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PRINCIPLE 3 – Commitment to the “Global Goal”

Matters and Mandates

Legal Charter members support the Paris ambition to limit global warming to no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and recognise the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030.



What we’ve been doing

Having recognised the opportunity to support climate transition through our advice to clients, we are exploring how we might assess the current impact of our work with a view to developing and adopting an approach for the profession more widely.

We believe matters can be classified according to their contribution to transition and seek to balance the following objectives in agreeing a classification method:

    • Credible, yet not requiring excessive time or resources to apply
    • Capable of consistent application within firms and across the profession
    • Focusing on climate initially, but scalable to other topics in future such as biodiversity and social impact
    • Stable over time to allow trend analysis (eg transition-related income)

How it works

Matter classification is complementary to due diligence approaches taken by individual law firms in client onboarding and matter opening. Matters are simply classified in relation to their role in climate transition, as shown in the scheme below.

CLIENT IS PARIS-ALIGNED

SUSTAINABLE

Matter enables low-carbon transition or otherwise supports positive climate action

CLIENT NOT PARIS-ALIGNED

TRANSITION

Matter enables low-carbon transition or otherwise supports positive climate action

NEUTRAL

Matter has no substantive relationship with climate

-

BAU

Matter does not enable low-carbon transition and may support negative climate outcome

Why are we doing this?

Law firms are under the spotlight, with growing stakeholder interest in and legitimate concerns about the role of their advice on climate change and other issues. As a high ambition group of law firms, members of the Legal Charter 1.5, we believe that lawyers have an important role to play in achieving the Paris goals, and in particular in the work they do with their clients.

In addition there are a range of regulatory requirements impacting law firms, including on climate risk exposure and carbon footprint management; for example in the UK, the Law Society has recently issued guidance for solicitors on how they and their firms should consider climate change in their operations and advice.

Above all, many law firms seek to run themselves as responsible businesses, with climate change and other sustainability issues central to their thinking.

What it is not

This is not an attempt to quantify ‘advised’ emissions from law firms. Nor is it about agreeing collective policies about who should receive legal advice. Finally, it is not about passing judgement on law firm matters.

Where we are

We have identified and are seeking to address many of the issues which have hitherto presented obstacles to classifying the climate impact of matters. While we do not have a full solution yet, a classification model has been agreed by the group and will be tested by its members during 2024, following which the model will be finalised and published in September 2024.

By sharing our learning from the lessons that emerge from this process, we aim to quickly refine the approach into a practical framework for matter classification that can be applied across the legal industry – and internationally – by firms of all sizes.

Where you might fit in

We welcome interest from all firms who recognise the value of matter classification for climate transition. If you would like to test the process internally and are prepared to share the results of your testing collaboratively with Legal Charter 1.5, please get in touch with director@legalcharter1point5.com.

Look out for details of a workshop in spring 2024.

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The impacts of climate change are of real relevance and consequence to law firms, their clients and people. It is a material issue for clients and there is already growing demand across private practice for law firms to clearly communicate a clear roadmap to Net-Zero.

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