SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 14, 2018 – Today, nine of the U.S.’s most respected law firms announced a groundbreaking initiative to deliver free legal services worth $15 million by 2020 to advance sustainability across the globe. The first-of-its-kind initiative, Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy, offers pro bono legal assistance to entrepreneurs and community-based non-profits taking on key sustainability challenges across multiple economic sectors, in energy, transportation, and land use.

The new initiative was announced in San Francisco on the main stage of the Global Climate Action Summit as honoring the work of the late Nancy McFadden, the renowned lawyer and former Chief of Staff to Governor Jerry Brown whose vision and dedication made the Summit possible.

The founders of Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy are Arnold & Porter, Cooley, Dentons, Holland & Knight, Latham & Watkins, Morrison & Foerster, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. As lead founders, each firm has committed to provide legal services worth at least $2 million by the end of 2020. Two additional founding law firms – Hogan Lovells and WilmerHale – are committing to provide at least $500,000 in pro bono legal services by the end of 2020.

The firms participating in Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy will provide a range of legal services to clients, including on matters as diverse as incorporation, corporate governance (e.g., bylaws, policies), contracts, real estate, IP protection, website-related issues (e.g., privacy policies, terms of use), regulatory issues, structuring advice for financing and investment, tax advice, and litigation. Each law firm’s voluntary commitment will be implemented in a manner consistent with the firm’s own pro bono and conflicts rules and policies.
The firms’ announcement drew resounding praise from leaders in the U.S. legal community, from academia to the public sector. Led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, state attorneys general from around the nation voiced their support and enthusiasm for the potential impact of the firms’ commitment.

“This pro bono legal aid will give a major boost to people who are fighting pollution,” said California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. “This program is a fitting tribute to Nancy McFadden who was a trailblazing attorney and fearless advocate for the environment.”
Supporting the effort, Stanford Law School and Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy, which helped incubate Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy with the assistance of NYU’s State Energy & Environmental Impact Center, will facilitate connections between participating firms and potential pro bono clients, and track the effort’s impact.

In addition, leading public interest organizations will assist potential clients in connecting with participating firms. Already, Grist, which curates and cultivates a network of community-based “Fixers” [link] already has helped some participating firms identify individuals and organizations working on sustainability solutions.

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COMMENTS ON LAWYERS FOR A SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY

 

State Attorneys General Applaud Non-Partisan, Private Sector Sustainability Leadership

Led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a coalition of state attorneys general issued a press release “commend[ing] the work of the organizers of the Global Climate Action Summit for bringing together leaders to celebrate transformational change occurring around the world and for introducing new and deeper commitments to sustainability; in particular, the multimillion dollar commitment to pro bono legal services through the Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy Initiative.”

Leaders from the Founding Law Firms 

Arnold & Porter

  • “At Arnold & Porter, our longstanding commitment to public service and pro bono work is key to who we are, including in the areas of sustainability and conservation,” said Brian Israel, Chair of the firm’s Environmental Practice Group. “We are especially proud of our pro bono representation of the National Parks Conservation Association, an organization dedicated to protecting and enhancing America’s National Parks for present and future generations. We are honored to serve as a founding member of Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy, an innovative and collaborative approach to supporting sustainability initiatives.”

Cooley 

  • “As a firm that strives to give generously of our time, talents and resources to the communities in which we practice, Cooley is truly honored to be a founding member of Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy,” said Maureen Alger, Cooley’s pro bono partner. “We have a long tradition of providing pro bono services to those of limited means and working to expand access to justice. We also leverage our deep knowledge of corporate law to assist low-income entrepreneurs and great environmental nonprofit organizations. We’re eager to further expand our environmental commitments to include more support for entrepreneurs whose innovative companies are helping to advance a more sustainable economy.”

Dentons

  • “Dentons is extremely proud to join this effort as a founding member of Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy,” said Benjamin Weinberg, pro bono partner at Dentons. “We are grateful for this opportunity to combine our long-standing commitment to pro bono and cutting-edge innovation to help solve one of the world’s most pressing issues.  No one firm can do this alone, and we are all stronger when we join forces with like-minded firms to achieve a sustainable economic future.  At Dentons, our goal is to help deliver a more sustainable world to the next generation.”

Hogan Lovells

  • “Hogan Lovells is honored to have been asked to serve as a founding member of Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy,” said T. Weymouth, Hogan Lovells’ pro bono partner.  “We look forward to providing pro bono legal support to the nation’s entrepreneurs, non-profits, and grassroots organizations that are committed to developing innovative advancements in climate sustainability.  Tackling these tough issues today will create real and lasting impact in communities all over the world for generations to come.”

Holland & Knight

  • “Holland & Knight is proud to be one of the founding members of the Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy and is committed to providing pro bono services to advance sustainability projects by 2020,” said Buddy Schulz, chair of the firm’s Public and Charitable Service Department. “Our Energy and Natural Resources Industry Sector Group has long been a supporter in advancing renewable energy projects, and we look forward to continuing our work with the Global Climate Action Summit to advance this important global initiative.”

Latham & Watkins 

  • “Latham & Watkins is committed to donating free legal services to the communities where we live and work,” said Ora Fisher, Vice Chair at Latham & Watkins. “We are proud to join other founding members of Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy to use our skills in the service of helping organizations that seek to create a more sustainable world.”

Morrison Foerster

  • “Committing to the Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy as a founding firm is an honor for us,” said Suz Mac Cormac, chair of Morrison & Foerster’s Social Enterprise and Impact Investing practice and Energy Group. “We are not only among the top firms in the country in terms of pro bono commitment—providing considerable services to, and serving on the boards of, CERES, BSR, TNC and other critical voices shaping global action on climate change—we have also been leaders in impact investment and sustainability since 2001. We help our company and investor clients promote social and environmental values while seeking financial returns, specializing in crafting creative and viable mainstream capital market solutions to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Our lawyers are passionate about this mission and look forward to expanding our pro bono commitment.”

WilmerHale

  • “We at WilmerHale are proud to be a founding member of LSE and support its mission to increase the odds for success of innovative entrepreneurs with a vision for a more sustainable future,” said Andy Spielman, Chair of the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources practice at the international law firm.

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

  • “As a founding member, WSGR is committed to LSE’s success and inspired by its mission,” said Bob O’Connor, a corporate partner at WSGR and a WSGR Foundation board member. “We’re also proud to join Attorney General Becerra and the many others supporting this important cause.”

University Leaders Support the Innovative Effort to Marshal Legal Industry Resources for Sustainability 

  • “Stanford Law School and Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy are pleased to play a facilitating role for the Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy initiative,” said M. Elizabeth Magill, the Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School. “We commend the law firms who are bringing pro bono legal resources to the table to work with innovators on some of the most important sustainability issues facing our country and the world,” said Professor Arun Majumdar, co-director of the Precourt Institute.
  • “The NYU State Impact Center, which works with state attorneys general on clean energy, climate and environmental matters, appreciated the opportunity to assist in putting together this important initiative,” said David J. Hayes, Executive Director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law. “Advancing innovation in areas like clean energy and climate requires a whole-of-society effort – including the assistance of the top-flight law firms that are today committing millions of dollars to the effort.”

Organizations around the world supporting sustainability benefiting from pro bono resources

  • “Newsfeeds are swamped with gloom and doom that make it seem as if we’re light years away from solutions. But take a step back, and a different story comes to life,” said Chip Giller, founder of Grist, the country’s leading environmental media organization. “From clean-energy projects across America, to new transit opportunities, to new building techniques, solutions are on hand to usher in a better future. What’s needed are more resources and support to accelerate progress. Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy will help do just that.” 
  • “It’s encouraging to see law firms stepping up to support sustainable and just solutions. I’m honored to have their help establishing a new hybrid academic and non-profit center to address environmental injustices in rural America,” said Catherine Flowers, Executive Director of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE). “We’ll create new ways to foster collaborative solution-focused research that brings together scholars, practitioners, policymakers, and activists.”

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND ON LAWYERS FOR A SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY

Although entrepreneurial efforts to advance sustainability are surging within the United States, such efforts often may be stymied or slowed by resource constraints. Provision of legal services – even around first-order matters associated with formation and incorporation – can present hurdles for entrepreneurs. Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy provides an easier way for entrepreneurs to find firms with pro bono programs ready to consider them as a new client for catalytic pro bono legal services.

The types of legal services that firms participating in Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy may be able to provide include: support with incorporation, corporate governance (e.g., bylaws, policies), contracts, real estate, IP protection, website-related issues (e.g., privacy policies, terms of use), structuring advice for financing and investment, tax advice, and litigation. As founders, each firm has committed to provide pro bono legal services over the course of 2018 through 2020 to companies and organizations – including nonprofits and socially purposed for-profits – that are focused on developing and scaling approaches to build a more sustainable economy.

Commitments made by firms participating in Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy represent voluntary value-of-services goals; each commitment will be implemented in a manner consistent with each firm’s own pro bono and conflicts rules and policies as well as each firm’s own assessment of any relevant regulations. The types of entities with the potential to qualify for support by the Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy include:

  • Nonprofit organization directly serving the needs of marginalized, disenfranchised, or disadvantaged groups in a way that advances a sustainable economy (e.g., a nonprofit developing community solar projects to bring clean energy to residents of public housing);
  • Nonprofit organization directly securing or protecting civil rights, civil liberties, or public rights, which include environmental and public health matters (e.g., a nonprofit advocating for increased public investment in energy efficiency as a way to improve the environment or public health); 
  • Other nonprofit involved in grantmaking or education efforts related to advancement of a more sustainable economy; or 
  • Newly-formed for-profit entities focused on advancing a sustainably economy and begun by low-income entrepreneurs who, as individuals, are income-eligible for pro bono legal services.

Sustainability-focused entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations based in the U.S., who are interested in getting pro bono legal support – should reach out to law4sustainableeconomy@stanford.edu for additional information.

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