ever legal counsel. At the time, there were four Hoxtons trading, across London and Europe, with several more planned to open in the coming years (including four in the US). Having just turned 30, and despite massive imposter syndrome, it was an opportunity I felt I could not turn down. I joined as General Counsel to both Ennismore and Norlake, and in the next four years I supported the business as it opened more hotels and added several sites to the development pipeline, went into new business directions (such as coworking spaces and private members clubs) and navigated the challenges that Covid brought to the hospitality industry, before leading Ennismore into a merger with Europe’s largest hotel company, Accor.
Post-merger, it was no longer appropriate for me to represent both Ennismore and Norlake, and I was also ready for a change. As of the start of 2022, I have continued my role with Norlake but have also gone full circle by taking on the role of General Counsel with Unbound, a venture capital firm investing in disruptive tech companies.
Why did you leave private practice?
To me, being a lawyer is about building relationships with your clients and helping them to solve problems. It would have been unrealistic for me, at two years qualified, to expect that I could be the person that the likes of Sky or BP would make contact with at HSF when they needed support. But I knew that even at such a junior stage, being part of a large transaction team that would only be mobilised when that client needed help on a transaction, was not the level of client interaction and relationship building that I was looking for.
The move to a much smaller firm, with smaller ticket transactions and earlier stage clients, absolutely fit the bill for me. Often, the client company was comprised of two guys and an idea, who had suddenly found someone to invest in them, and you were the first lawyer they had ever spoken to. It gave me the chance to work closely with the business and ‘get under the bonnet’ to understand how it worked and prepare it for investment, as well as to be on the other end of the phone or a Whatsapp to help solve the problems that an early stage company might encounter on an ad hoc basis. Still at a junior level, it was incredibly satisfying to work on deals that you know could completely transform the business, as well as to go out and win new clients as well as being personally introduced to new companies by clients that I’d worked with.
Moving in-house was taking that integration within a business to the next level. It was a step I always thought I might take, and JAG Shaw Baker was probably as close to being ‘in house’ as I could be whilst still being in private practice. When the opportunity with Ennismore came up, it was a no-brainer to take the plunge and step out of private practice – and I’ve never looked back.
Were there any challenges in making a move?
Making the move from HSF to a much smaller firm posed some practical challenges. I joined a firm that had as many people as HSF had offices! Where HSF was a 24-hour office, at JAG Shaw Baker you deactivated the burglar alarm if you were the first in and set it if you were last out. I actually loved that side; it felt like we were not only advising start-ups, but were a start-up law firm ourselves. It had a real family feel, and the firm felt a lot more connected to the type of work we were doing and the work that I had moved firms for.
Moving in-house to be the sole (and first ever) lawyer within not only a large London office, but supporting a network of hotels across the world, had a couple of immediate challenges. Firstly, when a lawyer comes into a design and brand-led business that has grown incredibly quickly off the back of creativity, the suspicions are there that you might now step in to be the ‘fun police’. The Day-1 challenge was therefore to show that you were there to support and not hinder the progress of the business, and in doing so probably become a lot more commercial in approach (read: let a lot more slide than “Law School Me” could ever imagine!)
Another challenge was to build a function from scratch that had never existed before, within a business that had already grown so much. And in particular, to do that without another lawyer there to bounce ideas off.
Finally, and being transparent, you do hit a ceiling quicker on what you can earn in-house, compared to working in private practice.
What are some of your biggest challenges today?
I’m still a team of one, for each of Norlake and Unbound. It’s a daily challenge not having another lawyer to discuss proposed strategies, or even discussing drafting, with. It also means that whatever the issue is, you’re still the only person in the room who can give a legal view, even if you do not see it as your specialism or something that you have seen before. Fortunately, I have zero shame in saying “I don’t know” and over the years have built up an amazing network of lawyers who I have no problem picking up the phone to and asking silly questions.
At the same time, I have also learned to trust my own judgment. Law firms teach us to see lawyers as sitting with a particular specialty or skill set, and whilst this is necessary in a law firm context, within a business you have to trust that the ‘lawyer’s radar’ can flex to scenarios and that you will, inevitably, bring a point of view and an instinct that no one else in the room may have, even if it feels like an unfamiliar situation.
Today, having two very different roles at the same time, covering both hospitality real estate property management/ownership and venture capital investment is a lot of fun. These are two areas that have been a big part of my career over my past roles, and I feel very blessed to be able to be involved in both. However, flipping constantly between two email inboxes is a real challenge!
How does your working day differ now?
Well first and foremost, no timesheets! Otherwise, I would say generally speaking, in-house work is more intense across the course of a day, as there are always things to do and a to-do-list (or in my case, two) which will never be fully ticked off. Whereas even if you are working on a huge transaction within a law firm, there will be peaks and troughs as drafts are exchanged from one side to the other and there will be an end point to the matters you are working on.
The flip side is that in-house, your hours are generally more predictable – you might have to contend with timezones but if you are going to need to work anti-social hours, you will mostly have more foresight of this (and it will likely be rarer) than working in private practice.
Do you have any advice for those considering a similar change?
Do a client secondment, as this will give you the best visibility (as a private practice lawyer) of what in-house life is actually like. But at the same time, there is no ‘one size fits all’ view of what an in-house lawyer’s role is like – every company is different and what the role of a lawyer will be will vary dramatically based on size of company, size of legal team, the industry etc. I did a client secondment as a trainee, which I thoroughly enjoyed and reinforced that I would want to move in-house at some stage. But at that company, there were 100 lawyers; I was never under any illusions that my ‘team of 1’ role would be anything remotely similar.
Also, talk to people who’ve made a similar step to work in the type of in-house role that you are actually interested in. I’m always open to talk to people so feel free to reach out!
And if you’ve done these things and it is still what you want to do, my final advice would be simply to do it.
Do you have advice to law firms and/or young lawyers as a result of your experiences?
Keep an open mind (and that probably applies to firms and young lawyers, actually).
To firms, be creative as to where your new clients and opportunities might come from. Set up relationships with smaller law firms who might then pass the baton on to you of clients who scale and outgrow them. Today, the next generation of big corporates are start-ups who are being serviced by a firm you may have never heard of, but you could support that firm when it comes to an IPO or a massive exit when the client become a unicorn.
And to young lawyers, do not close your mind to any area of law during your training contract. In my head I was destined to be a litigator, and my first seat was in Corporate because it was compulsory and I wanted to get it out of the way whilst I was at my ‘greenest’. Fast forward, that was the team that I wanted to qualify into, doing the work which has set the roadmap for the rest of my career.
After years of uncertainty, hyperbole and clashing opinions across Europe, we finally have in place the timeline of when the Unified Patent Court will (finally) be launched. My previous article explains the origins of the Unified Patent Court and why thus far it has not been able to go ahead. In this brief commentary, we will look at the reasons for the sudden change of pace and what this now means for not only existing patents, but the wider intellectual property world.
The origins of the UPC stated that the number of member states required to ratify the official creation of the UPC is 13. The 13th country, Austria, deposited its instrument of ratification on January 18th, 2022. With this confirmed, it now means that the provisional application period has now come into force. This means that the UPC can start to recruit staff and put in place IT infrastructure etc. ready for launch. It is anticipated that this will be ready to go in September 2022, although it could take longer.
This also coincides with the introduction of a Unitary Patent, which will allow applicants to file European patent applications, this will be searched and examined in the normal way. Once granted, applicants will be able to choose the Unitary Patent option that will provide a uniform right covering up to 25 of the 27 EU member states (Spain and Croatia have declined to take part) The obvious benefit behind the introduction of a Unitary Patent it’s that it will provide much simpler administration and lower maintenance costs across the board.
The specific date that the new system will come into force will be determined by the 13th state, in this case, Germany, who will have to deposit its instrument of accession to the UPC agreement. Germany has always passed through the required legislation, so it is purely a case of when not if. It has been commented that Germany will only deposit once all the above preparations are completed.
Moving back to the UPC, now 13 member states have ratified this, and the process is already underway to create the necessary infrastructure, it has been announced that the UPC will come into force by the end of 2022- unless there are any major last-minute roadblocks (which look highly unlikely at this stage due to the afore mentioned reasons) The UPC will create a more streamlined process for applications, it will also create legal certainty. Other positives include it will more than likely, cut costs for applicants who have multi-jurisdictional patent applications and help with pressures of the current administration procedure.
So where does this leave a patentee with existing European patents? When the UPC eventually happens, it will have jurisdiction to enforce and to invalidate any existing European patents with effect to all participating member states. This will apply to all European patents, including those which were granted years ago and are still in force.
When the UPC comes into force, it will not be based in one location. It will consist of several divisions spread over the participating member states (for political reasons) The court of first instance will have a central division in Paris and Munich. There was meant to be a branch in London, however since the withdrawal of the UK from the agreement (Brexit) there is no official plan for where this branch will be transferred to. There have been suggestions for a replacement- notably Milan and Amsterdam, however this is yet to be officially confirmed.
What are the benefits of finally having plans in place for the UPC?
Several in-house counsel I have been speaking with, have given a variety of benefits, however the most common ones were; a more streamlined approach to patents, as opposed to having multiple agreements across different jurisdictions. It has also been mentioned that the UPC will make patents stronger and give greater protection for the invention. This dovetails nicely with the fact that costs will be kept low due to being a “one stop shop”.
Whilst there are obvious benefits, it does create potential problems. One of them being that it has made it much easier for larger companies to cover their patents. It could potentially put smaller companies at risk due to the new structure of the UPC and indeed the unitary patent. In addition, there has been controversy around which languages will be officially recognized for the UPC. As it stands, English, French and German are the languages accepted. What does this mean for counties such as Spain & Italy? Spanish is arguably, one of the most used languages in continental Europe, if not globally, so this might potentially cause unrest. It will be interesting to see how this all develops once everything has gone live.
To surmise, whilst this has been a long time in the making, it now seems that everything is in place to make the UPC a real success. it is the next logical development of patents in Europe, and we now have a clear vision for the future. Remember that Europe was built on the mantra of getting stronger together.
Written by Chris Excell
In a vocation as rigorous and demanding as the legal profession, lawyers with non-visible disabilities have felt the need to cover up the true extent of their impairments, or to hide the fact that they are disabled altogether, out of fear that their employment prospects and career progression will be negatively impacted.
In March 2020, The Solicitors Regulation Authority conducted a study which found that just 3% of solicitors declared they had a disability, a figure which has remained stagnant over the past 10 years. This is in sharp contrast to the 13% of the workforce in the UK who have declared a disability, however through the lens of the Equality Act 2010, which uses a broader definition, this figure is estimated to be around 19%. Non-visible disabilities can include Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, visual and hearing impairments, and health conditions such as auto-immune disorders and Diabetes.
The study commissioned by the Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) and conducted by Cardiff Business School titled “Legally Disabled? – Career experiences of disabled people in the legal profession” was released. The study drew on focus groups, 55 interviews and approximately 300 survey responses from solicitors, barristers, paralegals, and trainees, where 70% exclusively reported having non-visible impairments and 20% reported having both visible and non-visible impairments. This survey found that of those questioned, 60% of solicitors and paralegals had experienced some form of ill-treatment or bullying at their place of work, and 80% of them believed it was a direct result of their disability. With barristers, 45% of them reported experiencing the same, and 71% believed it was a result of their disability. Over 80% of both groups reported that “poor attitudes/lack of understanding towards am impairment or health condition” was the most significant form of ill-treatment.
Of those surveyed who were disabled when they began their careers, only 8.5% of solicitors and paralegals and one barrister felt confident enough to disclose their impairment when they initially applied. 86% of solicitors and paralegals who have requested adjustments or support reported that doing so “created stress and anxiety for them”.
The implication of these statistics is that there are solicitors and barristers who should have been receiving reasonable adjustments to accommodate their impairments, but they are not asking for them. This could be due to a lack of confidence in their employers to adequately provide these accommodations, or out of fear of creating negative attitudes surrounding their ability, which might impact their careers overall. Either way, the stigma around asking for reasonable adjustments remains a massive barrier in allowing those with disabilities in law to preform to the best of their ability on a daily basis. Even when these lawyers felt confident enough to broach the subject of reasonable adjustments with their superiors, the negative emotions that were consistently associated with the experience do not inspire the confidence needed to continue to be self-advocates, and to champion the need for inclusivity across the spectrum.
Overall, 71% of barristers and 56% of solicitors, paralegals, and trainees felt that they did not have the same potential for career progression as their non-disabled colleagues. The SRA’s study found that there was an overwhelming feeling that their disabilities ‘lowered the bar’ and was “perceived as reducing the standard of competence”. Even in a seemingly inclusive working environment, disabled solicitors and barristers can still be subject to unconscious biases, which can take the form of “rituals, practices, and attitudes that exclude or undermine them”; even if there is no overt intention of discrimination.
It is clear that only “radical positive intervention” can begin to cope with the “uneven playing field” that disabled lawyers are dealing with on a daily basis. There have been a number of recent strides towards promoting inclusive accommodation. Many firms have begun to develop their own Neurodiversity Networks within the firms; these networks can range from focus groups which work on tackling diversity issues, intranet systems which provide educational information on different visible and non-visible disabilities, as well as detailing the accommodations that can be requested and utilised within the firm. These networks have also allowed lawyers who are not neurodivergent themselves but might have neurodivergent or otherwise impaired family or friends receive additional information or support where needed.
Perhaps the most radical recent change is the initiative called ‘Project Rise’, developed by the Law Society’s Lawyers with Disabilities Division (LDD) as a direct result of the “Legally Disabled?” study, aims to promote part-time training opportunities for candidates who might benefit from them. Both Osborne Clarke and Eversheds Sutherland have committed to offering all trainees the ability to work on a part-time basis from September 2024, although both firms currently employ some part-time training candidates.
There is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to reasonable adjustments and accommodating different impairments; where a part-time training opportunity might help one person, it is not guaranteed to have the same positive results for another. Firms must continue to promote environments which encourage lawyers to come forward where they need adjustments made to help them realize their full potential. In September, the Law Society released a guidance on reasonable adjustments, which detailed the different ways that firms could offer their disabled employees more support. Some of the suggestion include: a ‘passport’ which would detail the needs of that specific employee; continuing to promote flexible work arrangements; physical changes to the offices such as sound-proofed rooms or more suitable furniture; disability equality/awareness training, and; making appropriate changed to billable hours where appropriate.
The legal profession as a whole has been promoting Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) initiatives across the board, seeing an upswing in racial, gender, and socioeconomic diversity in firms nationally and internationally. However, disabled people are often invisible in these D&I programmes, which has only intensified the issues that they face day-to-day and is a major barrier in creating a truly inclusive and open work environment for everyone.
UK Disability History Month aims to celebrate the lives of all people with visible and non-visible disabilities, challenge disablism, and achieve equality.
A number of the largest banks in Britain have joined investors, insurers, and over 40 countries in making a pledge to phase out the world-wide dependency on coal, the single largest contributor to climate change, at Cop26 this past week, in what might be a last-ditch effort to limit global warming to 1.5 oC.
A coalition of many state and non-state actors have either signed on to the Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement or joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA). The signatories of the Statement have agreed to accelerate the technologies and policies needed to successfully transition away from coal power to sustainable clean power in the 2030s or as soon as possible thereafter for major economies, with the overall goal of being globally independent from coal power by the 2040s, or as soon as possible thereafter. The PPCA, which was established in 2017, gained 28 new members, raising the total membership to 165 countries, cities, regions, and businesses.
The 33 banks and other financial institutions, including HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, and NatWest Group who are all members of the PPCA, will play a crucial role in helping achieve independence from coal, as they have all pledged to ending all domestic and international thermal coal financing by 2030 as well as limiting their own individual carbon footprints.
This announcement has had a mixed reception as it does not take in to account other forms of fossil fuel financing. Between 2016 and 2020, sixty of the largest banks invested $3.8 trillion into fossil fuel companies, raising questions about how much money will be committed to the oil and gas industries in the future. Promises that have been made in the past have been scrutinized as current policies and pledges to creating more sustainable business and investments are seen has having too much discretion and “wiggle room”. Ex-Unilever head Paul Polman has spoken out saying that “People are starting to realize that implementing the Sustainable Development Goals — which cost $3 to $5 trillion a year — is significantly less than dealing with these horrendous consequences of inaction. And the financial market is actually the first one to understand that”. The ability to follow through on moving the funds that currently finance coal into more sustainable energy sources, rather than just alternative fossil fuels such as oil and gas will play a key role in the success of these pledges.
With banks taking this next step in the fight against global warming, it is becoming clear that other global business leaders need to take a transformative approach to preserving and protecting the environment through collective action. Inevitably, the outcomes of these agreements will affect the way that law firms and solicitors conduct business on an international scale. Decisions that businesses make will be held under greater scrutiny regarding the impact they have on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors, and as these agreements are transitioned into actionable policies and laws, the regulatory landscape will be transformed.
Many law firms have taken individual steps to reduce their carbon footprint, with the likes of Stephenson Harwood launching a scheme that allows employees the ability to lease an electric car through the firm, and CMS planting 8,000 trees after tracking their employee’s carbon footprints.
Browne Jacobson in particular has taken a number of steps to reduce their carbon footprint and have achieved a carbon neutral status within the last year. Beyond creating programmes for sustainable waste management and the recycling of industrial waste produce, such as ink cartridges, as well as financing the CIKEL Brazilian Amazon REDD APD Project, which will use sustainable logging practices to save over 27,000 hectares of rainforest from deforestation, they have begun to incorporate sustainable thinking into their everyday business practices. Projects that are being undertaken within the firm must analyse the amount of carbon output that this is likely to produce, this applies to the entire supply-chain within the firm, including projects with outsider companies. As a firm, they have also been looking into green financing initiatives and advancing clean start – ups to further encourage a more sustainable business practice. Acknowledging an individual’s environmental impact, and thinking diligently about how to offset that, seems to be a practice that is encouraged across the firm as a whole. Browne Jacobson have also been instrumental in showing and giving their support to the “Midlands Engine” which is an established centre of excellence for energy research and innovation- investing now in a broad range of alternative energy technologies that will accelerate energy innovation and the growth of clean energy. They are working in partnership and again, is a great example of how a law firm is going above and beyond to play an integral part in the long term sustainability of the environment.
While individual initiatives show that firms are taking accountability for their carbon output and are committing to more sustainable business practices, the importance of collective action in response to global warming cannot be overstated. As highlighted by the efforts of Cop26, a collective commitment to developing a dedicated approach to reducing and eventually phasing out large scale investment into finite, fossil fuel-based energy sources must be undertaken immediately with substantial investment being funnelled into the implementation of widespread ‘greener’ energy sources including nuclear, geothermal, wind, hydroelectric, tidal and solar systems in order for global businesses to operate in sustainable and environmentally-cognisant ways. Moving forward what can the legal industry do to make the promises and agreements actionable and enforceable?
For more information about Cop26 please contact Gwen Shaw email@example.com