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10 February 2021

Orrick hires ESG expert in recognition of clients' 'heightened' sustainability focus

Ashley Walter joins as a partner from Fenwick & West as ESG moves swiftly up law firm agendas

By John Malpas

Portrait of Ashley Walter

Orrick has hired an environmental, social and governance (ESG) specialist, becoming the latest firm to recognise the growing influence of the ESG movement.

Ashley Walter joins the San Francisco-based firm’s Seattle office as a partner from Fenwick & West, where he headed its corporate social responsibility governance and compliance practice as a counsel. Orrick believes he will be the first partner in the US with a near-exclusive focus on providing ESG advice to clients.

Matthew Gemello, global head of Orrick’s corporate business unit, said: “We are excited to invest in expanding our CSR capabilities as our clients and their financial sponsors are increasingly focusing on ESG as key metrics – and regulators are heightening their focus as well.”

Walter is a co-founder and past chair of the Corporate Social Responsibility Law Committee of the ABA Business Law Section and has taught a Corporate Social Responsibility course as a lecturer in law at Stanford Law School.

His practice focuses on advising companies and their boards in the technology and life sciences sector on ESG matters, including preparing disclosures, managing investor engagement and ensuring compliance with related laws and regulations. 

At Orrick it is expected that he will work closely with Betsy Popken and James Hargrove, who co-lead the firm’s business and human rights practice, and Perry Teicher, head of Impact Finance & Investment.

He said he had been impressed by the depth of the firm’s expertise in practices relevant to ESG “including human rights, privacy and data security, impact finance, life sciences, energy transition and energy tech, infrastructure modernization, international trade and public policy”.

Initiatives by law firms across the globe to position themselves to advise on ESG matters have been gathering pace. 

Last month, Rajah & Tann Singapore launched a sustainability practice and in November, Clifford Chance set up an ESG taskforce to boost its client work as well as its own sustainability efforts. A month earlier, senior Paris-based luxury law partner Alyssa Auberger was chosen by Baker & McKenzie to be its first chief sustainability officer.

Last spring, Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz hired former Delaware chief justice Leo Strine – a leading proponent of governance reform – as a consultant.

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Further reading

Doing the right thing will also be good business - Tony Williams on why law firms should embrace an ESG agenda which has been supercharged by Covid-19

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